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Anyone out there play the harmonica?

Chris98

Senior Member
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1,076
I quite fancy having a go. Any advice/suggestions on where to start? Can I start with a chromatic or diatonic piece or doesn't it matter. Also what key? I see The Stables runs a beginners workshop and also there's the National Harmonica League Spring Festival on May 8th too.
Hi Ian,

Yep been there, one of my many musical diversions before finding the saxophone!

If you can find a copy of Jerry Portnoy's 'Blues Harmonica Masterclass' that would give you a good grounding. As for which harmonica I think most people start on a diatonic and as for makes, have a look at:

Lee Oskar
Hohner
Britain's [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Antony Dannecker[/FONT] I've got a couple of his and the service is very good and fast.

All the best,

Chris
 
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Rogerb

Member
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Costa Blanca, Spain
Yes, I taught myself to play a bit when I was a kid .... all on Hohners. I never got to grips with the chromatic, though!
My eldest brother was pretty good (as he was at most things !!)
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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brighton by the sea
I'm a fairly serious harp player- definately start on a diatonic- chromatics are very tricky pieces of kit. Advice and tips- Lee Oskar or Hohner harps (allegedly Suzuki ones are very slick but can't comment on them myself). If you want to play blues- go to youtube and search for Adam Gussow- he does an excellent, and very comprehensive, series of lessons (his website- www.modernbluesharmonica.com is very good too- includes some Sonny Rollins transcriptions for diatonic harp!).... also note- start on one of the lower keys- G through to C- the higher ones tend to be a bit screechy if you're not careful....
 
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Moz

Senior Member
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841
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North of Liskeard, Cornwall
I quite fancy having a go. Any advice/suggestions on where to start? Can I start with a chromatic or diatonic piece or doesn't it matter. Also what key? I see The Stables runs a beginners workshop and also there's the National Harmonica League Spring Festival on May 8th too.

I love playing harp (as it is known). That was the first instrument I ever got any good at (perhaps the only one!). I bought a cheapo C harp with a booklet and tape on how to play it. Turned out to be a bloody good harp and an excellent tutorial; don't ask, I no longer have the book, the tape or, unfortunately, the harp.

I loved the bit on note bending. He gave you an idea on how to bend notes using throat movements but in the end he wrote "once you have bent your first note you will wonder why you found it so difficult"; he was so right. Although there are many aspects to playing a blues harp, note-bending for me is what makes it what it is -- a cheap but quality instrument and one that is FUN, almost from the outset.

Always start with diatonic. I tried a chromatic once but always sounded like Larry Adler's worst enemy on the worst day of his life and then some. Most say C is a good key to start with but G is also easy to play. Follow that with E, it's a bit higher but has more energy.

All my harps are Lee Oscars, they have plastic combs (the bit with the holes in) and the holes are bigger than their wood counterparts making it easier to find the notes perhaps, some would say there is no difference, each to his own.

Just buy one and try it. Lee Oscars are now about twenty eight quid, some others are cheaper. If you get one and think it's crap idea, what have you lost? Just think of all those people who bought six hundred quid saxes for their kids only for them to lose interest after three days!!:)))

Buy one, have fun.

Martin

PS I just bought bongo drums for £25 just for the hell of it and they only play two notes!
 

Rogerb

Member
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Costa Blanca, Spain
Harp? Isn't that a big thing with strings? (apart from the rather jokey Jewish version!) ;}
Is it now non-PC to use Larry Adler's name for it?

Ah, I see...QUOTE from WikiP : "In blues music, the harmonica is called a "Blues harp" or "harp", but it is a free reed wind instrument, not a stringed instrument, and is therefore not an actual harp."

I am tempted to try it again ... just for fun.
 
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Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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Location
brighton by the sea
..also known as the Gob Iron where I come from.........! (+1 for Lee Oskar harps, they've also got a great case design in that they all lock together)
Watch out for cheapo harmonicas- the high notes tend to be very hard to play and squeaky....
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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Sweden
I like the blend of harmonica and tenorsax in Blues, R&B and Rock 'n' Roll. I've plans for a workshop for tenorsax and haromonca players with Big Walker as ledader. A quite common combination. Take a look at Big Walkers website: http://www.blueswalker.com/default.htm

Thomas
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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A few years ago, when I returned to the UK for a couple of years, Larry Adler came into the studio for an impromptu interview on Classic FM. The DJ could hardly wait to get him out of the studio, I was really unimpressed. Have a CD with some of his number on it, stunning stuff. There are a few video's/TV progs faround featuring him. Well worth looking out for, his story about meeting Gershiwn and Rhapsody in Blue is priceless.
 
