How I learned to play the Harmonica in 30 days.
Growing up I thought it was a weird, old person's instrument. But this all changed with the help of 2 things. One, Gian Groen's harmonica insert in his re-recording of a beautiful Afrikaans song '4 Seisoene Kind'. And number two, Jeremy Loops. Well, Jeremy came after. But he really cemented the harmonica-is-awesome idea in my head.
Also, beside handsome SA musicians playing it, the harmonica is a super versatile lil instrument.
- It's small and can fit into your handbag. You never know when you might need to serenade someone .
- Unlike the guitar, very few people play it. So, kinda-being-able-to-play it makes you interesting.
- Interesting is hot.
- That's it.
So, here are my 5 steps.
Step 1. Find your inspiration.
Inspiration as well as aspiration is a vital ingredient for this recipe. This was mine.
Step 2. Buy a harmonica
Don't overdo this. You can really get into it. I mean, REALLY get into it. Just don't. You are not becoming a Jimmy Hendrix. In the week before I moved to Qatar I went to a music shop in Pretoria and bought the cheapest harmonica I could find. Essentially I'm tone deaf, so they all sound equally beautiful to me. I paid R60 or something.
Step 3. Find a song to play and learn how the instrument works
It needs to be easy to master and you need to like this song A LOT. You'll be butchering for the next month, and then you still need to enjoy listing to it. Just google easy harmonica songs. Bam. I chose Silent Night.
It's also in this phase that you figure out how the instrument works. I find it frustrating and sense less to learn the basics for the sake of learning basics. No. I want to learn it at the hand of the song I'm wanting to play. Basically, figuring out as you go. This is not necessarily the best way of doing it. I'm just an impatient person who is seeking for instant results. That's all.
Learn the stuff about inhaling and exhaling smoothly while playing and almost singing the song while doing this. The singing the song part was a game changer for me.
Step 4. Add some social pressure and book a performance
In order to time box (and accelerate) my learning curve I offered to play Silent Night at our Training Batch's Christmas Party. This really galvanized my to get my ducks in a row.
Step 5. Perform
Performing pushes you to think on your feet, and fake your confidence. Two essential life skills. :) And here's a photo taken by my friend Ronna, of my performance.
Five years later I can still play silent night on my harmonica :)