Feeling Discouraged

I am a multi-instrumentalist for many years and I have to say that I have never been more frustrated with an instrument. I have fun with it, but nearly everything I’ve picked up has come much easier to me. I’m determined to conquer this little thing though.

I’ve had ups and downs of being more focused on other instruments, deaths in the family, being sick with COVID 19, and a bunch of other excuses. I’m approaching my 1 year anniversary of learning harmonica and I feel like I’m progressing so slowly. I’m doing the Beginner to Boss course and I still haven’t completed it. Part of it is I don’t move past the lesson until I’ve nailed it. I feel like I’m developing strong fundamentals and good tone, but it isn’t coming very easy.

Am I not cut out for this instrument? I have a good ear and a great sense of rhythm. I’ve been a gigging bass player and have sat in for many drummers over the years. Should I continue to focus my skills and abilities there? At what pace should I be progressing? If I should stick with it, what should I do to overcome this discouragement?

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Hello @Brian_S,
first of all, you should take the pressure off. Who says you have to perfect harp playing in XXX months? You see and hear great harp players on YouTube or in the :radio:. Enjoy it and ask how long most have been playing. Mostly decades and they started at a young age. You used to play great as a bassist. How old were you then and are you now? You write about deaths and Covid illness in the year. I know how you feel with all the lows as I also lost 2 closest family members within a year.
Give your soul time to process! Just because you feel like you NEED to practice and progress on the harp daily, no. Playing the harp can help you get through the difficult times. If you’re not free in your head, it won’t work. I feel like I’m not playing for days at the moment due to the hard losses, but I feel the hours when I want to play. It works, although it can happen that I don’t play for days. The progress is therefore no worse than if I force myself every day, the subconscious is constantly learning from the previous lessons. Don’t get stuck on a lesson, come back to it. If you really want to study non-stop, find other lessons, review, or find familiar songs. Always write down all tabs separately and learn a song in sections. It’s better to study a short time a day than an hour or more. Switch to different models or pitches if you have multiple harps. These are my little experiences as a beginner. I discovered the harp for myself around August 2021 and since September I’ve been learning with a three-month-old! Break. I start every game with deep breathing and relaxation. Don’t get discouraged and just keep going. Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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Hi @Brian_S, I’m Tommesa and I’ve recently come back to playing the harp after many years. I agree can it can be challenging. If I may offer a word of wisdom from my grandaddy that has gotten me through a lot of "learning curves. First, if you really want to play, give yourself time to succeed. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you can do it well.

I totally get the urge to stick with a lesson until you nail it. I started that way to and got frustrated. Then I read something about deliberate practice that made me rethink things. Now, I move on to the next lesson if I can at least get through the slow workout. I practice 2 hours every day, spending the majority of the practice time on learning new skills. The last 15 mins I spend working on perfecting what Ive already learned. I’ve found this allows me to progress faster and not get so frustrated.

I hope this helps and I’m always a message away if you need a word of encouragement. After all, we’re learning together, we may as well support each other. You so got this. :wink:

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Thank you @AstridHandbikebee63 & @tommesamobley. It’s very nice to meet both of you. I appreciate your kind words of encouragement.

To be honest I’m only competing with myself. I’m happy for musicians that can develop quicker than I can. I’m only disappointed with myself. I’ve been going for almost a year, but anything else that I’ve put this much time into, I’m proficient. I expected that my background and knowledge of theory would carry me to being an intermediate player quickly. I was wrong.

I love the little instrument, but I hate its stupid guts too! lol. Anyone can pick up a harmonica and blow/draw and make a chord that is in tune. If you do it during a song that is in the same key as your harp, you probably didn’t ruin the song. BOOM easy as can be! Now play a single note… Let the struggle begin. Other instruments are backwards. You can easily play a single note on nearly any woodwind, brass, or string instrument. Playing chords on guitar or piano is where it gets tricky. Not to mention that this instrument was not made for me. I am 6’5", 360 lbs with a huge head and fat ol fingers. Even holding it properly is a challenge.

I’m done rambling. I love the sound and there aren’t too many harp players where I’m located. My 2o22 resolution was to put learning harmonica over playing other instruments (unless it’s paying well). I want to get to a point where I’m getting proud of myself. It seems that moment will not occur very soon.

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@Brian_S I get all of that. It’s certainly challenging, I played the violin and don’t remember it being as challenging either. SO, I will be proud of your until you get to a point where you have mastered our art enough to be proud of yourself. I know eventually, I’m going to need you to do the same for me. Keep going.

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Not sure I can give much that others haven’t already said except to just relax and have fun.

Experiment with moving the harp around in your mouth to get single notes with a deep relaxed mouth position as @Luke suggests.

Before you know it, instead of the tinny chord sound of several notes together, you will get a nice clear notes when you get your lips just right.

It might helping going up and down

6 -6 -7 7

7 -7 -6 6

You can really tell when you are hitting the single notes or not on this sequence, since the -6 and -7 together don’t sound very good.

Happy Harping!

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Hello @HarpinBobbyMcB,
I always play through the scale before I do my exercises.
If I misplay the transition from -6 to -7 and go from -6 to 7, I say “oops”, I’m not relaxed and unfocused.
It “awakens” me, so to speak, and opens my concentration. At the same time the harp is played warm.
Good advice from you! :pray:

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@AstridHandbikebee63 I like the way you think!!!

