Why Do You Play Harmonica?

I myself mostly play these days to make others happy. Curious if I’ll regain the passion to simply play for myself the way I did for most of my adult life…

Still love harmonica…Just seems that these days the thing I love most is teaching others and seeing the sparkle of joy in people’s eyes when I play.

It’s not as much the showing off thing that I love lately…it’s more about making another person’s life more wonderful…even if just for a moment…

jp allen

Hi JP,

You’re a great teacher and a wonderful player. I’m happy that you love teaching others your art! I’m not very good at teaching, and I enjoy playing harmonica most when I’m all alone. So, I guess I just play for myself. :slight_smile:

I can’t think of any reasons as to why I play. I just play for the fun of it. It helps me shut down my brain for a few moments which feels very good. We’re always thinking about something, and it’s great to shut down the brain and forget everything for a few moments. The harmonica helps me do this. :slight_smile:


Howdy All!

Well, when I was a youngster, my dad played harmonica with a guitar and even the accordian - He was cool! But he passed on early, and never got around to showing me anything on it except the memories of his old folk tunes.

As the years passed, I picked it up here and there during my travels. But again, couldn’t get past the Old Susannah and Campton Races standbys.

Last Labor Day Weekend (2009), a few months after my mother passed on, my tractor-trailer rolled over on a mountainside. God didn’t take my life, nor did He take my arm that was trapped underneath the wreckage.

After suffering two back-to-back tragedies and making it through no worse for the wear, well, during my rehabilitation, I decided to finally go for things I always wanted to do. One of them was master this thing called the harmonica.

Through my searches on the internet, one of the first things I came across was JP Allen’s videos on youtube.

Something about them filled me with an excitement I haven’t experienced in quite a while. I ordered the home course as a present to myself, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. :smiley:

I play harmomica for myself. But I also do it on the streets as it were. Honestly, I don’t do it to show off, because I’m not all that good, but still I like to see smiling faces from people who don’t expect to hear anything as they go about through their days.

I would like to play better and more proficiently, and maybe actually professionally some day. But for now, I just keep on harpin’ because it’s keeping me alive! ;D

So keep on harpin’ and thanks for reading!

Thanks Joe!

You play because it’s keeping you alive.

Yeah. When I first picked up harmonica it got me out of my depression after one of my best friends died in a motorcycle accident.

Tough time for me but music seemed to be pivotal in helping me turn the corner.



Dude, man! I can so relate to what you’re saying!

To paraphrase the old ancient saying of ‘you don’t find your pets i.e. cats and dogs, your pets find you’ – well, the more I look around and hear, I think the harmonica goes out, finds, and chooses you!

Call it syzygy, synchronicity, kismet, whatever – but just yesterday (Wednesday) I was in the bank to cash my check. I’m the only one in line, with my things on the counter, and a guy wearing army style khakis comes in and cuts in front of me.

My first impression was ‘how friggin rude!’

Explaining to him I was already there waiting, he apologized and we stood there.

On my way over to the cashier, I picked up my harmonica and bluesed out a few riffs.
(Yes, I carry my harmonicas everywhere…more on that later! Anywho…)

From behind me, I hear a harmonica playing!

Turn around, and it’s the guy! He looked at me and became embarrassed almost. I looked at him and became ecstatic!

“Hey, man, are you for real?! Are you a harmonica player too?”

The man said he was. Yet with no further prompting from me said he fought in two wars, he learned to fly planes, he learned to drive tractor-trailer, and now after all that he figured it was time to take it easy and learn to play harmonica!

Yo, man! Super cool!

Well, the short of it is, we exchanged names and numbers; and hopefully we’ll be getting together soon!

And still the long of it is – Well, the more and more I see and hear, the more I believe at many more times than not: You don’t choose the harmonica, the harmonica chooses you!

Keep on sharing!

Keep on harpin’!

Thanks for reading!

Many times I’m far away from home and alone, so I play my tunes and thats make me happy.

