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Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!

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Rick Fielding 07 Aug 01 - 12:18 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 07 Aug 01 - 01:03 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Aug 01 - 01:13 PM
M.Ted 07 Aug 01 - 02:04 PM
Murray MacLeod 07 Aug 01 - 06:01 PM
M.Ted 07 Aug 01 - 06:25 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Aug 01 - 06:40 PM
Mark Clark 07 Aug 01 - 06:58 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Aug 01 - 07:01 PM
Sorcha 07 Aug 01 - 07:18 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Aug 01 - 07:28 PM
Sorcha 07 Aug 01 - 07:34 PM
M.Ted 07 Aug 01 - 08:11 PM
BlueJay 08 Aug 01 - 03:54 AM
Murray MacLeod 08 Aug 01 - 07:23 AM
catspaw49 08 Aug 01 - 08:01 AM
catspaw49 08 Aug 01 - 08:45 AM
LR Mole 08 Aug 01 - 09:33 AM
Grab 08 Aug 01 - 10:18 AM
M.Ted 08 Aug 01 - 05:23 PM
Murray MacLeod 08 Aug 01 - 05:39 PM
catspaw49 08 Aug 01 - 05:43 PM
Murray MacLeod 09 Aug 01 - 05:48 PM
Rick Fielding 09 Aug 01 - 06:43 PM
Murray MacLeod 09 Aug 01 - 06:57 PM
catspaw49 09 Aug 01 - 07:11 PM
JenEllen 09 Aug 01 - 07:23 PM
Murray MacLeod 09 Aug 01 - 07:39 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 10 Aug 01 - 04:46 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 10 Aug 01 - 06:11 AM
WyoWoman 10 Aug 01 - 08:14 AM
Rick Fielding 10 Aug 01 - 01:25 PM
Jack The Lad 11 Aug 01 - 04:19 AM
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Subject: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 12:18 PM

Got thinking about this after seeing the larry Adler obit.

As most know, I'm a real instrument "nerd", having managed to make some sense (and a bit of music) out of most anything I've bought, found, borrowed or inherited, but these are two instruments that have always had me completely baffed.

I've had a top quality Hohner Chromatic for almost thirty years now and can barely play a scale on it. I find it hard to blow period. I can do a rudementary job on a Marine band either cross or straight, but it strikes me that to learn chromatic you've REALLY got to study....including sight reading AND tongueing (sp) and that seems like too much work for me.

Same with Pedal Steel. I can get around on dobro and lap steel in a few tunings, but the levers on the pedal steel just seem too complicated, and once again, it looks like you'd really have to spend a huge amount of time on it, to utilize it's potential.

Any Chromatic blowers or "peddlers" at Mudcat?

Rick


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 01:03 PM

I know the feeling Rick. My brother Gary plays both Chromatics and Pedal Steels. He understands the unique alchemy of the instruments.

I have two beautiful Hohner Chromatics that I daren't play at all. The slides tear out my mustache hairs. The metal is nichol plated which I am allergic to. My lips go numb and crack and bleed with in a half hour of contact.

I play Golden Melodies almost exclusively but I have a few Huang Harmonicas that are very nice. No Lee Oskars yet. I just haven't found anything I like the sound of as well as I do the Golden Melodies.

Don


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 01:13 PM

DON DON DON!!!

Gawd bless you....I thought I was the ONLY one who used to get my moustache caught in the "lever"! No moustache any more....but I've got a thousand more excuses....the main one being it's too damn hard!

Tell me (I've got this theory about these two instruments) is your brother interested in math? I'm practically dyslexic when it comes to math and I'm told that pedal steel appeals to folks who like numbers.

By the way the Huangs are very easy to blow. I like 'em. (good ol' Chinese know how!!)

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 02:04 PM

Your problem is that the Chromatic Harmonica is a melody instrument, and a reed/wind instrument, at that--On guitar, you keep the rhythm and fudge the melody, but on harmonica (and reed/melody instruments in general) you play the melody and fudge the rhythm. The players conentrate on keeping those single notes clean and in perfect time--everything else comes after that.

