05 Oct From the Musically Hopeless to the Musically Hopeful
Photo: ©Michael Weintrob
Believe it or not, I self-identified as “musically hopeless” as a child. I simply could not play other instruments, but was pretty good at faking it. I had very big ears, though, and could feel the music very profoundly, which I have come to learn as being extremely important and even more valuable than having innate technical skill. The truth is, it’s not about how many instruments you can play, it is not about simply mastering technique—those help—but it’s about the process, however you get there and it’s always and ultimately about the music itself.
If your music has a certain naivete to it, real momentum and more importantly, something that people can feel, something that reaches people, that’s the magic. It’s about the intuition, the energy and the passion first and then everything else can catch up to it. Sometimes what sounds technically perfect and methodically correct can lack soul, whereas unconscious play can be so much more expressive.
Furthermore, I think that we need to do away with labels. Labels work for librarians and marketing people, but when it comes to music, it’s better to not pigeon-hole or classify a sound or style too much. What matters is the totality and the feeling of the music, the expression, what’s coming through. To me, the most interesting kinds of music are inspired by many different influences.
Beyond style or genre, I really want people to know how great harmonicas are as tools for creating all kinds of melodies and coming up with hook lines. You just have to open yourself up to experimenting, seek out different ideas, use your ears and your intuition, and you will see that there is no end to what you can discover.
The late, great Bob Marley discovered it. We were huge fans of his, and he was a fan of WAR. In fact, the riff that we created— played by WAR saxophonist Charles Miller and myself in Slipping into Darkness—was used by Bob Marley in Stand Up For Your Rights. But today I would recommend playing it with a Natural Minor. In fact, if I had had the Natural Minor back then, I would have played the World is a Ghetto and Gypsy Man with it. I would have been able to do so much more with the arrangements and the sound. Back in the WAR days with Charles Miller. I was a melody maker with a major diatonic, and that’s what we created the horn lines from. But if I had the tools we have today then, it would have opened up so much more.
Stay tuned for more.