JP, not many of us can say that they’ve added to as many others lives in a positive way the way you have. I once told you that your God given gift is not the ability to play the harmonica, rather His gift to you is the ability to teach others the gift of playing! I liken it to having the ability to ride a bike and the joy riding gives one, but a really special joy is teaching your children or even your Grandchildren, as I have, how to ride a bike. You don’t remember the day you started to ride, but you’ll never forget the day your children took off on their own.

Thanks for sharing His gift and I’m personally pleased that you also can make a living from that special gift.


I picked up the harp in my teens as I loved listening to sonny boy ,muddy waters band etc Later when a few friends of mine got together to play some music for ourselves it really was such a thrill to play -to create, to cooperate together and the red wine seemed to help also. Such a simple instrument but what a range of sounds…

I took up the harmonica about 6yrs ago when I was a homeless, indigent carpenter. It was a relatively inexpensive, and lightweight instrument to own and I have always wanted to play a musical instrument. I would sit on the beach in Biloxi, MS and try to play something, anything on that thing. I had a harmonica book that I would read at night to try to learn how to play. I had a small cd player and purchased a couple of blues cds to listen to. WOW. I may never get to be as accomplished as Charlie Musselwhite or John Mayall or JP Allen but it sure is fun to listen to those as well as others. I now have JP Allen’s harmonica course and, even though I’m still a very green beginner as I keep going through the 1st dvd, I’m sure that soon I’ll be able to play a song for my wife. I’m so confident in this that I recently purchased a guitar and amp and decided to try to take on 2 learning experiences together. I’ll have to keep you updated on this because I’m sure I will never post a video knowingly, but my wife has been known to sneak a picture or two without my knowledge.

1 Like

For the most part I play for my own enjoyment, I absolutely love the sound of the harmonica and it really makes me happy when I play, and not to mention energetic! I get pumped xD

Sometimes my boyfriend wonders why I can never stop tapping my foot!

When I get really good I hope to help other people play too, and teach children maybe.

Because I like it.

I just got this wild idea to try it last week. My husband and I are camp hosts living full time in our RV, with two dogs. Wandering through the campground the other night, I noticed that there’s been a deplorable lack of human-made music around here all summer. Car radios and cell phone ring tones just don’t do it, so I decided to try to do something about it.

I’ve been a total failure at guitar and violin. And singing… oh dear god, no. So I got a harmonica and have been all over the web finding information and songs to learn. I’m happy to say that in just a few days I’ve made a lot of progress already. By next summer I hope to have a nice little repertoire of tunes memorized, so I can play by the campfire for others to enjoy. I’m totally loving it, so it’s for me too. My first musical success ever!

THANK YOU JP for all your generous help so far! If I could buy your DVDs, I would. Camp Hosting is a volunteer gig, so cash is as scarce as storage space these days… You deserve to be paid! You are a Harmonica Angel.

That is pretty cool Kimmiles I’ll bet you you’ll be blowing them away next year…Awesome! story perfect setting to play the harp. I’ve been playing 2 years and you’ll have a good repertoire in a year I’m sure. And hey whats to say you cant carry some harp tab with you…good luck

I’m really enjoying hearing the reasons people play harmonica.

I’m also stoked to see our harmonica community supporting one another.

Thanks everyone,


A little input from lil ole me…

It’s so great, wonderful and most important DIVERSE to hear why you/me/we play harmonica! It bring tears to my eyes… :’(

But no worries…They’re all good! :slight_smile:

Here’s hoping to hear/read more stories from the many already visiting and becoming members…

Methinks we have and are forming a great/wonderful and diverse community here!

Bless you all!!

Keep on smiling!

Keep on harpin’!

Thanks for posting and reading, for sure!!

Sure wish I could do that train like you JP, but laying on the floor with the harmonica kinda made me feel funny. (LOL) But you sure taught me a ton otherwise thanks.

You and me both there, bro!

But Adam Gussow is really motivating me to keep going too!


I’m going to revise my earlier posts forever more as to who my influences in harmonica were.

