4811 Wadsworth

4811 Wadsworth is one of my favorite Rod Piazza songs. In fact, it's on my Up In The Chrome-shed woodshed list. It's sub-titled Blues for George. I recently saw a George Smith record label (vinyl, that is) with that address on it. Maybe it was George's address, or the address of the recording studio, or his Label, I'm not sure.

Anyway, I'm up in the woodshed learning this song, but there are a couple of parts that don't sound right on my Super 64. Most of it lays out OK, but I can't nail the part that starts about 3:10. Just the way he's moving into the notes, and then that little shake...

Then, it hits me. I pull a G 'tonic out of the case, and - eureka! - everything falls into place.

Rod (I mean "Mr. Piazza"), you tricky so-and-so...

The real tricky part, though, is not that he changes harmonicas (I'm learning that a lot of the Big Boys do that), it's that his TONE remains so similar throughout the piece that it's very hard to tell he's done it. You try that. It's a whole different level of technique that I'm just beginning to work on.

If you listen to Smith, Piazza and Clarke, you'll notice that most of the time they're playing 'Tonic they still sound like they're playing Chromatic. This is not just 3rd position - they even sound that way if they're playing 2nd or even 1st. It seems to me that it's a combination of things; their approach and their tone.

Approach: Finding arpeggios & licks that can be played in the same sequence both on Chrom (in 3rd) and Tonic (in 2nd and 3rd) is one aspect. Avoiding notes on Tonic that give your licks too much of a Chicago or Delta sound (as opposed to the West Coast sound) is another. Always playing with a Swing feel (as opposed to a Stomp or Boogie-woogie). I think it's fair to say that Clarke and Smith both play a 'tonic much more on the high-end than a Chicago-style player would. This is some of what facilitates the Chrom-like approach, 'cause the note layout of the high holes is similar to a solo-tuned chrom.

Tone: Modifying the cupping technique you use with a 'Tonic so it sounds like the more open cup that a Chrom requires. My current approach and tone on 'Tonic is significantly different than my Chromatic approach.

OK, back to the Woodshed...