Reply To: Sonny Boy Williamson Apparently Covering the Outlet Slots on His Harmonica


Hello Jazzman and all the others,

I really like the Archie Shepp tune and at the same time I’m asking myself if it isn’t too much of a burden for the melodica to be compared to the saxophone or even to a clarinet. There is no way  to directly influence the reeds because even in comparison to a harmonica the way between the lips (mouth cavern) and the reeds is way too long, so the reeds can hardly transmit the sound you form with your mouth; only when you adopt real hard measures such as singing into the instrument or growling you can really change the sound – and I’m not even quite sure if this hasn’t something to to with the resonance of the air chamber or some other part of the melodica instead of the reeds…. Of course this does not mean that there can nothing be done to change colours – but in a way that is different from saxophone playing. What you can do first is influence the output – that’s what Lowboy does masterfully when he covers and uncovers his Hohner or when he uses Doppler effects etc. And second you can “add” sound by producing certain noises and sounds at the input by humming, whistling, singing, doing something like mouth percussion, clicking with the keyboard, and by using the sound possibilities when you don’t blow directly into the mouthpiece but try to let some air slip or try to “overblow”.

Nevertheless the Archie Shepp tune is a great inspiration to try out several techniques even in an unconventional way – and so I recorded myself while practicing just to try out a maximum of possibilities in short time…

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