Harmonica Tuition

There is a vast array of material available for the harmonica student. Some great and some not so great.

One point I would make for anyone thinking about starting out on the diatonic harmonica is, don’t be deceived by the apparent simplicity of the instrument. You may be able to pick out simple tunes fairly quickly but mastery will take years of practice and experience.

Don’t be taken in by the ‘learn harmonica in 1 hour’ titles, you won’t! It might take and hour to read through but it will take considerably longer to achieve.

Unless you put in the practice time no amount of tuition will help. This is probably what I have found hardest to come to grips with. When you are making rapid progress practice is easy but there are times when you seem to reach a plateau and progress becomes really slow at these time practice can become a chore and to be honest there are times when I have just stopped. You really need to take a disciplined approach to practice if you want to progress. I could probably achieved the level I am at now in a shorter period of time if I had stuck to a regular 30mins to 1 hour a day rather than backing off at the slow times.

In a year I have managed to get to the line between advanced beginner and intermediate as defined in the What Level are You? scale by Adam Gussow, with a more disciplined approach to practice progress would certainly have been quicker.

There are a number of resources I have found useful although one of the hardest things has been finding the right sequence, i.e. some material I purchased early on has only become useful some way down the line.

The type of material you decide to use is a matter of personal choice and preference. Basically the choice is book form with CD, DVD, website text and or video.

Personally I find video/DVD the best way to learn.

I can recommend the following resources as a starting point for beginners.

Dave Gage has an excellent site at harmonicalessons.com, a good starting place which includes lesson plans that provide a good route map to follow. It was also the first site that I came across that emphasised the time that you can expect to devote to training. Audio samples help to check your performance against the desired result. Full access to the site requires a subscription but I believe the material is well worth the investment. The site also provides training material for chromatic harmonica as well. On the downside there is no video content, although material is being developed.

Jon Gindick also has an excellent site at Harmonica Central. I came to this a bit later but what attracted me to this was the emphasis on the fact that anyone can play harmonica and to ignore anyone who told you that you were not musical. There is a lot of free material on the site including the opportunity to participate in jam sessions. Many short videos on specific aspects of playing such as bending notes, are also available. Jon also provides a range of books and CD’s covering a broad range of playing. Most interesting to me is Jon’s Video Harp Club, which has over 50 video’s from basic techniques on. Much of this is covered at harmonicalessons.com, but it is often really useful to get two different takes on the same subject and , for me the added advantage is the audio visual nature of Jon’s instruction.

The final teacher I would like to mention is Adam Gussow. Adam started a series of Youtube lessons a little over a year ago and now has over 150 videos available. In addition he now has his own web site at Modern Blues Harmonica.com, where you can purchase video lessons. These stand alone lessons are graded by level of experience from beginner upwards, and are usually accompanied with detailed tabs. Also available from this site is one of the best jamming resources I have come across, recorded by Charlie Hilbert, blues harp jam tracks, is well worth getting hold of. The free youtube videos cover a wealth of information but as Adam makes clear they are aimed more at advanced beginner/intermediate players although even beginners can get a lot out of them. Some of the best of these, from my point of view, is a series of lessons that cover the structure of the twelve bar blues both in theory and by listening to practical examples. This really helped me to begin to appreciate the chord progression and become familiar with ‘counting’ through the twelve bars.

As always these are personal opinions and what suits me may not work for you. Feel free to comment on any resources that you would recommend.

This entry was posted in Harmonica. Bookmark the permalink.