You have to deal with breath control, tongue technique(Beavis and Butthead would love to hear about this) timbre, and dynamics which are either completely new, or handled completely differently, and you have to deal with the concept that your phasing is controlled by your lung capacity--

The other problem is that the music that you play on the Chromatic Harmonica tends toward the written(which not a problem for people with classical musical training) The chromatic harmonica was the perfect instrument for music teachers way back in the days when lessons were cheap and real instruments were often unaffordable for kids--they could learn to read, play melody, and work with small ensembles, and it was an excellent foundation for other instruments.

My Dad used to play the Chromatic, though he hasn't picked it up in years. He was a "Old School" player, which meant no blues or Jazz, but a lot of the old time popular songs, sentimental songs, and of course, the novelty songs --as a result, I picked up a bit, though didn't necessarily appreciate it a the time--In fact, when I read the Larry Adler thread, I got out my old 64 Chromonica and played "The Spanish Cavalier", though I couldn't remember quite where the little chromatic descent fit in--

As to the pedal steel, there are only nine people in the world who can play it--


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 06:01 PM

MTed, you are correct once more, nine people, that's what I heard too. I have however listened to plenty of the thousands of pedal steel owners who CAN'T play the thing.

"Sneaky" Pete Kleinow was the greatest steel player I have ever heard. Hank DeVito (Emmylou Harris Hot Band )was a magician as well.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 06:25 PM

Of course, there's Buddy Emmons--

And I was wondering where you were, Murray--I had missed you--


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 06:40 PM

And don't forget Weldon Myrick on Paul Seibel's "She Made Me Lose My Blues".

Ric


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Mark Clark
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 06:58 PM

It seems to me I read somewhere that Little Walter played a chromatic harp. The piece talked about the added difficulty and the extra air required. I've often thought I'd like to try one out but it was never a high enough priority to shell out the big (by comparrison) bucks.

I remember standing around watching Shot Jackson play and wondering how long it might take to learn to keep track of all the details at the same time. Nowdays it's a rare country band that carries a pedal steel. Too bad.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 07:01 PM

Forgot to say "Ted, spot on". Never thought of that. My melody sight reading skills are mediocre to non-existant.....but I'm gettin' the old Chromatica (or whatever it's called) out of the box tonight. I'll be happy with twinkle Twinkle Little Star......but I'll play it in C AND Db!!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Sorcha
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 07:18 PM

Hey, Rick, if you want REAL trubble, try a pipe organ. Two rows of keys, two rows of pedals you can't see, and lots of stop buttons (voices) buttons to pull out and push in. Or a Carillon Bell tower........(no, no, I don't play either!)


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 07:28 PM

Sorcha (by the way we're finally pronouncing your name correctly around here...Heather reads these as well.... due to that other "silly" thread)

My Mom played the BIGGG pipe organ in Toronto's historical white elephant CasaLoma during the 1940s. How she managed all those knobs, buttons, keyboards and pedals is beyond me. No wonder she thought my attraction to Bob wills and Woody Guthrie was simplistic!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Sorcha
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 07:34 PM

LOL! That is the one Rick. And as I told Naemeson, I don't really care how my name is pronounced--I answer to Sor-ka, Sor-sha, and to Sa(slightly rolled r)-(soft gutteral "k"), and asiprated "h", with an "ah" sound on the end.........grin. Mr. says I will answer to almost anything, esp. "MOM..............!!!"


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Aug 01 - 08:11 PM

Rick--WARNING!!! Be very careful when you inhale on with the half-step key in--there can be very significant chunks of God knows what hidden in the nooks and crannies of an old Chromatica--I just found out the hard way!


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: BlueJay
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 03:54 AM

Rick- I used to fantasize about playing the Pedal Steel. Until I went to Guitar City in Denver, who at the time specialized in the instrument. They still may, I don't know.

The guy trying to sell me one tried showing me a few very fundamental things, and I found it to be hopelessly complicated. What with the wierd tuning, knee levers and all the pedals affecting different strings in different ways, I decided I did not want to devote the rest of my life to learning another instrument.

