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Getting back in the game!

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Andrew T
Nov 27, 2011 6:17 PM GMT

Hey harpers!

Long time no chat. I wanna ask some of the people who have played a long time what happened when you had to put the harp down for a while. Harmonica was basically the biggest part of my life EVERY SINGLE DAY for two years. Then, for about a year now, I have been going weeks and months without touching it and without listening to the artists associated with it and without visiting websites like this one or hanging out much with friends I have made who played. I would occasionally hit a jam for the heck of it but I never really got the fire back. No woodshedding. No digging deeper. Well lately I have been back into it! I bought a few new harps to replace some of my trashed gear of yesteryear and I have been practicing at home, listening to the Walters and what not, and attending jams more frequently.

SO MY QUESTIONS IS: Have any of you long time vets but down the harp for a while and picked it back up? If so, what was it like? What advice can you give to a younger player going through such a transition right now??

Thanks a lot everybody and good to see y'all again!

Andrew T.

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Nov 28, 2011 11:33 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

hi andrew, i think i remember you around here last year or so. i've been on and off several times in almost 40 years. of playing- i'm 56. some of those times it was not by choice, i got seperated from my harps once for 6 months and could not afford to buy more. other times i just reached a plateau and i was not just in what i knew how to do but opportunities to play were seemingly nonexistent. some of the time i would just lose interest and put the harps up in the closet until they called to me and i get them back out.

i refer to some of that part of my life as my block head era. i was living in a city with at least 2 or 3 major harpmen and didn't seek them out for lessons, out of pride and stubbornness and being a cheapskate. and it's regrettable but we can't turn back the clock. i was offered a couple of opportunities early on to be part of a house band or a host band for a jam and turned them down for fear that i'd be exposed as someone who really didn't know what i was doing- which at the time was true!

when i was in that era there was basically no internet and most of the books available were not real in depth, or they had harp tab which i just could not read. if you wanted to learn to play you got a stereo and started buying lp's and cassettes and listening and working. you went to live shows when you could, and you kept working. it was the long way to go.

enough history! you're back but don't have the same fire? why not take this on as an educational opportunity rather than a big thrill- which believe me it will still be one. but if you reached a plateau a year ago and lost interest, there is some reason you've gotten back to it. you need new challenges like different genres of music, different positions and harps. i "discovered" west coast swing some years ago ala george smith and william clarke and it changed my way of looking at harp and music. before that it was jimmy reed and before that some of the country guys like mccoy and mickey rafael.

these days the internet can be a distraction because there is so much info available. i'd suggest picking one thing and researching it to the nth degree. pick an artist or a style or a position and just follow the thread and learn all you can.

i also suggest that if you can make it through a I-IV-V, find some jams or partners and get out live as much as possible, even if it pays little or is a volunteer thing at a soup kitchen or retirement home. i have found a lot of satisfaction in giving this away. nice to break even or make a few extra but my commitment for the past 10 years has been to just do it until i can't any more. it's a good feeling!

i hope to hear from you as you restart your journey.

Dec 01, 2011 2:33 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

i am pretty close to jawbone in that i picked it up at 17 and worked on it for about 5 years, then fell off, picked up again for a couple years, played very little for a long stretch.. and for the last 15 years have been playing pretty much. i think there are natural ups and downs, if you are not having fun, put it down. to get better is hard work through and that is just the way it is, but if you find the music that excites you, like jawbone said, that is the thing that moves you forward. another is getting regular jam partners or bands so you can build things

Dec 02, 2011 5:05 PM GMT
Andrew T Replied:

Thanks Jawbone and Walter! That's valuable input! Yeah it was basically a put them in the closet until they called back to me. Now I have been back into it! I played out (alway for free at jams haha but still...) 4 times this week. I have learned some new things. I really value your advice about picking one thing and going with the educational journey instead of being overwhelmed by the reality that the internet hits you with everything at once! Thanks again guys. The fire and perhaps just as important if not more, the CONFIDENCE, is coming back more and more each day. :)

Dec 02, 2011 6:36 PM GMT
arnenym Replied:

I've play harp and being a lead singer since early 80'ies.. Sometime around 2000 i had enough... I had a 5 year time out. I had my come back 5-6 years ago. This last 6 years is the best years i had in my harmonica life. Forum like this and youtube made it possible to find other harpies experiences and share my own. I already find all holes in my harp and know what happend when i blow&suck. I could focus on playing teqnicue and embochure and just develope my playing.

it seems like i needed the long break to come back. The last 6 years i have been obsessed by my harps and i love this feeling.

Dec 03, 2011 6:19 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

i'm well settled into a duo thing with my wife, she is a great guitar partner for me. we write originals and work them up along with covering some great stuff. focus has shifted lately from bar gigs etc to more grass roots stuff like soup kitchens and street playing. while it's nice to make $ it is not the only or biggest reason to do this whole thing. we share with each other and with whoever is walking by or sitting down to a meal. how great is that!! our recent cd release did get chosen to go to Memphis as an entry for best slef produced cd along with 70 other entries. which is really cool! but to me that's secondary to being able to play for people and see the response they give.

if you just find a focus you will be more satisfied.

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