Is Learning the Harmonica Easy?

This is a pretty common question. Someone wants to learn how to play harmonica and think they are gonna become a great blues harmonica player in a couple weeks at 10 minutes a day and so they ask, “Is it easy?”

Then there are people who answer, “Yes it is easy.”

I even saw a poster in an online forum write, “It is extremely easy.”

Another eBook that I saw online wrote, “The difference between a harmonica player who has played for 30 years and one who has played for 3 months is the size of their repertoire.

So you telling me that in 3 months you learned how to

– Play Single Notes

– Bend Notes

– Tongue Block

– Play Rhythm Harmonica

– Play Solo Harmonica

– Play Blues Harmonica

– Play with a Vibrato

– And Yes, play Folk Harmonica (You know the “Home on the Range” kind of playing.

The answer of course is no…you cannot. And No it is not “extremely easy.”

Both statements are ridiculous.

So let me change the question. Is the Harmonica a “relatively easy” instrument to play?

Now that is a good question, but we have to break it down and ask a few other questions…

First, Easy compared to what?

Well. I have played the Trumpet for about 6-8 years when I was a child. I have played the Piano for about a year when I was a child. And I played the Guitar for about 2 years relatively recently.

So is the Harmonica easy to learn compared to the above?

I think so.

On the trumpet you would have to play for a while just to get your lips in a condition to actually play songs. It takes a while to get a good tone on a Trumpet. And then there are loads of scales to learn how to play in different keys.

The harmonica, you just swap out harmonica’s when you want to play in a different key. So you have to learn a lot more.

So I would say it is a lot easier to play a harmonica than a trumpet.

OK…

I think the same goes for Guitar and Piano.

So if by “easier” you mean “easier than other instruments.” That is probably the case…

But this does not mean that you are gonna be a great harmonica player in a few months.

Is it eas

Now another question helps us find out if the Harmonica is an easy instrument to play.

Second, Easy playing what?

OK, what kind of music do you want to play?

Do you want to play JAzz music?

Then it ain’t gonna be an easy ride for you…

Do you want to play classical music?

Again it ain’t gonna be an easy ride for you…no.What kind of music do you want to play?

Do you want to play Blues?

Nope, not gonna be easy. Especially if you want to sound like a tongue slapping, note bending blues harmonica player…

Do you want to play folk music or hymns in a folk music like style…

OK, well in 3 months you should be able to do that. But note So if you gonna play some simple folk tunes without any embellishments. Then maybe.

Do you want to play like Bob Dylan blow and draw to support your song?

Ok, you almost certainly will be able to do that…

So in reality it depends on what you want to play. Keep in mind, without alterations and additions and seasoning to your playing your playing will get old in a hurry.

We all see on YouTube the harmonica player who learned in 3 months and never went any further. They have no vibrato in their tone and they bounce around the melody into different octaves because they can’t bend a note.

So it really depends on what kind of music you want to play whether it is gonna be easy. If you are happy just playing folk tunes and hymns in that style then maybe it is easy…but playing some other styles is gonna be a bit more of a challenge…

Which brings us to the last question

Third, Easy doing what?

As noted above, are you gonna play single notes or just blow and draw some chords. Are you gonna mix the two sometimes single notes and sometimes chords. Are you going to play some bends?

Are you going to self accompany playing?

Ok, if you just want to blow and draw chords over folk tunes, then ok, maybe it is easy. But I ain’t gonna lie to you, your church is gonna tire of that kind of playing quickly.

And you will tire of playing that way as well.

So yes, it is easier. if you change keys you just swap harps. That’s cool…In 6 months you probably can get good enough to play in church with single notes and bouncing back and forth with chorded notes. Try that on a guitar or piano or trumpet.

So after having said everything. It is easier compared to other instruments. It ain’t extremely easy, but you can get good enough to play rather quickly.

Conclusion

So I was reading an article that said that the only difference between a harmnica player who has played for 3 months and one who has played for 10 years is the number of songs they can play.

I bet if you listen to that harmonica player that said that, they play in a simple style without a whole lot of embellishments and may not even play single notes. OK, that’s cool…But that ain’t what I think of when I think of harmonica players…

I think of hand motions. I think of bending notes. I think of chords and single notes played together and bounced around.

Now it is true that you can sound reasonable very quickly on a harmonica. much faster than on a guitar or a piano or a trumpet (all instruments I have played). But sounding reasonable and playing the instrument well are not the same thing.

So to answer the question, is playing the harmonica easy? The answer is it is relatively easy to play reasonably, but like most instruments it takes some time to get very good.

But you can do it. Go get a Lee Oskar C and hit YouTube to learn how to play it.

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