Hey all, I’m new to the forum and a fair blues harmonica player for a number of years. Here’s my extended harmonica story.
I actually tried to learn harmonica in 1965 when I started playing guitar, but for the life of me, couldn’t figure out the instructions to blow with the corner of my mouth, and pursing my lips just didn’t work.
Over the next 17 years I kept trying from time to time, until I was working as a propman on a TV pilot at Paramount starring Al Molinaro (from Happy Days) and Lyle Waggoner (from the Carol Burnett Show). A couple days into rehearsal, the producers announced that they have to do a major rewrite of the script for a couple of hours, so we all hung out.
Al brought out an ukulele, the casting director, an ex-dancer, did a soft shoe, and sitting in the audience bleachers, Lyle took out a harmonica and killed it.
When they stopped, I made a beeline to Lyle and told him my problem trying to learn. He said he’ll show me the same way his harmonica teacher showed him. He took my hand and put the fleshy side in his mouth like he was playing a harmonica. Wow, that was it, I got it in an instant.
I took out my harmonica and he taught me On Top of Old Smokey in just a minute. I worked on it for days after, until the next show I was assigned, another pilot that had a young guy in it. During a break, I was sitting in a corner playing my harmonica when he came over, took out a harmonica and started playing blues. How do you make that sound. I asked. He said it’s about cupping your tongue up and down to bend the notes. I tried it and very quickly made it happen.
When I was young, I started snapping my tongue to make a loud noise by cupping it to the roof of mouth, sucking in to snap it away. I got very good at it, and because of that, my tongue muscle was very strong, which lent itself to playing blues. Ever since then, I’ve improved my blues playing.
In mid 2013 I took up the ukulele, joined a group of about 30 members, and gave up guitar completely. A year later I also took up the bass uke. Another member also took up the bass uke. It’s now my primary instrument, with tenor uke and harmonica following. He and I would trade off bass playing from one session to the next, so when he plays bass, I play uke.
As the leader would bring in new songs, some would be blues oriented, so I started playing blues harmonica instead of uke for those songs. I know I can do a better job, probably overdoing it at times, but I’m happy to be able to include harmonica now.
I play Lee Oskar diatonic, have 7 basic keys, plus I have a Koch chromatic, but I never took the time to learn it. I’m also going to post in the Gear forum the new mic I got to be able to play wireless.