KEYTOI  {Melodica/Pianica/Melodion}

Jepps Keytoi Hohner Superforce 37
This all black Keytoi is the superior Hohner Superforce 37. I own more than one of these, for spare parts and for the security of a decent instrument. Both sweet and powerful, in my opinion, the SF37 is the best reasonably priced professional Keytoi on the market.
Here’s an illusive little known wonder ~ the Melodica.

Call it what you will, what I call the Keytoi is actually a divine messenger of God, born from the heart of a Child.

Once upon a time the Melodica was only found in toy stores, or fairly selective music shops. It was by no means seen to be a professional instrument, not in any way.

It was however embraced rapidly by the Reggae communities and in time became a hallmark of their music.

It was here and then whence stage pianists became interested in the possibility of a more academically encompassing Melodica, with a greater scope for novelty accompaniments and indeed teaching.

Once the guys at Hohner became aware of the interest, they set themselves a little side project, just to test the waters… of a performance grade Melodica.

Hohner released a couple of these “scouts” onto the market… they watched… and waited… looking for any sign of a cultural rustling.

And when it came… it came from the top.

(more…)

Special 20 Country Tuned

Special 20 Country Tuning
Paint the country blue… or erm, illusive copper.
I recently blogged about the Seydel Big Six and how the attempt to chromaticize Blues Harmonicas only destroys the very philosophy of its own original voice.

That philosophy, born from the oppressed good black folks of America, speaks of the strength to make the most of what little you have and the meditation therefore, to create more from less.

It is only natural then of the Blues Harpist, to recreate or arrange melodies from other genres in a way that satisfies both the instrument’s demands and the listener’s ear.

More than often this means not only an alteration of style, but to manipulate the existence of notes which are not naturally sounding in the Harmonica.

This is a technique called ‘bending’.

Whilst they may sound harsh if held too long, or whence unnaturally forced to support a piece of weighty Bach, whence employed as careful “passing notes” they can often convey a very subtle beauty of speech.

Yet therein, due to their unnatural sounding, there is an element of truth in what modern harmonica players say, that sometimes if just one note of their instrument were changed, then so would their entire world.

(more…)

Sax In My Pocket

Pocket sax jeppsOriginally a lounge Pianist, yet forever intimidated by its inconvenience of size, expense and formality, I found myself in a passionate love affair with a new instrument.

Invented in 1972 by Brian Wittman, a Hawaiian musician, guru and gentleman, the Xaphoon®, more popularly known as The Pocket Sax, is a Trumpet sized Saxophone, that not only fits in your pocket, but whence the dedication and mutual embrace is spoken, will turn your mind inside out as it screams the blue soul of a real Saxophonist.

(more…)

The Big Six

Seydel big six harp
Less… art… more…
I had spent many years researching new and innovating Blues Harp designs, specifically focussing on alternate tunings or reed configurations, which allow an otherwise regular harp to be played chromatically off the bat.

There are many.

Most notably the Suzuki Sub30 which actually incorporates an extra ten reeds into the same 20 reed infrastructure, acting as silent “sympathetics”, only sounding when the player instructs them through embouchure.

Yet whilst it was my frustration with an instrument’s limitations that led me to this decade long investigation, it would soon come to pass that this very disposition of the Blues Harp’s design would be the very thing that solves my paradox.

All my life I have taught people a blessed miracle of music, that whence the passion of creativity resides within one, an orchestra can be painted from a pallette of only three colours.

That is to say, music is not the art of playing as many notes as possible as quickly and as loudly as possible… it is the art of creating masterpieces out of only the air, or thus from a flute without even any holes.

Enter… The Big Six.

(more…)

Saxpet

Xaphoon pocket sax simon jepps tutorial
Saxpet ~ Saxophone, Clarinet & Trumpet
Subconsciously, whilst I will always refer to the Xaphoon as the Pocket Sax, it has always been in my heart to call it my “Saxpet”.

This is not merely because it feels like a mutually adoring “pet”, but in a technical sense also.

Brian Wittman, the instrument’s inventor, describes the Xaphoon as a combination of, or more accurately the middle ground between, the Saxophone and the Clarinet.

Yet whence having played the instrument at volume in an orchestral Jazz setting, in particularly the hard and indestructible resin model, you feel it to absorb and harness the strong energy of the brass instruments being played.

Indeed to say, the Trumpet.

(more…)

Mission Pocketable

Pocket sax tutorialSome could argue the Xaphoon to be much like a Ukulele, in that its size deems it flawed by design. Yet there are many Ukulele players who are obviously not dissuaded by this, indeed myself occasionally included.

No, the Xaphoon is not flawed. It is however, very difficult to master. Oh, this is not to say the average novice will be unable to enjoy it, no, this is to say that the average professional Xaphoonist would have spent ten years perfecting it.

The difference between a Xaphoon and a Pocket Sax…? Bamboo die hards aside… depends how good you are.

First things first. I know what you are seeking. The sound of a Sax in your pocket. Yet you fear it to only raspberry, much like a Kazoo. This is a common misconception, seeded by poor examples of play, by amateurs trying too hard, as if to make a baby iron a suit.

(more…)