Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rick Estrin Reveals!

Rick Estrin Reveals!
Secrets, Subtleties
& Tricks of the
Blues Harmonica

Rick Estrin
Coastin' Hank DVD

Way Cool Alert! Rick Estrin is by far the hippest blues harp master alive today and has arisen to a level of cool that very few have achieved, but all have aspired to reach--he is also definitely one of the best at his craft. This also is by far the hippest instructional blues harp DVD that I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Just listening to Estrin's line of jive is cool enough, but it's when he puts his harp in his mouth that real magic happens. Go to for a little teaser vid and you'll have a pretty clear idea of how it's gonna go.

Estrin tells the viewer upfront just what his intentions are in that little clip. This is not a "how to" play the harmonica. This is a "now that you think you can play", here's how to raise it up a notch. He has an absolutely "no b.s." approach to explaining what it's all about. He says what he means, then he adds, "Check this out" as he rips it out on the harp. He ain't gonna tell you how to do it, he's just going to do it and expect you to grasp what he's getting at. Someone who has been at it as long as myself understands every syllable. He may be a world away from what a beginner can comprehend, but they will benefit in the long run just listening to him. If nothing else, just listening to a great blues harp player play and share HIS philosophy of how to get to where you should be headed is super valuable.

Estrin's video is broken down into the following sections:
Hold That Groove: He explains himself here and then just starts grooving on the harp, playing examples of Little Walter, Big Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson I&II styles and how they kept a groove going. He explains the importance of throwing in those little rhythmic chords that sets up solo riffs that he is such a superb master at doing better than anyone out there.

Phrasing & Solo Strategies: He shows by example of how important phrasing is to playing a song, especially in a band context, and how to vary texture and tone with different techniques. Again, he ain't going to explain how to play octaves, flutters or double stops--he's just going to play 'em for us to show us how to incorporate variation and keep it happening.

Note for Note: I think that everyone coming up during Estrin's generation understands the importance of learning the blues classics note for note--then taking it somewhere else and developing a style of their own. I hear way too many newer gurus talk about listening to anyone but harmonica players in order to progress. They mention stuff like "Little Walter listened to horn players for his style". That may be true, but he had the blues harp down pat before he took it out for a swinging spin and developed his own groove.

Performance & Showbiz: Estrin puts the exclamation point on the importance of being a showman in this showbiz--and, man, no one can beat him at that game. He talks about looking the audience dead in the eye and have them convinced that they are about to hear the most important s$#% that they'll ever hear in their life. Got to convince them that what you just played was "some really deep s&%#!" This brings up the expletive that I've edited here that he's fond of using for emphasis. Might just make this a PG-13 flick for some that use that rating. He says during this segment that Lightnin' Hopkins was one of his models as to how to be a showman when putting a blues song across. Nothing flashy, just Po' Lightnin' and his ultra cool persona. Estrin does explain how to perform one of his tricks of the trade--the harp stuck in the mouth like a cigar and then nailing down low down, soulful blues riffs.

Outro-Back From The Alley: He wraps things up here and I don't think I've given away his many of his secrets, so I'll wrap things up with what he says is the REAL SECRET: KEEP IT IN YOUR MOUTH. Ain't it the truth? Need to also mentioned that the guitar whiz, Rusty Zinn is at his side throughout the entire video helping him get his point across.

I got my copy from They are apparently affiliated with cdbaby, which is a great site to find lots of independent stuff that can't be found elsewhere--including great blues. The problem is that the first time I searched the site, they were out of stock. The next time, they were in stock and my order was promptly delivered. I noticed while writing this post that they were out of stock again, so it is great to see that this marvelous little flick is finding an audience. Keep checking back with them until you get your hands on one. Anyway--

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