Learning to play the harmonica is a never-ending enterprise. Maybe that’s true of other instruments, too. But any time we try to play something with our oral cavity, the plot thickens. There’s so much “in there” which can affect how we play. There are the lips, the teeth, the tongue, our cheeks, and all the different contortions we can do with each of them. There is no limit. There is no one technique, no one style. The only boundaries are the ones we impose on ourselves.
I don’t think it would be incorrect to say that the harmonica is one of the hardest instruments to play. Here on the internet, most experts will say differently, but I disagree. And I’m surely no expert, not on the harmonica or anything else. But, let me try to defend my position.
I’ve mentioned the “oral cavity” defense. It’s very complicated deep inside there. It is next to our brains, and therefore, next to our hearts. In musicians, those two organs are co-joined. They have to be if music is ever to be produced. It comes come from a “joint venture” of the mind and soul.
Yes, other musical instruments are wind driven. Therefore, they, too, use the oral cavity. But most, if any, cannot be tucked into their back pocket and carried off into war or any other unsavory place. There, they remind us of our humanity as only the harmonica can do. Because it’s really not what goes into the harmonica, but what comes out of it which is key. This is where it stands alone. There is no other musical instrument which sounds quite like it.
This helps to make the harmonica the hardest to play. It has to be able to make us forget whatever terrible situation that we’re currently in and enable us to continue to go forward. It cries, grieves, suffers for us, in a way which empowers us to never give up. Oh, the responsibility we have as a player of the harp!
Therefore, we should not be limited by trying to sound like some famous harmonica soloist. Let them play whatever they want. We are not limited by their art. We have our own to produce. Whatever talent we bring to the table, it is like no other. Granted, we may not make money with it or gain fame and following. But we will make this world a better place. Someone, somewhere, somehow, will hear our creation one day (be sure to record) and their world will be better than it was. That’s the power of this very hard-to-play little instrument. It transcends notoriety and fortune. It connects the totally unique to the completely despaired and opens up a door to a brighter new day. All of this happens from the wailing, lonesome sound of a crying tin voice, somewhere in the wilderness, which brings us all back home again.