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Harmonica Lessons: "Rocky Top"

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Hi, this is me in an earlier life with my
second wife Dolly Parton.
[LAUGH] The reason I showed you that,
in addition to proving the fact that I
do know her and we did record together,
is that the next tune that
I'm going to show you here,
this tune is Rocky Top which is
a bluegrass, country classic.
And Dolly wrote that,
a lot of people don't know that.
She's a not only a wonderful person,
a good cook, but
she is a hell of a songwriter as well.
And Rocky Top is a real
classic bluegrass tune.
I'm gonna play it in G,
using a C harp, and this one just so
happens to be the special 20
that I have sitting around.
I think I adjusted
the clearances a little bit
It's very in tune.
It's basically the same harmonica that
people who are signing up now are getting
free which is a really good deal.
So, Rocky Top.
It's a country tune,
bluegrass tune which means that it's
a combination of that pentatonic scale
and the blues.
Especially in the second hole draw.
Country tunes.
It's a lot more of that than
the urban blues players.
But there's some flat fifth sevenths too.
So you have the licks like that.
It's bluesy and it's pentatonic.
And it sort of goes back and
fourth between being pentatonic and
That's what bluegrass has in it,
it has those, that driving rhythm,
more aggressive than just
old timey fiddle tunes.
And it incorporates a lot more blues.
So, here comes Rocky Top, at you.
Before I play it I'm
gonna explain the cords.
It's a one, to a four, to a one,
to a minor six, to a five, to a one.
It does that twice,
that whole thing.
And then it goes to the bridge,
E minor, and inconveniently enough for
us diatonic harmonica players,
is an F chord.
That's kind of the Irish modal and
Mixolydian thing and
the blues combined together.
And then, whoa, I dropped my harmonica.
Then four, one,
one to a flat seven
which is another Modal
back to
So this tune has a bunch of elements
in it.b It's got that Irish,
British Isles, folk, mixolydian thing.
It's got the pentatonic thing,
and it's got the bluesy thing.
They're all those elements
that make up bluegrass.
And it was a pop hit.
So here it comes.
Same thing
the bridge.
It's more
the chorus and
then it goes.
Then the whole thing repeats.
So I soloed for
you in that major
pentatonic thing
with some country licks,
kind of reminiscent
of a little bit of
Charlie McCoy.
Couldn't help myself,
I just wanted to thank you Charlie,
to play some of his licks because those
are some of the most classic country
harmonica licks ever been played.
He was the number one harmonica
player in nashville for
many years until Terry McMillan
basically took that over.
And Terry, unfortunately,
has passed away too young.
About a year or so ago.
And Terry played with Dolly too.
So, we're all connected together, and I've
met Charlie and we've played together.
So, this is just a little glimpse
into the world of country harmonica,
bluegrass harmonica, and I hope some
of you try this and send me videos.