My hat is off to anyone who has learned how to play this Godawful instrument to any degree. I still love the sound of it when played well, which is infrequently. Thanks, BlueJay


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 07:23 AM

Buddy Emmons was (is?) the old master, no doubt about it. Anybody who could conceive of playing Pachebel's Canon on the pedal steel has to be some kind of genius. Leon McAuliffe was another outstanding player of the old school.

I cannot think of another instrument which can sound so trite in the hands of the unskilled and so sublime in the hands of a true master. Except maybe for the banjo ........

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 08:01 AM

Back 30 years and I'm doing the music store gig parttime. One of the guys was a pretty fair Steel player and one day I came in to find him in the middle of a long conversation with a Fender rep (who also played). after listening to this facinating conversation for awhile, I knew any thoughts I might have of playing Pedal Steel were long gone.........I think they may have been speaking a different language.

Diabolical is an apt term. And when you realize what does which and all that, it also occurs to me, "Who thought all this weird shit up?"

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 08:45 AM

Thinking about this a minute also reminds me..............

I guess some of us are technically challenged at times. As the late 60's and early 70's rock scene emerged, along came an array of sound effects achieved with various pedals and swithches to the point that a stage was a snake pit of cables running everywhere.......Doo-Wah, Fuzz-Wah, Gizwah.....hell I don't know what all.....and multiples of many including echos. Some guy would play one short phrase and then dance around tromping all kinds of shit while an unbelievable quantity of notes and sounds came out of the speakers. How could you ever figure that stuff out?

Interestingly, one of the best "pedal effects" users I ever saw was the trumpet player Don Ellis. He'd play trios with himself and include many other effects as well on stage. I remember watching him too stunned to think of anything but, "Geeeezziiiiizzzzzz!!!"

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: LR Mole
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 09:33 AM

There's some new kid who just played/is just about to play Newport, with a name that's so prosaic I can't remember it (John Smith, Larry Stevens, something like that).He comes out of the "Sacred Steel" tradition: steel guitar played in African-American churches. He, however, thinks of Jimi and Duane as the "old heroes".Anyway, I've never heard him, but he's said to be just astonishing. And on that particular instrument, that ain't hay.


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Grab
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 10:18 AM

Sorcha, organ's great fun. Just recently we house-sat for a friend's dad while they all went to my friend's brother's wedding. Anyway, he's a serious organist - he's training on the organ in the local cathedral, and has a 2-keyboard-plus-pedals electric one at home. It's so much fun being able to use your feet to keep the baseline going, instead of having to fake it with your left hand! Not that I was very good at it (only having a day and a half to play with it :-), but it was damn good fun all the same.

Maybe I need to try out a pedal steel... :-)

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:23 PM

Buddy is currently playing with the Everly Brothers Concert Tour a show that is really worth seeing!


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:39 PM

Question that has been bugging me all day. In the 70's, there was a rock band who were unique in featuring a steel guitar player. I don't mean a country-rock band like Poco or Commmander Cody, this was a fully fledged, Spandex clad, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU, I SAID, DO YOU WANNA ROCK? " type of band.

But for the life of me I can't remember their name. I remember the steel player used to play standing up, and would pull the guitar back at an angle as he played. Anyone remember what they were called?

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 05:43 PM

"Murray and the Mini-Members?"

....just a thought........

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 05:48 PM

This was about to drop off the page so am refreshing in the hope somebody can remind me what the name of the band was.

I'll deal with you later Spaw.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 06:43 PM

Bugger!! Is it Rusty Young? He WAS in Poco, but I can't remember what else.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 06:57 PM

No it definitely wasn't Rusty Young, Rick, in fact I doubt if the guy was a "real" steel player at all. He had long hair and wore shades,the full rock bit, as I remember.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 07:11 PM

Tony M., Jr.??? Then at least someone in the family could play something!!!

.....just another thought.......

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: JenEllen
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 07:23 PM

Lloyd Maines is another decent pedal steel player (does that bring the count up to 10?) The Wilco stuff is tolerable, but he can do wonders with that thing on his own.

