I have been playing harmonica for my whole adult life. I just turned fifty and I got my first harmonica as a gift from an older cousin when I graduated high school thirty-two years ago. It was a Hohner Golden Melody harp in the key of C. I do not still have it. The gift also included a beginner’s how-to book, The Natural Blues and Country Western Harmonica by Jon Gindick.
I still have the book.
I found it today on the shelf.
It is as good today as it was then. Simple yet substantive, and written in the joyful style of a guy who really likes to play the harmonica. I devoured the book and got to playing the harp right away.
The harmonica is one of those instruments that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. It took me a while to get the basics down, and I stuck with it till I could jam with other musicians. I played in professional blues bands for year
s, and for the past fifteen years I have been a serious collector of rare and antique harmonicas.
When I found the harmonica book on the shelf this afternoon, I had a bit of a rush. I flipped through the pages, remembering the long process of learning to play the harmonica, the path that led from a simple beginning to complex skills and mastery. It renewed my appreciation for the beginning of things, and for the thin volume that kindled a life long passion.
I settled in on one of the final pages:
“Practicing helps you internalize . . . so that [the notes] come out in their own natural, unselfconscious way. When this happens, you will be playing by sound and feeling instead of rote and memorization. The result will be music.”
Every discipline requires hours of practice, and rote learning, and memorization. And in every discipline one can experience that moment when it all clicks; when our learning, practice, experience, and talents align in a moment of collaboration with others, and we are transcendent.
Can you recall the moment when one of your deep interests first began? Can you remember and describe a moment when it all clicked
and “the result was music?”
The final passage in the book will sound familiar to harp players everywhere.
“Harmonica is probably the most beautiful instrument of all it speaks of dreams and tears, of lost friends and lovers who broke our hearts. Let your heart speak through your harmonica. And one day in a bar with a sawdust floor . . . we’ll have one hell of a jam.”