Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Donald Black interview

November 22, 2020 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 28
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Donald Black interview
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Donald Black is predominantly a tremolo player, using the instrument to great effect across the range of traditional Scottish music. He learnt many of the tunes he loves from accordion music, emulating the sound on the tremolo harmonica. 

Donald’s musical career started quite late in life, and since then he has performed around the world, appearing at the SPAH convention and even in Moscow. With five albums to his name, Donald has also recorded two tracks with the great Charlie McCoy. 
His music summons the beautiful scenery of the misty glens of bonny Scotland.

Select the Chapter Markers tab above to select different sections of the podcast (website version only).

Donald's website:

Album reviews:

Tony Eyers site on Tremolo harmonica:
Profile of Donald: http://tremoloharmonica.com/donald-black.shtml

Winslow Yerxa's, author of 'Harmonica For Dummies':

The Encyclopedia of Harmonica book by Peter Krampert:

Di Mundharmonica by Cristoph Wagner:


NHL Bristol in 2007:

Harmonica UK Lockdown session from 2020:

Piping Live in 2018:

Donald Black Band in Klingenthal in 2018:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS
and Blows Me Away Productions: http://www.blowsmeaway.com/

Support the show

Donald hails from the West coast of Scotland
First harmonica sent to Donald as a present at age 4
Played harmonica with mother as a boy
Tremolo was the harmonica Donald learnt to play
Influence of the scenery of Western Scotland on the music of the region
Slow airs are a favourite of Donalds
Influence of Gaelic on the music
Donald’s grew up among traditional music scene of West coast of Scotland
The accordion was the instrument Donald was first influenced by
Donald was discovered playing harmonica in a bar in Glasgow by Phil Cunningham
Tremolo harmonica sounds similar to accordion (at least the way Donald plays it)
Donald plays the Echo harp tremolo, but also Suzuki and Tombo tremolos
Donald’s development as a harmonica player
Made his first album: Westwinds, and met Malcolm Jones of Runrig fame
Played with Malcolm Jones in a duo for many years
Donald one of few exponents of Sottish traditional music on the harmonica
Met Rick Epping, who had some tremolos in different keys made for Donald
Harmonica types used on Westwinds album
Went on tour with Malcolm Jones
Shetland music
Donald’s second album: Close To Home
Pipe tunes and the flattened seventh
Don’t bend on the tremolo as the reeds are so delicate
Tremolos used for Irish music have thicker reeds
Donald a little chromatic (but not much!)
6/8 Time
Donald learns by ear and plays tunes repeatedly
Sometimes mix up the tunes by mistake
Cajun song: The Ballachulish Stomp on octave tuned Hohner Comet
Hohner Little Lady harmonica trick where brushes teeth
Third album: Keil Road
Donald has played a Pibroch for first time on harmonica
Classic Gaelic song, The Cuckoo
Donald sings a song in Gaelic on the album, and the Gaelic language
Dreams and Dances album
The Clappers pipe tune is a fast one
Donald unusually for him, plays 2nd position on The Inevitable Journey song
Appeared on Charlie McCoy’s Celtic Dreams album in 2015 after meeting him at SPAH
They recorded a song Donald had recorded on Dreams and Dances: Lonesome Eyes
Charlie McCoy then appeared on a song on Donald’s next album, From My Heart
More songs off the From My Heart album
Polka on the album
Donald has appeared at the NHL Festival twice on two occasions
Donald performed with his mother on Scottish TV when she was 86
Donald is the first Scot to be invited to appear at SPAH
Has performed in various countries, including Lithuania and Russia
Has appeared in four books about harmonica
Appeared on TV numerous times on Scottish Gaelic music programmes
Mouth vibrato that Donald uses and emulating mandolin tremolo sound
Developed Highlander mixolydian tuned tremolo with Hohner
10 minute question
Availability of good tremolo harmonicas nowadays
Importance of keeping the mouth salivated
Microphone of choice
Doesn’t use any effects pedals
Future plans