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Fiddle Lovers Online


Mar 11, 2022 - 7:11:59 AM
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13923 posts since 9/23/2009

I've been trying to learn to play one since I was about ten, when I started the guitar. Never could get it. I've told this story before, but I've bought a harmonica on a regular basis throughout my whole life...trying, trying again, ending up giving them to kids in my life because I just canNOT get it. Then a decade or so goes by, I get the bug again, buy one, try, get disgusted and give it to another kid in my life...eventually my own kid, then recently my grandson. Then a couple of years back when I broke my arm my daughter and grandson bought me yet another...probably my 15th harmonica I've had ever...I tried, with my arm out of comission, but couldn't get anywhere with it. Here now recently I'm trying again...we're working on some projects long neglected around here and on coffee breaks I make horrible sounds on the harmonica.

Well anyway...here's my problem. The notes ain't all there. That's basically it. You start to play something and run into notes missing...you go up an octave to hit them but then run into octave issues with where you can put the tune. Now, I know...i've known and met many really good harmonica players in my life and mainly they are all about cross key playing. Well...I cannot get control, over these past 60 years of on and off trying...cannot, could never, get control to where sucking the life out of the thing made any sounds other than the worst midnight cat wollerins and felt like it was poppin' my eyeballs out to boot. Besides, the harmonica sounds I've liked the best, that I've heard other people play (never heard anything good from me...lol) are the straight harp sounds...I don't really go for the bluesy sounds except the train chugging is pretty cool...but not the tunes really so much...

...what I would like to do is play fiddle type stuff with the harmonica...fiddle tunes and such. I knew one guy a little one time who would come in to where I played gutiar and sung and he could play minor, major, just any tune he wanted and it was fiddly. That's what I'd like to do. I don't care for the harmonicas with the button thing that shifts the notes...they sound phony to my ear.

I always have said my music is a curse on my life...lol...the way I do it. I have a fiddle for everything, a guitar for everything, a banjo that weighs a hundred pounds (slight exaggeration, but it ain't pleasant to be hauling that thing around), a dulcimer...etc., that kinda stuff...and we live in a tiny house ... I got rid of the cello for that reason...just tripping over instruments and the house is just basically cluttered with bows, strings, rosins galore, instruments all over...the downstairs is taken up by speakers, wires, mics, mic stands, speaker stands, comptuer and the little bitty presonus...lol...but nothing else can go in that room except the doggie beds for nighttime. So...to me...if I could play the harmonica I would ditch the rest and have two or three harmonicas...no other instruments.

Another factor is portability...we have to run up and down the road workin' on everybody's houses because nobody can do it but us...and I've always hauled, besides our dogs and loads of tools and drywall, planks, concrete, tile, etc., etc., etc...I've always had to haul a guitar, banjo and fiddle, you know...because I can't sleep away from home and if I don't have something to make music with I will just go nuts from the travel anxiety. Of course I need to make sure I have rosin, extra bow, extra strings and all that, big cases...I mean, it's a hassle but it would kill me to go and do all of that without being able to play music when my nerves need it...lol. And it sounds so much easier to just have a harmonica in my pocket instead of all of that...not to mention a lot of the places we go aren't heated and have damp, terrible environments for the instruments and sometimes can't really lock them up securely.

One drawback is I like to sing too...and haven't figured up a way to sing and play harmoncia, but I don't know. Well anyway does anybody know what the big secret is. Why can I NOT play the harmonica???? Why am I so bad??? I've looked at people giving lessons on youtube and it's mainly cross keyed sucking the life out of the thing...I can't do that at all and don't really want that...I wanna play straight harp, in modes or minor or major keys...and shuffle through a tune like it's so easy to do on the fiddle...Nothing extraordinary or professional or anything...just shuffle my way through a tune in a relaxing way. As of 60 years of trying...so far, it only makes me nauseous to hear my efforts...lol. What am I don't wrong?

Mar 11, 2022 - 7:25:50 AM

wilford

USA

309 posts since 6/26/2007

I so much share your history with the harmonica.
On a side note, I absolutely LOVE the playing of David Naiditch.
youtu.be/p9FWCLDxYzI

Mar 11, 2022 - 8:40:33 AM
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Old Scratch

Canada

1070 posts since 6/22/2016

Well, it's simple ... except it's not ... !

First, don't play hard - don't put a whole lot more effort into the breath part than you do breathing in and out.

Second, decide if you 'need' to play each 'correct' note or if you're willing to do work-arounds. If you're a 'correct note' person, you've got four choices: 1) develop top-notch bending technique (which doesn't seem to be the way you want to go); 2) don't try to play tunes that require notes you don't have; 3) take up the chromatic (i.e., the 'button' one, which you don't want); or, 4) getcherself a harmonica with 'Paddy Richter' or other alternate tuning that will supply the notes you need. If OTOH you are not worried about 'correctness', you can work out alternative phrases to get around the missing notes. That's what most of the old-timers did, in my experience.

