Masters of Blues Harp 

Here is a review of my book Masters of the Blues Harp, Masters of Blues Harp, a collection of 21 transcriptions of classic blues harmonica solos by Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson I & II, Paul Butterfield, and 12 others. It appeared in the December 2001 American Harmonica Newsletter.
Glenn Weiser has taken a lot of trouble out of learning classic blues harmonica tunes with his transcriptions in Masters of Blues Harp that provide not only the standard melody line but cues on the techniques used by the performer who made the tunes famous.This substantially shortens the traditional method of learning to play traditional blues harmonica tunes, which used to mean that the player had to listen to the tune for a few hundred times just to get the melody line 
figured out. After that, he could worry about whether the notes ought to be  lip blocked or tongue blocked or a combination of both.
    Studying a copy of Masters of Blues Harp by Glenn Weiser from Hal Leonard is  still going to require some serious effort. But with the tablature and notation, the player can concentrate more on learning the tune than trying to figure out the tune. At $14.95, it's priced at less than the cost of a good harmonica.
    "Even though this is not the first blues harp transcription book, it is the first to use a complete system of indicating the chords produced by tongue blocking," Glenn says. "This technique is an essential part of the Chicago styles, and I believe that indicating it is essential to the accuracy of any harp transcription in which it is involved."
    With the help of the book's transcriptions the player can be well on his way to learning a tune in a short amount of time. Then, after learning the tune from the book, and listening to the tune on a recording, if the player decides he disagrees how a certain section is played, he is in a much better position to change part of it around than the guy who is still trying figure out the notes and techniques used in the tune without the aid of the book.
    The book also includes biographies of the artists involved as well as a discussion of their performance techniques. These techniques include embouchure, lip blocking or lip pursing, tongue blocking, note bends with tongue blocking, octave tongue blocking, the tongue slap which starts a tongue blocking position, trills, throat vibrato, the tremolo, tongue flutter, the slide, the glissando and ghost notes.Most of the solos in this book involve tongue blocking. 
    The book includes 21 classic blues harmonica solos transcribed in standard notation and tablature, with indications of harmonica techniques with the tablature system that Glenn uses, which uses many of the standard symbols. 
    "Even if you can read music well, you should have the recording of any solo 
you're learning on hand as you work with the book; no transcription can capture every nuance of a performance," warns Glenn. "The album numbers of the recording are give in the artists' profile section of the book. To find out how the artists in this book played, I contacted several players, including some of the artists themselves," Glenn says. "Although I got conflicting descriptions of the embouchure usuage of some of the postwar harpmen, my findings suggest that bending notes in tongue blocking position was more common back then."
    Masters of the Blues Harp includes 21classic blues harmonica solos . The collection consists of 17 diatonic harmonica and four chromatic harmonica  solos. The chromatic solos are marked by a "C" in parentheses. Recorded  sources appear after the titles and are updated as availability changes.

1. Baby, Scratch My Back - Slim Harpo
(The Best of Slim Harpo- Rhino 70169)

2. The Big Boat-Charlie Musselwhite
(In My Time - Alligator 4818)

3. Blues in the Dark- George Smith (C)
(Harmonica Ace - Flair Records/Virgin No. Amer. 86298 2)

4. Blue Light - Little Walter (C)
(The Best of Little Walter- Chess 9192)

5. Born Blind-Rice Miller 
(a.k.a Sonny Boy Williamsom II)
(One Way Out ' MCA/Chess CHD-9116)

6. Bottom Blues - Sonny Terry
(Climbin' Up — Savoy Jazz 1137 - w/ Brownie McGhee)

7. Bye Bye, Bird - Rice Miller
(Sonny Boy Williamson — His Best MCA/Chess 9377)

8. Caravan - Gary Primich (C)
(Travelin' Mood - Flying Fish 70635)

9. Don't Go No Further - Mojo Buford (C)
(Low Blows - Rooster Blues Records 7610)

10. The Goat - Rice Miller
(More Real Folk Blues - Chess CHD-9277) 

11. Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl - Sonny Boy Williamson I (Sugar Mama - 
Indigo 2014)

