Why did you pick up the harmonica? My very long story of why

I was asking myself that question, with a follow-up question; why at such a “late” age?

My story is that I grew up in a family, where nobody when I was a child played an instrument, but we did listen to a lot of music. I remember singing songs in English, long before I even learned the language, and not understanding what I was singing.

But I always wanted to learn to play the piano, but - I was very much discouraged to do so because I “wouldn’t be good at it”

So my only ways of playing the piano, was by either finding online pianos, when I got internet back in 2000, or by buying a cheap piano from a toy store, and then I would play Itsy Bitsy Spider, which was the only song I could play.

I also would buy a cheap toy harmonica at one point and play the same song on that one to (although I had to block the holes with my fingers because I didn’t have proper embouchure at that time), but I was pretty proud that I could play a song on a harmonica, albeit a very cheap one.

But in 9th to 10th grade in school, something bad happened to me. I’ve always been an avid reader, and artist (even though I was never the best at it), and I would read and draw every day. But I noticed that I started having trouble reading, and around the same time I gave up on books, my interest in doing art dissapeared as well. And it was gone for 10 years.

Later on in 2015, I thought to myself, I’m going to get that piano, I’ve always wanted, and I actually learned to play a few more songs than just Itsy Bitsy Spider, and it felt so satisfying, to know that I could actually combine my fingers in ways that made sense.

But again something came in the way. As I mentioned earlier I lost my interest in the things I used to love doing, and I was generally very depressed about everything, plus I had these weird imaginations and thoughts, that if I told you what they were, you would think I was crazy. So I went to several psychologists, who basically shrugged, except for one, who took me seriously, and that lead me to being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Suddenly everything made sense to me! My weird thoughts, and my lack of interest in the things I used to love doing.

With that new knowledge came medication, and I got on one that helped take away 95 % percent of my psychotic symptoms, but it also gave me akathisia for about a year. For those who don’t know akathisia is a moving disorder, in which you HAVE to move all the time, or else you’ll feel like your body is burning, and if I hadn’t been psychotic, I would say it’s the worst feeling in the world.
It also gave me another problem, the piano playing, was pretty much out of the question, because I simply could not stand the sensation I was feeling in my body long enough to play properly, and I gave up on the piano

Eventually the akathisia went away, and luckily (with therapy) my interest for art came back but I still wanted to learn an instrument. So I thought about which one, and then it hit me, the harmonica! I had felt very proud that I was able to play a children’s song on one when I was a kid, so not very long ago, I bought a harmonica again, and I’ve been at it ever since. Not only is the harmonica easy to carry around, but as someone who’s not good at combining hands and feet (which is partly why I don’t drive a car) I think the harmonica offers great possibilities.

So, that’s basically my long story which lead me to the harmonica.

What is yours?

1 Like

Hey Vibe - thanks for sharing! I’m so happy to hear your story about overcoming.

I always asked for drums every year from the time I was like 3 years old, but my parents never sprang for a drum set - my mom was always very sensitive to loud noise, lol - so finally when I was 10 I was like, “ok the drum set isn’t happening…how about guitar?”

So I started studying guitar. Finger dexterity came slow for me but I was very passionate about it.

A friend who I played in Blues bands with in high school encouraged me to pick up harmonica, and taught me enough to get going. I loved it because I could play it easily on my lunch breaks at work.

Then I went to college at Oberlin and there were so many guitar players there who were so much more advanced than me, I started practicing guitar for hours every day from a place of fear and frustration, and eventually I developed repetitive stress syndrome in my fingers, and had such bad pain that I could no longer play.

Since guitar wasn’t an option, I really started putting A LOT of time into the harmonica. It saved me from having my musical dreams otherwise be broken. That was about 25 years ago.

That’s my story. Rock on @vibe!