1. Choosing the harmonica as your instrument
Most people have a favorite instrument, perhaps inspired by pop heroes, teachers, or seeing great players up close. I was lucky to meet Jim Fitting, the famous Boston based harmonica player, when we were at college. Jim's playing inspired me to start, more than 30 years ago. The harmonica quickly became my favorite instrument.
Some people are lucky like me, becoming proficient on their favorite instrument. Other are not so fortunate. Being forced into music lessons at a young age, on an unloved instrument, chosen by others, has left many without music skills, convinced that playing music is beyond them. Not to mention an army of discarded tubas, cellos, drums and pianos.
I believe that becoming a musician starts with a love of the chosen instrument. This choice is helped if an expert presents the case for their instrument. Perhaps you are wondering about the harmonica - could it be your instrument?.
I would like to present my case for choosing the harmonica.
Walter Mitty was a famous fictional character, with a heroic fantasy life interrupted by the mundane real one. Many have a Walter Mitty music fantasy, where they impress audiences with impromptu and unexpected musical prowess. The harmonica hides easily in a pocket, and is always available. This has allowed many such Walter Mitty moments for me, the best at a post opera party (I was brought by a friend), where I joined the conductor who had been entertaining the gathering on piano.
The easy portability of the harmonica is a major bonus. Music practice can happen anywhere, without the stands, footstools, straps and electric power needed by other instruments.
Many instruments require a big investment to get started. Not so for the harmonica. An excellent instrument will generally leave you with change from $30US. Be sure to get one in the key of C. Your music store will help if you are not sure about keys.
Many instruments confine their players to certain types of music. Less so with the harmonica. Blues is the obvious harmonica staring point, however it fits well with Rock and Roll, folk and traditional music styles (as this course shows in detail). In particular, the harmonica fits with loud electric bands as well as informal acoustic gatherings.
Harmonica players can join in just about anywhere. But - good harmonicas players are rare, compared to other instruments. Hence, moderate harmonica skills will get you many performance opportunites.
The harmonica is usually played in one key only. Harmonica players therefore carry a set of harmonicas, each one in a different key. Instruments like piano and flute need much effort needed to master different music keys. The harmonica avoids this difficulty. Changing keys simply means picking up another harmonica.
These are all good reasons to choose the harmonica. However, you must first hear the music. Here is some of mine.
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