(Note: I can’t find a credit for the image used in this post preview. If anyone
Something a lot of new and even experienced players don’t realise is the low level of regard a lot of other musicians have for the instrument and those who play it. You love the harmonica, right? Everyone else must love it too! Get ready for a surprise.
There are a few reasons for this. I think I know the main one but first here’s a couple of others.
People think the harmonica is an easy instrument to play. Many do not even consider it a real instrument, and at worst will dismiss it as a toy. Exclusively these are people who have never tried to play one.
Unless a person has been bitten by the harmonica bug or really gone out of their way to listen to good harmonica music, the most exposure they’ve probably had is the Bob Dylan/Neil Young squeak and squeal style. A divisive sound to be sure. They just don’t know what a harp is capable of when played with skill and taste.
Here’s the headline though: Harmonica players are real dicks.
Well, not us of course. We’re cool, friendly and respectful. I mean those other guys.
I mean the guys who come to a jam with a just a C harmonica and expect everyone else to play blues in G all night.
I mean the guys who don’t even know or care that they’re in the wrong key. The ones who are going to wail away regardless and blame someone else when it sounds bad.
I mean the guys who go to someone else’s gig, ask to sit in then get stroppy when they are told no.
Even worse, the guys who jump up on stage unannounced and uninvited then start wailing away (usually in the wrong key and completely inappropriately) cos they know they are awesome, it’s just the band don’t know it yet. These guys are lucky they don’t get their harp rammed down their throat followed by a boot up their backside.
Almost as bad are the guys who decide they can contribute from the audience, again in the wrong key and playing something completely inappropriate. Man those guys are annoying.
I mean the guys that don’t know they have not yet developed the skill set to contribute musically. By which I mean the guys who suck but are too arrogant to realise it.
I could go on. The point is that we, as cool, respectful players who are working hard to improve our skills have a mountain to climb from the outset because so many who came before us have behaved to appallingly.
That’s why so many people roll their eyes when we tell them we’re harmonica players. That’s why so many people ask if we play anything else (subtext: do you play a real instrument?).
We have done it to ourselves. It’s no wonder we have such a poor reputation. Reading that list makes me hate harmonica players.
Of course, we don’t have to accept the situation, we can work on altering these perceptions and hopefully relegate such idiocy to history.
In the next post I will look at some strategies for making yourself welcome in any musical gathering. Controversially, it basically boils down to common sense and respect. Who woulda thunk it?