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Harmonica Lessons: "Bags' Groove"

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Hey, today,
which is any day in the next 10 years or
even beyond that in cyber space,
I am going to show
you a bunch of different
ways of playing this very,
very simple tune, and it goes like this,
[MUSIC].
It's called Bags groove, and
Bags is a nickname for Milt Jackson,
and there's a whole bunch of people who,
a whole bunch of different stories
on how he got this nickname, I don't
really know how he got the nickname.
But the point is, it's a very,
very simple tune, it just uses
[MUSIC]
the minor pentatonic scale.
And I'm playing it in G because I
know everyone here has a C harp.
The original key of this is,
I think, is F, but we're doing a G.
[MUSIC]
And he played the vibes, so I have
the little vibes sound on my keyboard
[MUSIC].
So it's just G, D, C, B flat,
which requires you to bend the third
hole draw down a half step.
[SOUND] Back to C.
B flat's at G.
[SOUND] B flat G.
[SOUND] G, F.
[SOUND] G, F, G, F.
That's the whole tune.
It's just one lick that is played for
the one chord, the four chord, and
the final turnaround, the last four bars.
So it's a very, very basic jazz blues.
[MUSIC]
The four chord.
[MUSIC]
Then, the 5 chord.
[music playing] It's one of the easiest
jazz blues licks ever written.
These are called rift blues,
or lick blues.
This kind of thing started with swing
bands in the 1930s where the whole
band would play this riff.
Sometimes it was over Blues.
Sometimes it was over some other form,
but it's very, very easy.
Of course, when you solo over the tune,
you're supposed to make
some sort of statement, but we're
starting from like the most basic thing.
Except that when jazz blues is played,
it doesn't just have the one,
four, and five chord,
it shades the chords.
[MUSIC]
And then the turn
around instead of five,
four, one.
It's usually two, five,
one, six, two, five.
Because jazz musicians round
off the edges of blues.
The whole, it's more streamlined music.
It uses much more,
you need to know a lot more theory.
But for those of you who've been
listening to jazz for years, and have
always wanted to play it on the harmonica,
this is a very good place to start.
Because a lot of these things that
are going to be in the track that I've
prerecorded on my keyboard here
are things you've heard before.
But maybe this is the first time
that you've actually played with it.
So for this first lesson on Bags Groove,
I'm just going to play the melody and
play a very simple solo
based on patterns that I make up that kind
of reflect the pattern of the melody.
So here we go and you'll notice that I
played it on a setting that has a base in
the left hand and
a vibe sound in the right hand and
then I switched to the piano as I was
playing the piano in the right hand.
So, the melody is played on the vibe so
you can learn it by playing along.
[MUSIC]
Two.
[MUSIC]
And it's
played
twice.
I harmonized it a little bit.
I doubled notes.
[MUSIC]
Now
the simple solo.
[MUSIC]
[music
playing]
[MUSIC].
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC].
[MUSIC]
So,
I played a little bit of
a lick on the end and
I played a simple solo
based on riffs, and
sometimes I would play
the riff for the one and
the four chord and
then play something
different on the turnaround.
And then I jumped around octaves [SOUND].
You can play, you know, repeated rhythms.
I just want to show you
how you don't have to
play a lot of notes to
have a believable solo.
And you can take your time and have ideas.
And, that way, if you think of something,
and then play it,
it spreads time out instead of
feeling pressured by the song.
Like, God,
I've got to play a bunch of stuff or
else people will say how
come you're not playing?
It's a different approach.
It's like,
I've got all the time in the world.
And I'm going to play something simple.
And that way, you can play a longer solo.
I mean,
you'll be sorry that the track ran out so
soon if you have an attitude like that.
So, on the other hand, if you play
a million notes, sometimes gee,
it feels like I've been playing forever
and I wish this track would end.
So, just want to try to impart
several of those things to you and
hope you try this out and
send me a video of it.
Okay, now we're gonna do a lesson on
Bags' Groove where I trade fours with you.
Now, trading fours is something
that's a convention in jazz.
Sometimes it's just between
the horn player and the drummer.
A lot of times it's like that.
Sometimes it's between the horn player,
the drummer, the pianist, the drummer.
Sometimes it's between
multiple horn players,
but right here it's just
gonna be between you and me.
You, me, and my sequence.
If you've watched the other
two Bags' Groove lessons,
you'll have heard the sequence before.
So, the idea is we each play four bars.
Except that the way it works
is there's just two people.
I play the first four bars,
you play the second four bars,
which is over the four chord.
I play the third four bars
which is over the turnaround.
For the next course,
you play the first four bars.
So, I play the second one and
you play the third.
So it alternates every course because
there's eight bars of trading.
But it's a 12 bar form.
So the form, and
the trading are not synchronous.
They're not symmetrical.
So we come out at a different part,
place every time, which is really cool.
But you have to keep track of the form.
The blues form has to be ingrained
in your head and in your mind.
It's an easy form if you've played
blues a lot, even blues, blues.
And this is jazz blues.
Same 12 bars, same three sections.
The one, the four and
then the turnaround, okay?
So here we go.
And the melody is gonna
start it off twice.
And we'll also trade melody passages,
okay?
We'll pretend I'm the trumpet player,
you're the tenor player.
Whatever it might be.
Okay, here we go.
[SOUND] Two, one.
[MUSIC]
Your turn.
[MUSIC]
My turn.
[MUSIC]
Now your
turn
[MUSIC]
since you played
the melody last,
I have the first
[MUSIC]
two, and
three, four.
[MUSIC]
Whoops
I
screwed
up
but
so
do we
all.
And then you start.
[MUSIC]
Now me.
[MUSIC]
Now you and
me together
[MUSIC]
you play a big
Because sometimes you could play
it this big fill on the end and
the drummer is going [SOUND] and
hitting the cymbals and
the horn players are like [SOUND] and they
all look at each other and you go Wha!
And then it's the end.
A lot of times jazz
tunes don't end cleanly.
Like a piece of classical music or
an Irish tune, or even a blues tune.
Jazz a lot of times, they'll just go.
[SOUND] [LAUGH] It's kind of weird, but
that's just what happens
a lot of the time.
So you can take liberties with that,
now of course,
I try to play ideas that were
mostly didn't use over blows and
over draws, but I threw in a few,
so it depends on who you are.
You can try to match me or
try to outdo me or anything,
because part of the trading thing, it's
interactive and it's also competitive.
Because guys are trying to show
each other, hey, I can do this.
Can you do that?
It's like a basketball, like a game of
horse where you try to make a shot that
you don't think the other guy can make.
And then you try to
make even harder shots.
Part of jazz is competition.
They use to call it cutting
contests way back in the 30s or
40s when I was minus 20 and
minus 10 years old.
But that's part of it and that's
part of how you grow is by this sort
of friendly competition,
like a game of basketball, hopefully where
people aren't like elbowing each
other [LAUGH] and hurting each other.
And jazz is like that.
It's competitive.
And the idea when you're playing with
people is, you always wanna play with
people who are better than you
cuz that's the way you learn.
And if you can find people who are better
than you that are willing to play with
you, this is a blessing.
If they have advice for you, listen to it.
Okay, I hope you enjoyed
trading fours with me and,
send me a video of you doing it.