Harmonica slow airs

Harmonica slow airs

Can any of the harmonica players out there suggest tunes that work well as a slow air on the harmonica?

Re: Harmonica slow airs

‘The Dawning of the Day’ (aka ‘Raglan Road’) should get you started. It’s pretty straightforward on a diatonic.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Thousands of them, they will all sound good on a quality harmonica.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

My first "performances" were playing mostly slow airs on a cheap mouth organ.

Roisin Dubh, Cuilin, ah, as I said, thousands of them.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Dark Isle…….a ripper on the harp

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Slow airs are just as hard to do on a harmonica as on any other instrument, and you have the additional disadvantage of playing them on an instrument on which they are apt to sound like a bit of a novelty. I suggest that the tune is always the point of it, not the harmonica, so play a single melody line on the whole and keep the fancy effects down. You should listen to a lot of slow air playing before dipping your toes into the shark-infested waters, and if the particular tune you’re playing has words you should know them so that you know what the tune is all about. A slow air that is a song tune, played without regular rhythm, will sound yucky and aimless otherwise. I think they are the hardest by far of all tunes to bring off well. I play them to myself at home and hardly ever play them in public these days. My paltry knowledge of slow airs doesn’t qualify me. A real slow air worth a go is Taímse Im’ Chodhladh. Don’t rule out some of the slow Carolan tunes such as Eleanor Plunkett and Bridget Cruise and song tunes such as Lark In The Clear Air. Very nice, and you will hardly offend the sean-nos cognescenti (who do have a point…)

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Da Slockit Light by Tom Anderson is a nice Scottish slow tune, with an accidental in it that calls for a D chromatic Da Auld Resting Chair is another nice one from the same source, calling for a G chrom. You could try a couple of slow fiddle tunes from Scott-Skinner, Hector the Hero and Music o’ Spey. If you’re good at bending, Roslyn Castle is good on a G blues harp, or just play it on a G chrom.

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Full stop after chromatic would make sense.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

A Carolan tune called Blind Mary should go very well. It’ll be in the Tunes section here.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Thanks, great ideas there. Have tried The Dawning of the day and the Lark in the Clear Air already - I like them. I’ve been playing jigs’n’reels on the 10-hole diatonic, but I just can’t do fast on the tremolo. I realise slow is not necessarlily easy, just want to start exploring the airs a bit.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Steve Shaw has a point to a degree. Musicis a bit like driving a car. it is easy to drive fast, only requires one action, but driving slow…………

Playing airs can be like that.

Alas maybe I do not appreciate that because on harmonica and mandolin I probably ONLY play slow airs these days.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

There are plenty of slow airs that sound great on a harmonica, and breathing into it gives you a chance to put expressiveness into the notes that you couldn’t with an accordion or concertina.

The only problem is that, whenever I hear or play a slow tune on the harmonica, my mind immediately goes to all those Western movies I saw as a kid where the cowpokes gathered around the campfire after eating their grub, as one of their number played a slow harmonica tune in the background. Many times they were Irish tunes, too, often because of director John Ford, who was born in the US to Irish parents, and always took pride in his heritage.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Exactly. You just have to be careful and a bit sensitive. Bonny At Morn is another good ‘un worth a try I just thought of. As is Lord Derwentwiter’s Farewell. Could be a few more Northumbrian-ish ones as well…

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Derwentwiter’s. He may have been a lot of things but he wasn’t racist.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

I really do mean Derwentwiter’s! :-D

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Hello, something is doing this. I’m going to type it again ever so carefully. Derwentwiter’s. Now let’s have a look…

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Bloody Nora, Jeremy, it’s because "D e r w e n T W A T e r ’ s" has got "tw@t" in it, innit! Ha Ha Ha!

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Lord Derwentwiter didn’t by any chance live in Sconthorpe did he?

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Wikipedia has an interesting historical article about Lord Derwentwiter.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Except that if you type in "Lord Derwentwiter" into Wikipedia’s search engine it will immediately suggest the real spelling. Wikipedia’s not PC in this respect.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

The correct spelling of the tune "Lord Derwentwiter’s Farewell" (with "a" instead of "i") is in the Tunes database here. Very peculiar. But I suppose we ought to be grateful.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

I doubt whether Lord Derwentwiter lived as far south as Seejithorpe, what with his tune being so popular in the north-east. I’m guessing he lived somewhere near sh*tlington Crags, in Northumberland.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

How about "Over the Moor, Among the Heather" or "Rosebud of Allenvale"? Be careful not to add in too much vibrato. It ends up sounding like a cowboy doing time in prison (two sterotypes in one).

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Re: Harmonica slow airs

I bought an old, fat, two-sided Hohner Echo in C/G and it works nicely for slower melodies, but its very breathy and I couldn’t use it for anything like an air.

FWIW it’s a good for harp for the melodies of American ballads and you can get a nice effect by stopping the airstream with your lips on staccato notes, but I have to remember to take an extra gulp before playing a string of half or whole notes.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

I use a double-sided D/G Echo quite a lot. They haven’t quite got the attack of blues harps but you do get accustomed. Stupidly tuned though. I used it a lot at the Burns Night do to make me sound like Jimmy Shand. I don’t know about for slow airs though. That tremolo is on the wet side and I’m not certain it’s what I want… As you say, nice for accompanying songs. My Sloop John B riffs are unsurpassed and I do a nifty middle eight in Wild Rover. :-D

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Easter Snow is lovely on anything… in fact I love harmonica slow airs

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I’d like to second your remark, Premierflute. Most any slow air on the harmonica should work well. It’s a match made in heaven, really.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Hmm. Try it and see…

Re: Harmonica slow airs

Seriously, it’s a nice instrument. All different types of music sound terrific on the harmonica. Plus you can spill beer on it and it won’t break.

Re: Harmonica slow airs

I agree about sounding like a cowboy movie. For info, Noel Pepper plays The Coolin and Lark in the Clear Air on the CD ‘Lark in the Clear Air’. Not sure if he uses a tremolo instument or just creates tremolo with his hands, but it has lots of tremolo without sounding cowboyish.