Another great exercise is to do a nice SLOW BLOW from 1 to 10 and back again, just really hear and get into each note as we go up and down the harp…

It’s amazing the subtleties which can come out of a single note. Even notes which can be officially “Bent”, actually can be changed and modified slightly, creating different feelings and vibes.

The more I get to know this tiny little instrument, the more I love it. Before picking up the harmonica, I had attempted playing the piano but never got past Chopsticks or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Now with the harmonica, I can replicate the notes from the harmonica on the piano and can actually play a few songs.

While I really can’t read music, and even harmonica tabs make my eyes goes cross-eyed for some reason, I can feel the changes in the music and try to replicate the sounds on the harp. When it works, and the sound actually comes out like you hear it in your head, it’s pure magic.

I’m not really sure how it happens, but I think most of us have the ability to hear if a note is on or off in a familiar melody. If it’s off, I just go up or down until I find something that sounds better and move on. Gradually, I’m usually able to put together the main riffs of most songs I hear. Putting those riffs together with bridges and other connectors is still beyond me, but it’s great to hear when a few notes coincide with the song in our minds.

@Brian_S , it sounds like you have had experience with man instruments over time. Maybe just relax, no pressure, listen to the music and blow to your heart’s content. I’m sure you will get it!

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Hi Brian_S I could have written your post. I am an 80 year old guy with COPD and a bad back. I played the Accordion as a youngster and young man. I was good! I started playing the organ when I was about 24. It was very hard to go from playing base notes and chords on an accordion to playing base notes (pretty easy to learn) with my feet and chords with my (mostly useless) left hand. I got very good at the Organ, but my back forced me to give it up nearly 20 years ago. Now my 50 year old organ no longer works on the foot petals, and it is harder than ever to play with both hands and no back on the bench. So, I tried to play the harp around 10 years ago, but took it up again, more seriously last fall. I get real discouraged because my lips get sore after 15 minutes of playing, and I don’t have much breath. I learned to ‘bend’ notes probably in Sept. I finally was able to bend almost all of the 8 ‘standard’ bends on a C or G harp (better on the G). Then I nailed all of them in one session. The next day I eagerly tried to duplicate bending all 8, but failed. A couple of days later, I was able to bend only 2 or 3 of the bends. My lips were also quite sore. I laid off about 10 days for my lips to heal. I have been a little haphazard the last month or so in practicing, but try to practice in short (5-10 or so minutes) nearly every day. I am able now to bend most of the holes, have some pretty good control except on hole 3. On hole 3 I can sometimes hit all 3 bends, sometime lucky to get 1. Even when I can bend all 3 it is slow and hard to get the right notes. I still enjoy the harp, and have ‘tabbed’ a large number of my favorite songs, so I enjoy playing for my 10 or so minutes, sometimes several times a day playing some of my favorites. I guess what I am saying is keep playing what you can, get better on your single notes, find tabs for your favorites (there are a couple of harp tab sites on the Internet) and maybe trying to tab your favorites. Enjoy, take some of the pressure off your need to get better and keep trying. God Bless You!
Poppo

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Maybe the best strategy for learning harmonica is no strategy. If ever there was an instrument that’s intuitive to play this is it. This may not work for you, but possibly just trying to learn on your own without tutorials or scheduled practice sessions might help. I myself don’t even set goals, just play when I want and do what whatever. Just work on hitting big, fat, long, bending notes and go from there. As long as you’re making progress all is good. Diatonic harp only.

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Hya, Dont give up…I too, was quite slow. I reckon i’m a good intermediate now after four or five years of putting my mind to it.
You know what ; I’ feel can be a bad thing (as well as being a necessity )…" Too much study and not enough just playing it to yourself." That’s my take anyway.
Try having a break from your lessons and practice. Sit down nice and relaxed away from the ‘text books’ and just play away, listening to yourself playing that favorite ditty.
Enjoy what your playing, then again tomorrow and maybe the next day. Chill out . Then when you fancy it go back to the tutorial again. Alternate between learning and playing.
I find it really helps. good luck. happy harping.

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Great advice!

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HAHA! Love this and can relate big time. Don’t feel discouraged my friend. Be patient with it. They say harmonica is the easiest instrument to learn and the hardest to master.

We’ve all had to spend months and/or years sounding bad before we sound good. I echo all the other great comments here to follow your intuition, make staying inspired your top priority, let go of “I have to be able to do xyz by such and such a date.”

The harmonica is SO much more portable than a bass or drums and can bring you a lot of enjoyment. Let go of perfection. Especially with the lessons, just keep on trucking man.

You got this! :metal:t3:

NEVER FRICKEN GIVE UP!!!

Aloha,
Luke

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@AstridHandbikebee63 that’s a really awesome idea.

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I can only attest to what others have said here, relax and don’t give up

one thing I remember from when I studied Cisco, is that if something doesn’t work and you can’t find a solution - walk away from it, grab a coffee (or another beverage) and then come back to it later

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That’s what @Vibe is, untying the knot by doing something else. For me, such a break can sometimes last for days. I practice other things or do other things. Since the subconscious continues to work and probably also the physiology, you don’t really lose time. Of course it can’t be too long… :grin:

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