Besides my dad who played harmonica in the living room and at family gatherings, etc. the only other person I saw play harmonica live was when I lived in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Back in 81/82’ during my beach bum phases, I was working in a seafood restaurant as a waiter trying to earn my way back to California. Had already lived in Southern Cal in Orange County long before it ever became the O.C.! So this time around was going up to San Fran/San Jose areas to see what that was all about. 8)

Putting money aside from my checks and tips, the leftovers went for head. Rest assuredly, folks, mostly alcohol there. Since the drinking age was still 18, bar hopping with the waitresses or solamente was all par for the course. Anywho…

At one particular hangout, a band was playing for a one-night only appearance. Cover charge was like $5 and 3 free drinks. Not one to pass up that bargain, in I went. A light crowd to start, with more showing up, I got a front seat table and had more than my 3 free drinks.

The only thing I remember about that night and band was this harmonica player. A guy in his early 20s I gathered. Other than that, I couldn’t tell you any of their songs, any girls I may’ve talked to, nothing except that the harmonica dude was excellent.

I really wanted to talk to him during their breaks. But with young female groupies all over, and them going backstage elsewhere, I never had the chance. After the midnight set was through, after saying their goodnights, they rushed out leaving the equipment for some roadies who came in to break everything down.

So as not to miss last call at another hangout, as I was leaving, a guy beckons me over and says, “Hey, man, if you liked these guys – Why don’t you support them by buying one of their albums?!”

My initial feeling was this was just an obscure local band trying to go for the big time, but the harmonica player was memorable, so why not. Yeah, okay. I shelled out the few bucks for it and made my last call.

I think I only played the album twice if that. Somehow though, throughout my travels it managed to go with me. But then I eventually lost track of it. All I remember is it had a black and white cover with a hat on it; and some guy named Mark. ???

Well for the past few days, I’ve been looking for my Sonny Terry licks book by Tom Ball. I have the cd that came with - but I’ll be damned if I can find that book anywhere. >:(

Thinking maybe it somehow got moved to the shed out back, I went in and rummaged around.

An old box was sitting way over in the corner. I pulled it out, and it was a box of records. A collection of old LP’s from my mom and yes, me too! How they all managed to get there, I’ve no idea. Flipping past through her Nat King Cole, Eddy Arnold, Elvis sings Gospel, and even a Richard Chamberlain sings songs albums – in the back of all that was my Saturday Night Fever double set LPs; an old WC Fields & Charlie McCarthy radio programs album – and behind them was: Yes, a record with the black and white jacket, with hat and ‘shades’ on it! That’s the one! :o

Wow! What a find! So I rushed into the house, removed all the junk atop the combo radio/cd/tape/album player I got at a truck stop one year – And put the album on. Sounded great! :smiley:

Wondering if this guy was even still alive, I googled him and the band. Sure enough he is.

Name: “Mark Hodgson & The Rootie Tootie Band Live – Survival in a tourist town” – produced by Mark Hodgson in 1980.

And here he is now today:



I think his music and styling is still great. And you might even like to use some of his free sounds for backing tracks if you’ve a mind to.

Plus, I’m going to email and tell him this story as well. I really don’t know how many of you have ever heard of Mark ‘muddyharp’ Hodgson. If not, well, I’m doing my part to bring him back to light; and from a little obscure Daytona Beach one-night only appearance I once attended, give the man credit where credit is due and thank him for his influences on lil ole me.

Now where in the hell is that damn Sonny Terry licks book at?! ::slight_smile:

Will keep you posted!

Keep on smiling!

Keep on harpin’!

Thanks for reading!

INcredible story, some how stuff like that never happens to me. Oh well that’s ok though…

Real cool story thanks for sharing.

Harp on!!

I play the harmonica because it is smaller than the drums. Seriously. All my life I have wanted to be a drummer but I got tired of whining and decided to do something. Drums presented too many logistical problems. I decided that dream would simply not work and I could forget about ever playing an instrument or find an alternate plan.

So I listed the logistical problems with learning and playing drums and I went for the instrument that has none of those problems. Voila… the harmonica!! I have always loved it so I’m thrilled with my choice. Of course I’m new and I suck at it. But I’m still thrilled!