Jazz interview with jazz harmonica player Yvonnick Prene. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Yvonnick Prene: – I was born in Paris, France and grew up in a suburb. I stayed there until I moved to New York when I was 20 years old. My interested in music started through listening to my father ‘cd collection when I was a kid. He had a lot of blues, jazz and rock albums from The Rolling Stone, Sugar Blue, Little Walter and others. Being the only son and having parents who worked until late at night I had some spare time by myself. Thus besides playing the harmonica and guitar I would go to art class and chess tournaments.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the your musical instrument?
YP: – At age 9 I remember going to French harmonica player Jean-Jacques Milteau’ show in my hometown. It blew my mind. From that moment I wanted to learn more about music and how to play the harmonica!
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the your musical instrument?
YP: – I was lucky to get lessons from the best harmonica players in France such as Jean-Jacques Milteau, Greg Zlap, Sebastien Charlier, Patrick Hannack and Olivier Ker Ourio. I have always been attracted to the sound of the harmonica as far as I can remember.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
YP: – When you begin your musical journey it’s important to follow your influences. Listen and imitate the players you enjoy the most and your personality will express itself no matter what. That’s why I have launched a monthly transcription challenge in my online harmonica school “Harmonica Studio” where we’re learning each month a new solo by jazz or blues masters on any instruments. Each member submits his interpretation along the original album and I select interesting passages to analyze.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
YP: – It is challenging to play with a good rhythm on the harmonica and probably more so on the chromatic harmonica. That’s why it’s essential to make it a priority to develop a strong sense of time. In”Harmonica Studio”I have created exercises designed for chromatic harmonica players to work on rhythm and articulation. I always recommend to my students to practice with the metronome at a slow tempo. The best is to set it up with the beat on 2 and 4 then then with a click every four beats. The ultimate goal is to become a well-rounded musician as well as being technically proficient on the instrument.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
YP: – Right now in January 2018, I’m listening to a lot of jazz as always. You can find on my playlist songs from Joni Mitchel “Both Sides Now”, Dexter Gordon “Our Man in Paris” and Branford Marsalis “ A Love Supreme” among others.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
YP: – Right now I mostly play Hohner Golden Melody harmonicas and Suzuki Chromatix SCX. I like also the Easttop “Blues Harmonica” very good price/quality ratio.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
YP: – These days I’m composing and practicing for a new project that I’m excited about. I’m also looking to grow my school in New York “The New York Harmonica School” which keeps me busy teaching private and group classes. Beside that I’m happy to have launched a few months ago an online harmonica school ”Harmonica Studio”. The site includes alreadt over 300 lessons with videos, audios, pdfs and also boasts a great community of supportive harmonica players. I’m always creating new content and share it with my members.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
YP: – Thanks Simon for the opportunity to do this interview and please stay in touch.
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan