The humble harmonica has to be one of the easiest musical instruments to master in the world. Okay, so there are some great Folk and Blues musicians out there that can make this little mouth piece talk their language, but what I’m talking about here is for Joe Average, without a musical bone in his body, being able to knock out a melody in no time at all. What other instrument allows you to do that? You really can learn how to play the harmonica in a matter of days or weeks, depending on your commitment.
Most instruments require you get a beginners book, or if you’re really enthusiastic, a private tutor or perhaps joining a local class so that you can get a head start with your strumming, blowing, picking, or beating, depending what it is you’re trying to master. But with the pocked sized mouth organ, there’s no such learning curve. Just pick one up from your local music store and learn to play the harmonica your way.
I remember the time I purchased my first ever harmonica. It was back in the 1980’s when I was bumming my way around the world, that I struck a fascination with the sounds and notes that could be plucked from this musical mouthpiece. It all began when I came across this Danish couple who were journeying through Western Asia.
Tucked away in their backpacks were an Irish tin whistle and a tuppeny ha’penny harmonica. After dinner one evening, on the outskirts of the Chitwan jungle of Nepal, they began to entertain a small group of us happy hippies with their music. It was at this exact moment in time that I fell in love with, and made a decision to, learn to play the harmonica.
It was some weeks later before I found a place to purchase one. Funnily enough, there’s not a lot of call for music stores in the foot hills of the Himalayas or along the swamps of India, so it wasn’t until I’d landed in Georgetown, on the Malaysian island of Penang, that I found a rickety little shop that had harmonicas on sale for a mere two dollars a piece. I could hardly wait to get started, and so rushed off excitedly to my grimy guest house where I began to lean to play my new toy.
It proved to be a great companion on my travels. The first tune I knocked out was the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’. Well it was December! But soon afterwards I was doing impressive little instrumentals and jamming sessions with fellow travelers who were trudging the circuit with bulky guitars strapped to their backs.
Whether you’re planning a long trip, or just looking for something to do outside the virtual world of a computer, then why not learn to play the harmonica? It’ll give you heaps of fun without the frustration that comes with more serious musical instruments. Hey, who knows where it could lead you Mr. Dylan!
If you really get a knack for the hand harp, you could then progress onto to say Chicago Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Folk, or even some unique style of your own. Good luck!