Other things to be aware of .... Often the high part on the fiddle will work better on the lower end of the harmonica, and the lower part will work better on the high end. Sometimes there's no choice but to jump around in the middle of a part. You may want to stick to a G harp or else get a low D or other low-tuned harp so as not to be playing all those shrill high-treble notes. Another thing to decide: do you want to play individual notes, do you want to chord/vamp as well, or do you want to play in a chordal way with your melody notes on top but without attempting a rhythmic accompaniment? And then each of these has its choices too .... They're all perfectly valid ways of playing.

It gets kinda complicated when you start trying to explain it ...! I'll stop there for now ......

Edited by - Old Scratch on 03/11/2022 08:43:14

Mar 11, 2022 - 8:48:59 AM
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Players Union Member

boxbow

USA

2739 posts since 2/3/2011

If you're going to play in the shower get one with a plastic case, not wood. Great sound and it's easy to keep the reeds from gumming up.

Mar 11, 2022 - 10:14:55 AM
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3169 posts since 6/21/2007

If you're trying to learn on the old standby Honers, you need to know that they are diatonic for the key they represent. If you want ALL the notes, you need to get a chromatic harmonica - the one that has the button on the end to change notes somehow (I never tried one, I just blow and suck on the diatonics when I find a need and a few minutes. My trouble is finding the right hole for the note I want.

Mar 11, 2022 - 10:32:08 AM
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1526 posts since 5/13/2008

I kept a harmonica on a thin chain and wore it around my neck like a necklace, from my mid-high school years on through to my discharge from the Navy 6 years later. That was helpful learning how to play it.

Mar 11, 2022 - 11:05:27 AM
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609 posts since 7/30/2021

Well Peggy you could join yet another forum...

forum.harmonica.com/

There's a forum for everything!
I used to be on the Guinea Pig forum (when we had guinea pigs and one of them was having tooth issues)

Mar 11, 2022 - 12:44:43 PM
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6024 posts since 9/26/2008

Sometimes you blow in, sometimes you suck. The layout of the notes are not how you think they should be.

devil

Mar 11, 2022 - 2:18:01 PM
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10549 posts since 3/19/2009

Years ago I learned to play Whiskey Before Breakfast on the harmonica.. Like Billy says.. sometimes you suck.. I can still play that one tune but yes, it sucks..smiley

Mar 11, 2022 - 3:03:05 PM
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Swing

USA

2201 posts since 6/26/2007

I have to confess, nothing at all !!!

Play Happy

Swing

Mar 11, 2022 - 3:44:14 PM
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WyoBob

USA

430 posts since 5/16/2019

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Sometimes you blow in, sometimes you suck. The layout of the notes are not how you think they should be.

devil


When I tried to play the harmonica, I suckedsurprise

I bought my first and only harmonica when I was around 10 years old at the "five and dime" at 63rd and Brookside in Kansas City.   I loved that old five and dime.  So many neat things for a kid.   A Duncan yo yo and  some balsa gliders and plastic "Marvell" ship and plane models and baseball cards and comic books  are some of the things I spent my allowance and work dollars on.   I decided I needed a harmonica and found one there.   But, I didn't have the money.   Mowing the lawn (with a push reel mower) for 25 cents and doing other chores around the house limited my ability to afford the $10.00.     I'd stop by the store to make sure the harmonica was still there and had constant worries that someone would buy it.  (I was a kid.  I didn't realize that the store would probably replace it.)   I checked quite often that the harmonica was still there.  And, due to extra chores, I finally had the money saved and I bought it!  It came with a little booklet and I tried and tried to figure out how to play it --- and gave up.

When we moved from Kansas City to Lexington, NE when I was 15 years old in 1963, the three shoe boxes of pristine baseball cards (Micky Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Clemente, etc.) and large stack of  Superman and Batman comic books (also pristine) didn't make the trip.  Got tossed in the "trash" I guess.  I think my Boy Scout merit badge sash with 48 merit badges and Eagle badge got tossed, too, as I've never found them but, my M Hohner Crometta 12 did make the trip.   And, when we moved to Wyoming in 1997, it made it here.   I found it a couple of years ago and had forgotten all about it and it sat in a box until I found it again.  I still don't know how to play it but have grabbed it a few times and played stuff that sounds like tunes.   I could fake out some folks until they asked me what the tune was.   I have no idea. Now, I fake folks out into thinking I can play the banjo and fiddle and do much better with those instruments than I did with the harmonica.


Edited by - WyoBob on 03/11/2022 16:16:55

Mar 11, 2022 - 4:48:51 PM
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13923 posts since 9/23/2009

Lol...lots of good stories and advice there. I got a feeling I'm not alone in this unending endeavor.

Mar 11, 2022 - 7:55:21 PM
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306 posts since 12/2/2013
Online Now

figure out the notes you need and use the chart to find the right harp


Mar 11, 2022 - 10:03:25 PM
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609 posts since 7/30/2021

I did try few times, when my daughter had one, and it just made me dizzy after a few minutes! Apparently one has to remember to breathe...