12. I Ain't Got You - Sugar Blue
(Blue Blazes - Alligator 4819)

13. I Got Love If You Want It - lim Harpo
(The Best of Slim Harpo - Rhino 70169)

14. I'm Ready - Carey Bell
(Carey Bell's Blues Harp- Delmark 622)

15. Juke - Little Walter Jacobs
(The Best of Little Walter - Chess 9192)

16. Little Red Rooster - Sugar Blue
(In Your Eyes- Alligator 4831)

17. Now Tell Me Baby - Big Walter Horton
(Mouth Harp Maestro - Flair Records/Virgin Records Amer. 86297 2)

18. Rocker - Little Walter Jacobs
(Confessin' the Blues - Chess 9366)

19. Sad Hours - Little Walter Jacobs
(The Best of Little Walter - Chess 9192)

20. Too Young To Die - Rice Miller
(The Real Folk Blues - MCA/Chess

21. The Work Song - Paul Butterfield
(East-West - Elektra 2-7315) 

Most of these recordings can be purchased from the All Music Guide or your 
local record store.

Glenn Weiser is the author of two previous harmonica books, Irish and American Fiddle Tunes for Harmonica (Centerstream, 1987), a collection of more than 100 jigs, reels, hornpipes and waltzes for diatonic harmonicas that was the first book of it's kind, and Blues and Rock Harmonica, (Centerstream, 1990) an instructional book/CD that was similarly the first volume to explain music theory as it relates to improvisation for harmonica players. Also, he has been the harmonica columnist at the folk journal Sing Out! since 1989, and also edits the listing of harmonica web sites for Netscape's Open Directory.
   A guitarist as well, he has a number of book of Celtic guitar transcriptions out and have also written for AcousticGuitar magazine. He plays acoustic fingerstyle blues as well.
   Before he was commissioned to transcribe the 21 recordings for Masters of the Blues Harp, he had transcribed 70 of Little Walter's blues harp solos, most of which remain unpublished in spite of repeated attempts to get the book into print (copyright permissions were the impediment there). 
However, the Associated Press wrote about the project in a national news story in 1991. You can read that article online here:
   "Masters of the Blues Harp differs from previous blues harmonica transcription books in that it utilizes a full system of indications for all the different harmonica techniques that I developed in the course writing for Sing Out!" Glenn says. "In particular, the book is the first to use a 
complete system of indicating the chords produced by tongue blocking, and thus achieves a higher degree of accuracy than any previous transcription book. This is attested to by Charlie Musselwhite in his very kind forward to the book, in which he calls Masters .. the coolest harp instruction book I've ever read."

Phil Lloyd
Contributing Editor
American Harmonica Newsmagazine

BOOK REVIEW - From Harmonica World, a British publication.
By Pat Missin

"Masters of the Blues Harp", Glenn Weiser (Hal Leonard Publishing)

Although books that teach how to play blues on the harmonica are not particularly scarce, accurate transcriptions of recorded performances by the great blues harp players are anything but common. Glenn Weiser, author of Blues and Rock Harmonica and Irish and American Fiddle Tunes forHarmonica, does his bit to improve this situation with his latest book. It
includes transcriptions of great performances from a baker's dozen of top-notch players, from the more rural sounds of Sonny Terry, through the classic Chicago stylings of Little Walter and Walter Horton, to contemporary players such as Sugar Blue. Some of the tunes included are
all-time classics such as "Juke", "Blue Lights", "Work Song", "Bye Bye Bird", "Blues In The Dark", "Baby Scratch My Back", with some lesser known gems in there too - 21 tunes in all (17 on diatonic, 4 on chromatic), transcribed in both tablature and standard notation, with full indications of such things as tongue slaps and flutters, which not commonly included in
most harp transcriptions, but are an essential part of the blues harmonica styles. 

In addition to the music itself, there are brief biographies of each of the performers, notes on the various playing techniques used and how tointerpret the notation. As this is a book of transcriptions rather than a "how to" book, it would be best suited to players of intermediate ability, but I can't imagine any serious student of the blues harmonica not wanting a copy.

On the negative side, there are a few typos that seem to have sneaked in during the typesetting process. Sadly, this is all too common with many music publications, but at least it doesn't detract too much from the overall quality in this case. Glenn obviously put many hours of hard work into his transcriptions and the dedicated student could spend a similar amount of time learning from the wealth of material that is presented in this large format (12" x 9") softcover book.

Available from the usual sources, or directly from the author for $14.95 (plus $4 per p/h in the US, $5 in Canada, $10 in Europe, and $12 in Australia and Asia), VISA and Mastercard accepted:

Glenn Weiser
P.O. Box 2551 
Albany, NY 12220, USA



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