A great harp player and Hohner gawdess is LynnAnne Hyde. Amazing blues musician and all-around helluva gal. BluesWoman extrordinaire.

Yeah, it's Sorcha...like in 'the Killer Wail' *bg*

~JE


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 07:39 PM

Spaw, I just had a brainwave while I was in the shower.

If you took one of your lap dulcimers, attached it to the handlebars of a bicycle, removed the wheels, put it on a stand, and attached one end of the brake cables to the pedal crankshaft and the other end to the tuning machines of the dulcimer, you could have yourself a pedal steel dulcimer (with built-in seat, already).

I hereby call you all to witness that I surrender all patent rights on this invention to my friend Spaw, only requesting that when he makes his fortune from the idea he remembers who thought of it originally.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 04:46 AM

Rick, I think the "philosophy" of a cromatic harmonica is different. As was mentioned, it is a melody instrument like the clarinette or flute. People who learn these instruments spend a lot more time on tone production and sight-reading practice as they learn. I get the urge to play one whenever I hear Toots Tielesmann (sp) records.

I just got myself a Lee Oscar "Melody Maker" in "G". It is essentially a "C" diatonic harp with the F tuned down to F-sharp and one of the two duplicate lower "G"s replaced by an "A". This makes a bends unnecessary for melody, but it bends easy and they can still be used for effect. It is designed to be played in second position (cross) and you have to do some bending to play it in "C" as a straight harp. One thing I have held against Lee Oscars is that they tune to 441 instead of 440 to make them brighter. I haven't tried to play with anyone else, but that one hz beat might be annoying.

Just to pick nits, I tend to use the term "harp" for the diatonic beasts and "harmonica" for the chromatic ones. That is probably my own pecularity, but a chromatic harp to me is the kind of harp that is a a stringed instrument that is strummed.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 06:11 AM

I find it strangely comforting that there's ONE instrument that Rick can't play (YET, that is, bet he will though!).RtS (breaking into the old Shirley Bassey hit " I, I who play nothing"!)


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: WyoWoman
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 08:14 AM

LR Mole -- the name of the young man you're thinking of is Robert Randolph. I haven't heard him yet, but in the past week I've heard an NPR piece on him and read an article in Esquire, so he's definitely hot right now. And taking heat from his church elders, etc., for playing in clubs instead of sticking to church. They think he shouldn't play anyplace that isn't 'sanctified.'

Anyway, neither piece mentioned a CD, but I"m going to do some checking around and see what I can find. I'll get back wich y'all.

WyoWoman who's,yes,stillarounddespiteinsanebusy-ness


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 01:25 PM

Nope Roger.....I SUCK....big time! And....it's back in the box where it belongs. Actually I'm pretty mediocre on quite a few instruments that I've attempted to learn.

Whenever I'd get the urge to experiment with something new (like a sax, steel drum, or even an ocarina that I bought on Portobello Road) I wasn't kidding myself or anyone else that I could actually PLAY these things. Just learned how to improvise a bit with 12 bar blues patterns in one or two keys. It was (and is) simply for fun. Two instruments that I HAVE worked hard on this year are (Southern style) fiddle and single key melodeon. I'm gettin' around OK on both, but have a long way to go, to say that I actually PLAY the instruments. One thing that I NEVER forget is that because of my lack of progeny, I have more spare time than most to fool around with the instruments!

Murray, that sounds like an interesting harp. I may try and hunt one down.

By the way folks, thanks so much for all the neat feedback here. I'm enjoying this. We may not be controversial....but folks interested in peddlers and chromaticists are definitely an underappreciated minority!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Chromatic Harp, Pedal Steel, diabolical!
From: Jack The Lad
Date: 11 Aug 01 - 04:19 AM

One helluva hot pedal steel player is Nils Tuxen of Denmark. he plays with Steve Haggard of Nashville, when they are together in Europe. He played on Mike Silver's recent album Ku Sema. Nils visited Israel in 2000 and played at Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival, with Steve Haggard.Nils is also a real "mensch" ( helluva nice guy) Number 11? Jack The Lad


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