Mar 12, 2022 - 4:30:19 AM

13923 posts since 9/23/2009

It makes me gasp for life...lol.

Mar 12, 2022 - 6:40:05 PM
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3163 posts since 9/13/2009

Well anyway...here's my problem. The notes ain't all there. That's basically it. You start to play something and run into notes missing...

Not all tunes need all notes over all octaves. Lots of tunes are essentially pentatonic - 5 notes, or 6 notes. Some tunes can use substitute note.

That said, typical 10 hole Richter layout (such as Marine Band) range in C, G or D.... are not idea for playing fiddle tunes, it can fit most melodies fine (starting with hole 4 up)  but in an octave higher than fiddle. The low end missing note is the lower sixth note of the scale on 3 hole (for chording).

As mentioned, solutions... can bend the 3 draw, but beginners find that difficult, esp nailing it quick for melodic playing.

Low versions (such as low D) can be solution for many tunes.

The other solution that can work for many tunes is playing in cross; some tunes are mixolydian (b7), like Old Joe Clark, which needs to be played in cross. but some tunes don't need the seventh note, so can just use same idea to play cross major. Such as using a G harmonica to play tunes in C. As well can sometimes use Lydain (no fourth) to use G to play D tunes. Pentatonic tune like Angelina Baker would fit either.

 The other solution, not using a Richter tuning (variations like Paddy, Country or others) or perhaps easier, without having to work around or figure out some adaption or limit... they make layouts that are fully diatonic... most soloist, tremelo, octave types; and most 12 and 14 hole, are in this... has all the notes over 3+ octaves. FWIW, most chromatics are in this layout... you don't have to use the button.

One drawback is I like to sing too...and haven't figured up a way to sing and play harmoncia, but I don't know.

Well, can't really sing while playing harmonica. But can alternate, singing and playing harmonica. Can play harmonica while playing another instrument, guitar, banjo, mando, even fiddle; using a harmonica holder that goes around neck.

Mar 12, 2022 - 6:57:17 PM

2825 posts since 10/22/2007

I know when I declare a key, the harp guy, does not grab that particular harp. Then my head blew up.

Mar 12, 2022 - 7:22:32 PM
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13923 posts since 9/23/2009

I wanna play like this...

youtu.be/2b7ieITm2DM

(wounldn't mind playing guitar like that too...lol)

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 03/12/2022 19:23:33

Mar 13, 2022 - 10:29:40 AM

Old Scratch

Canada

1070 posts since 6/22/2016

That's the kind of thing I meant when I said, "do you want to play in a chordal way with your melody notes on top but without attempting a rhythmic accompaniment?" Good news: it's probably the easiest style for a beginner - although it will take awhile to get as good as Doc! You'll notice he 'pushes the beat', and also achieves rhythmic effect with quick in-and-out - or out-and-in - three-note phrases that may or may not be part of the basic melody.

I would suggest starting off with something really simple, say 'Oh, Susannah', and o:nce you're comfortable getting through a clunky, dull version, starting giving it some rhythm and adding notes, and those quick in-out-in/out-in-out phrases. For example, what would originally have been one long note can be given a quick jump to the note above or below, and back:
"The weather it was dry-yyy (down-up-down - or vice versa)".

Also: those little bends he puts in here and there will come easy after you've played for awhile - they're not like the deep bends you need for Blues or to get notes that aren't there already.

Mar 13, 2022 - 12:04:40 PM

3169 posts since 6/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

I know when I declare a key, the harp guy, does not grab that particular harp. Then my head blew up.


Probably plays cross-harp, which is some other key than the harmonica - I don't know how to explain it (or play it, actually), but I remember hearing a lot about "cross-harp" from the blues/folk folk back in the folky 60's.

Mar 13, 2022 - 12:27:05 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

1070 posts since 6/22/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

That's the kind of thing I meant when I said, "do you want to play in a chordal way with your melody notes on top but without attempting a rhythmic accompaniment?" Good news: it's probably the easiest style for a beginner - although it will take awhile to get as good as Doc! You'll notice he 'pushes the beat', and also achieves rhythmic effect with quick in-out-in - or out-in-out - three-note phrases that may or may not be part of the basic melody.

I would suggest starting off with something really simple, say 'Oh, Susannah', and o:nce you're comfortable getting through a clunky, dull version, starting giving it some rhythm and adding notes, and those quick in-out-in/out-in-out phrases. For example, what would originally have been one long note can be given a quick jump to the note above or below, and back:
"The weather it was dry-yyy (down-up-down - or vice versa)".

Also: those little bends he puts in here and there will come easy after you've played for awhile - they're not like the deep bends you need for Blues or to get notes that aren't there already.


Hmmm - not sure what happened there ... I just intended to make a small edit, didn't know I was creating a separate post ....!

Edited by - Old Scratch on 03/13/2022 12:29:32

Mar 13, 2022 - 3:59:04 PM

609 posts since 7/30/2021

Here's a tutorial video...if serious about getting started....:-)

youtube.com/watch?v=L9bKMn2_PxY

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