Steve Baker : Interactive Blues Harp Workshop
Although he's been a major player in the european
blues harp scene for over two decades and has a 14 hole Hohner
marine band named after him, Steve Baker's main claim to fame
in the in the harmonica world is his book "The Harp Handbook",
a milestone of mouth organ literature for the wide range of
topics that it deals with. The book goes from simple topics
to very advanced techniques and offers a very detailed explanation
of the physics involved (and at the heart of) bending and overblowing.
Steve Baker doesn't take this reputation for granted and offers
today on CD-ROM a new tutorial "The interactive blues harp
As expected from him, Steve Baker offers here
a very complete product. Here are the main tpoics featured :
- Holding the instrument
- Pucker vs. tongue blocking
- Breathing / resonance
- 12 bar blues
- Tongue blocking
- Octaves et intervals
- Circle of fifths
- " Overblows "
All these topics are dealt with in a very progressive
way that wasn't the approach of "The Harp Handbook".
There's nothing revolutionary in the way this material is presented
and explained compared to all the other instructional books
or CDs but we notice a definite will to go beyond the bare minimum
that most of these methods stick to.
From a practical point of view, the program is
composed of a main window split in 2: pictures and other diagrams
on the left and text with scrolling bar on the right. As the
user goes through the material and scrolls down, new graphics
and soundclips appear on the left side accordingly. Each chapter
can also be accessed through the "Theory" menu.
If you start browsing through the main window
menus, you will discover the "exercises", "jam
it !", "tuning" and other modules, most of them
using a secondary window.
The exercise module is composed of a wide range
of exercises of increasing level and sorted by category (beginners,
bending, effects, blues licks, tonguing techniques, overblows).
Each exercise is made of a tab, a sound clip and some explanation
in a text window.
The "Jam it !" module offers 6 different kinds of
playalongs (boogie, II V I, slow blues, etc
) in 4 different
keys. The user can develop his improvisation technique and get
used to each of these 6 different styles.
The "Tunings" module presents and explains
various alternate tunings, some available on the market (natural
minor, country, SBS) et some fancier variations (spanish, etc
Although each module offers a certain level of interactivity,
the main window could use a more dynamic approach: besides the
menus or mouse click on the harp picture to play the sound clips,
the rest boils down to a long text in a scrolling window. This
approach also results in the main window / secondary modules
split that sometime doesn't feel very natural. At the start
of the 21st century, we could have expected a better interface
where these little unpleasant details, as well as some other
bugs (german messages when using the program / find word function)
would have been avoided.
In the end, and despite a disputable interactivity,
Steve Baker proposes a product that seems very thourough in
comparison to a lot of other instructional materials. People
looking for a very specific style of blues might prefer other
methods (like Jerry Portnoy's for Chicago blues) but this is
not the aim of this CD-ROM. Not counting the exercises (and
there is quite a bunch of them !), it will take you a couple
hours to read through all of the material presented here and
a lot more before you master it !