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Child's first harmonica - advice please

GUEST,rewind 07 Dec 12 - 11:43 AM
John MacKenzie 07 Dec 12 - 12:20 PM
PHJim 07 Dec 12 - 01:28 PM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Dec 12 - 01:40 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Dec 12 - 01:51 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Dec 12 - 02:15 PM
PHJim 07 Dec 12 - 05:03 PM
gnu 07 Dec 12 - 05:36 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Dec 12 - 08:15 PM
GUEST,rewind 08 Dec 12 - 06:41 AM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 08 Dec 12 - 02:58 PM
John MacKenzie 08 Dec 12 - 03:12 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 08 Dec 12 - 03:18 PM
Steve Shaw 08 Dec 12 - 04:14 PM
Stringsinger 08 Dec 12 - 04:16 PM
Stringsinger 08 Dec 12 - 04:26 PM
Stringsinger 08 Dec 12 - 04:35 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 08 Dec 12 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,John in Hamilton 08 Dec 12 - 05:22 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 08 Dec 12 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 08 Dec 12 - 05:44 PM
GUEST,Lowdenjim 09 Dec 12 - 04:34 AM
Steve Shaw 09 Dec 12 - 05:43 AM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 09 Dec 12 - 03:26 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 09 Dec 12 - 04:22 PM
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Subject: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,rewind
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 11:43 AM

I've been asked to get a harmonica for an 8 year-old boy, but I don't have a clue what to get.
He plays piano ok for his age and can read music a bit.
Advice needed on make, one key or chromatic and any thing else relevant.
Thanks.
RW


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 12:20 PM

Chromatic may not be the right thing to start on. A decent tremelo in C or G would be the way to go in my opinion.
Diatonic 10 hole harps are limited, and lack a couple of notes, which he might find frustrating. Especially if he can read music and play piano, and therefore has some musical basics.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: PHJim
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:28 PM

I would go for a ten hole diatonic probably in C. I'd go for a plastic comb, maybe a Special 20.
Granted, as John MacKenzie mentioned, there is not a complete scale in the lower register, but this will be most useful as he learns to use it. Few harp players read music to the harp. You can't see the numbers on the harp while you are playing it, so it's mostly an ear instrument.
I and my brothers and sister started on Marine Bands, Christmas gifts from our parents or Santa, which were the only 10 hole diatonics available at our local music store in the late 50s/early 60s. I gave my sons/nephews/nieces Hohner Blues Band harps when they were very young, not a good quality harp, but not a big investment either.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:40 PM

Well, rewind, I bet somebody suggested harmonica because they thought it would be a cheap, portable instrument and easy to play. But from what I remember from being a kid, a harmonica is not easy to play. What kids do is zip up the holes and then down. Then they blow in and out, going Whew WHEW whew WHEW whew WHEW. And then they put it down and forget about it.

No matter what kind it is, the holes are too small and too close together. However, Hohner makes a kid's harmonica (saw it on Amazon). Maybe a kid could actually play music on one of those.

Why not visit a toy store and see what they have? You can probably find something that you blow on that has keys the right size for young fingers.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 01:51 PM

There are no bomb-proof harmonicas but a Suzuki Bluesmaster (a 10-hole diatonic) will survive better than most and is likely to work well out of the box (you can replace the reedplates too, cheaper than buying a new harp). I love my SP20s but they are definitely not quite as abuse-proof and they occasionally need a bit of tweaking to play properly. A Lee Oskar would also be OK. Cheaper than that and you're in danger of falling into the age-old entry-level trap, in which the instruments almost seem designed to put beginners off. As for key, C is quite high-pitched. G is a nice middling sort of key and he might even be able to play along with some jigs 'n' reels! As for tremolos, the planet is awash with useless cheapies, usually in the key of C. At the budget end they are likely to be out of tune and with inconsistent tremolo from note to note. The nicest ones are made by Tombo and Suzuki (in fact, generally I'd steer clear of any others). Hohner tremolos are usually tuned like a blues harp at the low end, so there are missing notes, and, in my experience, their quality is not quite as consistent as the two I mentioned. I wouldn't bother with a chromatic until he shows he getting quite good. Two more bits of advice: show him how to play gently, sort of huffing rather than blasting a jet of breath (the harmonica will last much longer). And beware of Ebay. Buying harps there is only for the suspicious and seasoned!


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 02:15 PM

Leeneia, you appear to be describing something that is not a harmonica. In addition, I posted what I did on the basis of the lad already playing music. I think it isn't a toy he needs, really.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: PHJim
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 05:03 PM

Steve, aren't most harps these days built with replacable reed plates? I have Big Rivers, Special 20s, Lee Oscars and all have replacable reed plates. I have a few old Blues Harps and Marine Bands with the nails in the cover plates that don't have replacable reed plates, but most of the current diatonic Hohners and Lee Oscars have replacable reed plates.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: gnu
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 05:36 PM

A cheap Marine Band and some teaching vids and, especially, some demonstrative harmonica music recordings, with an explanation of the fact that the instrument is a "beginner"... something to just PLAY AROUND with... a TOY which may help explore to see if it suits.... a lark... a bit of fun. You'd be surprised where such can lead.

Expensive? Complicated? Demanding? Whatever? Ahhh, no. Not at any age.

