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Beginners questions
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3 posts
Jun 02, 2019
12:18 AM
Alright I've just purchased a marine band harmonica in the key of c. I have never played a harmonica before but I have played guitar for about 15 years so I have some musical experience and knowledge.
My ideal goal is to be able to improvise over blues guitar chords progressions and be able to use scales to create my own licks.
How much time is suitable to be practicing every day?
Is there a set order of elements that one must learn to progress more quickly or can you just practice random lessons?
What is the best method for practice? ie. Purchase an online course and which one is best, get a teacher, or just hit up youtube lessons?
How long does it take to start playing at a relatively listenable level? Obviously there are many variables to this answer but has anybody have there own personal opinion that has actually done what I'm about to do.
Also have I done the right thing with the harmonica purchase I made?
Any help or advice relevant to my questions or otherwise would be greatly appreciated.

Last Edited by cougarmaneuverer on Jun 02, 2019 12:19 AM
5997 posts
Jun 02, 2019
1:25 AM
I will try to answer where I can.
Marine Band is a fine harp. It has some features which are not universally loved.
The main thing from my point of view is that they don’t come apart easily. This makes it important to play clean; if something gets in and fouls a reed, it’s more of a pill to clear it.
They do come apart. They just need a considered approach and you don’t want to be doing it on a regular basis.

Other than that, you know, it THE classic blues harp imho. Probably the dominant model in my collection although I’m more than happy with a special 20 these days.

Ok, that was the easy question I think.

Time to practice is up to you. I think if you can make an hour a day, that’s huge. I’ve made a lot of specific progress with 5 minutes a day, every day, in 2-3 week blocks. That’s mainly technique stuff, or scales. Memorisation and jamming licks to fit them, working techniques with fitting licks to stuff, that could be longer sessions.
15-30 minutes is probably optimal on any particular aspect. You can take the time as you find it, really. I often play early in the day, maybe 10 minutes. Sometimes I find a half hour in the middle of the day, and some more minutes in the late afternoon. If I’m really keen I do a session in the evening.
Sometimes this is breaking new ground, other times it’s just consolidating memory.
I’m a copycat though, and forever breaking down things I hear on recordings. I’m trying to do things differently for a while but I still revert to the old strategy quite often.

Regarding logistics, order of learning, vs random lessons, I think there are absolutely some fundamental things you must get down before you can do other things.
Single notes is probably number 1, although maybe breathing from the core, or the glottis as Jimi Lee says, comes first. Breathing and having control to open or close your nose when inhaling and exhaling, not sucking and blowing, is probably skill one, and ongoing for a while until you do it naturally. Also single notes. And movement.
Lots of people start out with nursery rhymes, folk songs etc. just to learn the single notes and changing breath direction.
Also dynamic breath control is a big foundation skill.
The big one after that is maybe draw bends, and then blow bends
You know, you really can’t play something if you can’t hit the notes, so there’s no point trying to play licks which require bends unless you can bend.
So bending is a big deal, but you need those other breath control and movement skills first.

I’ll have to come back to this. Ciao for now
4 posts
Jun 02, 2019
1:33 AM
Thank you very much for your reply. Those were exactly the kind of answers I was looking for. Thanks superbee, I cant wait for the harp to show up so I can rip into it
276 posts
Jun 03, 2019
4:33 AM
For myself It took about 5 years to play good enough to be payed to play.
Since you already play an instrument perhaps you will pick it up a bit quicker.
I used to worry what brand to buy but eventually have a mixed kit of several different brands, usually I find a fav harp and stick to it regardless of brand.
I try to practice a min of an hr a day..not counting rehearsals.. I practice about 5 out of 7 days as a rule of thumb. I will work on a song or phrase for a few min a few hrs a few days or a few years all depends how difficult it is for me to learn it.

I do think the more you learn a particular style of music the next song of that types is a quicker learn.
Swing music for example..or blues..rock..jigs etc..

good luck...have fun

Last Edited by Spderyak on Jun 03, 2019 4:35 AM
9 posts
Jun 03, 2019
9:04 AM
Hi there!

The way I got started a year ago was first to memorize scales by playing every time I had a couple of minutes: 2nd position blues plus Major and Minor Pentatonics. Once I knew the scales comfortably up and down, I started with a simple blues backing track and just learned to use I-IV-V to outline the progression, adding notes as I got bored with the first 3.

Over time, my runs just naturally got more and more complex as I got more comfortable.

After that, I started working on known songs, heads and turnarounds - but only once I could improvise a 12-bar blue in any key I had a harp for.

Then came 3rd position and I started over but it was easier...

Main thing for me wass to play with some intention and PAY LOTS OF ATTENTION TO TIMING - I had to force myself to stop noodling random notes and licks and make sure I was tapping my foot and hearing a song in my head while I played.

Terry in Portland, OR

Have you heard about the drummer who tried to commit suicide?

He threw himself behind a train.
6000 posts
Jun 05, 2019
1:54 AM
On the topic of lessons, you can do a fair bit with YouTube and books etc, but I think particularly for beginners a live teacher is hard to beat.
There are a few in Australia and you may be able to find one near you, but it’s a big country and you have to be in the right place. Jamie Symons is a good player in QLD. I have no idea whether he’s a good teacher. If I was in Melbourne I’d be trying to get on Ian Collard’s list.
The alternative is to find someone online. If they’re in the USA it can be tricky getting the timeslot you want but not impossible. I’ve managed to connect with Mark Hummel, Ronnie Shellist, Ron Sunshine and Jimi Lee.
The real downside is the expense, especially now with the Au$$ie at south of 70 cents.
Jimi Lee taught me a lot back when the dollar was at parity. He is expensive and he tries to get you on the merry go round. You have to sign up for 3 lessons and then he will do the sell job to line you up for another 3, and so on. He does teach the fundamentals very well though.
Ronnie Shellist is more flexible and I think is a good teacher. He is also in a slightly better time zone I think.
Hummel is a great bloke to talk to. I’m not sure if he’s really a beginners’ instructor but maybe. He’s also quite exxy.

There are other instructors though. Whether it’s worth it is your call of course. For me it was money well spent I think.

Jerry Portnoy has an online teaching site, with prerecorded lessons. Dave Barrett’s site is comprehensive for urban blues and technique. The style may not suit everyone but if you can dig it, it’s all there.

Jerry Portnoy’s old CD set, Blues Harmonica Masterclass is pretty good. You can probably pick it up fairly cheaply secondhand or maybe there’s an electronic version (I don’t know, just wondering)

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