How to Succeed with Harmonica

2. Starting the Journey

The first lesson on a new instrument is crucial. The teacher should show enough skill to inspire the new student, but then provide engaging and realistic tasks. The student should leave keen to practise, and looking forward to the next lesson.

Some teaching methods focus on theory early on, for example learning to read music. I feel harmonica students are better served by playing music at the first lesson, and each one that follows. Music theory and notation should be introduced gradually and only as needed.

Whatever the teaching approach, a time will come when the instrument seems too hard. New students then lose motivation, as the goal of playing well seems impossibly far off. At this point a fresh outlook can help.

This article describes the outlook needed to succeed as a new harmonica student.

Learning an instrument is like a journey. In Australia (my country), many young adults to travel the world for a year, with a backpack as company. The endpoint is often the starting point, back in Australia. The value comes from the journey.

Learning an instrument is similar. While the endpoint, skilled performance, is different from the start, much value also comes from the learning journey.

With this outlook, early challenges are more easily managed. Perhaps the exercise from lesson 3 seems hard... No problem. Rest awhile, then continue the journey from the same point the next day. Short regular practice sessions, even just 15 minutes a day, are enough to progress.

The satisfaction from the resulting small improvements can be profound. Focus on these small steps, rather than the final goal of the player you one day hope to be.

The learning journey should have intermediate destinations. For new students these should be clear and attractive. Playing the first tune well is a starting point. Then learning others like it, so you have a small repertoire. Then your first blues solo. The first one in our course sounds like this

Look at the blues lesson which teaches this solo.

This course provides graded goals, so new students can see where they are going.

As well as graded goals, each lesson should provide manageable tasks, so the new student sees the lesson through to the end. This is particularly important with early lessons, where the decision to continue remains up in the air.

Successful learning celebrates early successes with the new instrument, motivating further progress. Chinese say that a ten thousand mile journey begins with the first step. With your new instrument and the first lessons done, that step has been taken. Continuing with further small steps, and enjoying the rewards they bring is the path to success.

Having chosen the harmonica, and started with lessons, we now consider good teaching tools. These will be outlined in part 3 of this series.

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