Learn Harmonica By Practicing With a Friend

AMSTERDAM
Creative Commons License photo credit: PjotrP

As I continue to learn harmonica, the old saying we all know rings true, practice makes perfect. I practiced with my buddy Big Tiny (I just gave him that for his blues name, if you play blues, you gotta have one) from 4 to 9 yesterday afternoon. If you have a friend who plays another instrument or wants to, having a practice partner is amazing. It’s something I never though of. He’s been teaching himself guitar for the past couple of years and while he has picked up a few things, I think he’d agree that he hasn’t really done much with it. I understand it too.

I don’t really practice alone. I don’t focus well and have no structure to it. Me practicing is kind of a mess. It’s the time when I feel I have the least talent or skill. I listen to experts talk about how to do things on video or listen to the classic great harmonica players and get discouraged. It’s counter productive. I get most of my practice at karaoke, open mic nights or blues jams.

My favorite dive is doing a battle of the bands Saturdays in October. Big Tiny and I have been talking about putting a band together since I started playing harmonica. We just never had focus. The battle of the bands gave us focus. We need 4 songs. The first is Hoochie Coochie Man. We spent 5 hours playing that yesterday evening. We even amplified my harp playing with a cheap Samson mic and a Fender starter amp.

It is the most productive practice time I have ever spent. When you do Karaoke, It’s one song at a time with no do-overs. An open mic is limited to what you can play with someone else or just jamming. Blues jams are the same way. All your skills improve evenly because they all get the same amount of attention. You may get deficits because you avoid stuff you are bad at for the sake of live performance. Practice by yourself, unless you are REALLY disciplined, isn’t very effective and you get discouraged when you have trouble working through problems.

Imagine spending 5 hours working on getting Hoochie Coochie Man down. I can pull out my harp and blast that riff without even thinking about it now. Big Tiny has gone a long way too. You get positive reinforcement when you do well and help with areas where you are deficient. It’s that perfect center between practicing alone and a performance like karaoke.

We are going to be practicing with each other over the next few weeks. so we can play in the Battle of the Bands but after that, I would like to get together with him once a week for practice. It is really productive.

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