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harps

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post. Why? I’ve been busy making music (or trying to). Once upon a time many years ago I learned to play the Chromatic harmonica and I was good. I got my first serious harmonica as a gift when I was in high school. At first, I learned and played by ear but learned to read enough music so I could expand my repertoire.

I carried one of my harmonicas just about everywhere. Once, while in Vietnam, my buddies and I went to the Vietnamese enlisted men’s club. I had my big 16 hole (64 reed) Hohner in my pocket and somehow ended up on the stage with a local band. My solo was Summertime and got me a round of applause and free beer for the rest of the evening. That was the one and only time I played for a large audience.

The picture at the top of this post is one I took a few weeks ago for the cover of a book of scores for Harmonica that I had been working on. The harmonica in the foreground is a Chromatic and the other harp standing on end behind is a diatonic in the key of A. I have a couple of good fake books that I use. I take songs I like and enter notes and lyrics with a neat program called MuseScore.

“Create beautiful sheet music for free using MuseScore, the free and open source notation program!” from the MuseScore website. Great program that runs on Linux, Windows and Mac computers.

The program includes a series of plug-ins, one of which is for Harmonica tabs (holes numbered, blow or draw and accidentals using the slide). I like this arrangement because I can learn a piece quickly using tabs but all the notes are there as well so I’m learning to read music as I go along. I made the book using duplex/booklet printing and ended up with a staple bound 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 booklet that’s easy to carry around. (Like I get out of the house a lot these days?)

One of the best features of MuseScore is that I can transpose into a different key, move up or down an octave and lot’s more.

I am having fun with all this. The harmonica (or harp) comes in two basic flavors, the small, 10 hole diatonic or blues harp and the chromatic harmonica. The blues harp comes in at least 12 different keys. The chromatic harmonica commonly comes in the key of C although there are other keys available. The chromatic is really two harmonicas in one, a C and C# (pressing the slide gives you the C#). Playing with the slide out is like the white keys on the piano. Pressing the slide in gives you the black keys. You can play in any key within reason with a C Chromatic.

Oh, before I forget, I stopped playing sometime around my late twenties. Why? I can’t remember. Probably because I got busy with marriage, family, college and then my career. I have the time and desire so I’m back with my music.

This time, I’m also learning to play blues harp, something I always wanted to do but never figured it out. Now, with the Internet at my disposal, I’m taking a course from Lee Sankey on Vimeo, “Country Blues Harmonica.” I’m loving it.

I’ll post about my progress from time to time. Did I mention that I have a nice acoustic guitar (classical) that belonged to my late father. Time I learned to play the darn thing. I put new strings on it a few weeks ago and ordered a DVD with lots of lessons for beginners from Amazon this afternoon.

So you’ve heard all my excuses for not posting. I’ll be posting more as the weather changes and I’m able to get out more to take pictures. Stay tuned.

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