OP
half diminished

half diminished

Senior Member
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Location
Buckinghamshire
Thanks for all the advice and for the PM/offers of harps as well. Spoke to that nice chap Tony Dannecker and ordered one of his Blues Harps. Should arrive tomorrow.
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
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manchester
doh!!!

why'd you go an start this thread now you've gone and woken an old desire in me I used to love Larry Adler whenever he was on the tele and I remember a large group that all played harmonica's of different sizes some of them were huge, I think they used to be dressed in US navy whites and one of them was a dwarf absolutely brilliant and so funny too you don't get acts like that any more,maybe they're the goon show that OG mentioned I know they were called something like that.

I've been looking on EBAY for harmonica's and came across an add for a box of 5 OR 6 HOHNERS BRAND NEW FOR ABOUT £35.00 ANY COMMENTS ANY BODY....john:shocked:
 

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Thanks for all the advice and for the PM/offers of harps as well. Spoke to that nice chap Tony Dannecker and ordered one of his Blues Harps. Should arrive tomorrow.
Heck, you don't do things by half do you! Isn't that the best you can get? What key and tuning style did you go for?

Best wishes,

Chris
 
OP
half diminished

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
Heck, you don't do things by half do you! Isn't that the best you can get? What key and tuning style did you go for?

Best wishes,

Chris
Dunno about 'the best…' but I spoke with Tony and found him helpful. We discussed the options and I decided I'd go for it - well there is the Rugby Buskmania session coming up in May :w00t: >:)

I went for the C in Major.

Can't hardly wait until tomorrow. I have to say I've been (very nearly) tempted by flute, clarinet (and bass clarinet) and djembe but the cost and effort required to learn them have put me off. The harmonica cost is low, it'll go in my pocket and I can practice anytime I get a few minutes, wherever I am. Nice. May even help with my sight-reading and boy do I need help in that area!!!!! :(
 

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
I have to say I've been (very nearly) tempted by flute, clarinet (and bass clarinet) and djembe but the cost and effort required to learn them have put me off.
I don't know what you mean! He says looking across at the flute in its case on the side and knowing of the clarinet in the wardrobe, harmonicas in the drawer and...

It's finding the time as well. I don't think I'm a natural musician, so unlike some people who having learned one instrument can pick up another and quickly get going, I have to start at the beginning again. I'm thinking I might just stick with the saxophone, but that still gives me the scope for a soprano, how long until the Bauhaus-WALSTEIN soprano temptation gets the better of me, and of course a baritone!

Hope you have fun with your new musical toy, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts when you get it,

All the best,

Chris
 
OP
half diminished

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I don't know what you mean! He says looking across at the flute in its case on the side and knowing of the clarinet in the wardrobe, harmonicas in the drawer and...

It's finding the time as well. I don't think I'm a natural musician, so unlike some people who having learned one instrument can pick up another and quickly get going, I have to start at the beginning again. I'm thinking I might just stick with the saxophone, but that still gives me the scope for a soprano, how long until the Bauhaus-WALSTEIN soprano temptation gets the better of me, and of course a baritone!

Hope you have fun with your new musical toy, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts when you get it,

All the best,

Chris
Likewise, I've come to believe that I will eventually be able to play most of what I want to on tenor sax, and maybe a fair amount of stuff on the sop when I get going. I have to admit however that I am also not a natural when it comes to musicianship though I could also add that I do quite like performing!

So, I don't expect to take on anything else other than the tenor, sop and harmonica even though I would love a bass clarinet!

I'll keep you advised of developments.
 

Rogerb

Member
Messages
766
Location
Costa Blanca, Spain
Well, I guess the harmonica trade has benefited from this thread....I bought one, also :) Should be here Tuesday.
It will be interesting to see if I can remeber anything of how to play....50 or so years on!!
I didn't realise then what a variety of models/keys, etc there were to be had ....those I had were probably about the least suitable!
(I think I should be in my bed ...or a bed :eek: )
 
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