Then again, I ain't got no gigs and it's Friday night so whadda I know?

And, as a matter of fact, I can't even find my harp! I always keep it in my desk drawer. Why isn't it there? I got the Missin My Blues Harp Blues. But, I am sure I'll sit on it eventually, somewhere. Sat on my glasses last night after I gave up looking for them. Gotta get a pair a glasses fer when I need to find my glasses.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 08:15 PM

Marine Bands are hardly cheaper than the more robust Lee Oskars and Suzuki Bluesmasters I mentioned, and MBs have sharp edges (I suppose that the eight-year-old won't have issues with moustache hairs catching in the covers, though...)


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,rewind
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 06:41 AM

thanks to you all for the advice


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 02:58 PM

My parents got me a Marine Band C harmonica when I was 8. A great present. And when you're 8 it feels like this...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRa6QpUZme0

MUCH better than a toy when you know you're going to be a Bluesman...:0)


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 03:12 PM

I have loads of Hohner harps, even a couple of chromatics, but I really hnaker after Suzuki harps, at abou £35 each :(
Maybe one day if we win the lottery


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 03:18 PM

FOR HARMONICA PROS....(or future Harmonica Pros)...http://customharmonicas.com


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 04:14 PM

Suzuki Promasters are the ones you're probably thinking about, John, at 35 quid, and they are superb. I have one in G and one in A. But here's a state secret. Though the Promasters have lovely aluminium bodies, to die for (geddit?), the much cheaper Suzuki Bluesmasters use the same reedplates. And they are crackin' good harps to boot.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 04:16 PM

The ten hole Hohner "Golden Melody" has been revolutionized by Howard Levy with the use of overblows enabling it to play chromatic notes by filing the reeds. A "Golden Melody" might be a good start so that an 8 year old could grow into this kind of versatility.

It's really hard to bend notes on a chromatic and its use is limited to certain areas such as Toots Thielmann's jazz or Larry Adler's classical.

Eventually a good harmonica player can handle different styles of the instrument as was done in harmonica bands such as the Harmonicats or Borah Minevich, which can be accessed on YouTube. A real harmonica player can handle all types, chromatic button, 10 holes, bass harmonica, echo harps et. al.

For a real professional harmonica player you might want to look up Tommy Morgan who did a lot of the studio work in L.A. for movie tracks.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 04:26 PM

Stevie Wonder manages to bend notes on a chromatic button harp. His playing is superb.

Actually Woody Guthrie was a great harmonica player in his style.

Then there's Sonny Terry, Richard Emerson (Library of Congress folk), Lonnie Glosson and the first star of the Grand Ol' Opry, DeFord Bailey.

Anyone who loves the harmonica ought to listen to these people.

Then there's the blues players.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 04:35 PM

Exposing the 8 year old to great harmonica players, let me mention the late
Sam Hinton, one of the country's best diatonic "straight harp" players. His
harmonica recording is a classic and includes different harps for tunes.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 04:48 PM

Remembering Johnny Puleo, & some of my early "Professors of the Harmonica"...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSSmQzDjtgY


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,John in Hamilton
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 05:22 PM

See if the kid can make a "U" shape with their tongue. Some people can't do that because of nervous system, tongue-tied etc... The U shape helps to isolate individual notes


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 05:28 PM

From Ireland...Don Baker...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gYG9-SCm9w

For all the kids out there...


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 05:44 PM

And when that 8 year old boy gets that harmonica, please let him know about Little Walter...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUwfrj9aMNA


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Lowdenjim
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 04:34 AM

Go with a "G" rather than a "C" - it's lower and easier to get a nice sound, especially playing chords. I was 8 when my Aunt bought me my 1st harmonica (for Christmas 1955) ...... I'm eternally grateful to her for getting me started on a most wonderful musical journey. It was gift-wrapped with a Larry Adler "How to play" book that taught you how to play it PROPERLY ie..... using the tongue-blocking method whereby you use your tongue to cover 3 holes to leave the 4th hole exposed between the right-hand edge of your tongue and mouth.

Blues playing/note-bending and other special techniques will follow later..... it's a BIG mistake to try to start playing "cross-harp" blues right from the off. Simple steps and building blocks are the way to go.... Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Sonny Terry etc will scare the poor little mite. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is more sound advice.

The "U" shape tongue to isolate individual notes is a nonsense - don't go there.


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 05:43 AM

I agree with all that. I'm not a bad harmonica player really, but generally I'm just a single-note player because, to my regret, I never learned to tongue-block. In general, I'm a big fan of getting kids to have fun making music and not of trying to force-feed them stuff that they may find a bit esoteric to begin with!


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 03:26 PM

Kids: Sometimes adults like to tell you that can't do something when you can. If you like some music, try to play it, it's fun! And there's all kinds of music out there for you to find...

And who knows, you might be able to do what this boy did...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOyP_kDaskY

Sometimes adults are just not smart...think for yourself...

Happy Harmonica! ;0)


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Subject: RE: Child's first harmonica - advice please
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 04:22 PM

And Kids: If some man wants you to play Twinkle Twinkle, and you want to play the Blues, then just do it, like this boy did with the legendary James Cotton Band...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrGHODjNXS0

NEVER let anybody put their limitations on you...


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