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A tricky question for paid players

20 Oct 13 - 07:31 PM (#3568638)
Subject: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Ballad Singer

You have the opportunity to perform, for guaranteed money, regularly (at least every weekend).

You do not have an instrument.

HERE'S the tricky part: You play the harmonica.

Gig-worthy harmonicas in the US cost an average of 25 bucks each. Most prices drop considerably for models below that range, but the quality does, too, and it's a serious drop. The difference between a 25-dollar Hohner "Special 20" and a 7-dollar Hohner "Bluesband" is the difference between a Honda Accord and a wind-up toy. One is solid and can be maintained and made to last; the other is cheap plastic that won't even stand hobbyist-level playing for very long.

Interestingly, the cheaper Hohners used to be made better; the Special 20 of today is now made to the same standards as a Bluesband of 20 years ago. The Bluesband model of today is awful. It doesn't even WEIGH the same amount. The cheaper harmonicas made by Hohner and others today even FEEL cheaper.

I bought a Hohner "Hot Metal" harmonica when I was 17 years old. It was a model (I think they still have it out there) made to have a brighter tone. It was meant to cut through loud rock guitars, because certain American pop-metal bands at the time had ballads or some such with lousy harmonica breaks in them, so Hohner wanted to capitalize.

I paid seven dollars for that harmonica. It was abused, played and not cleaned, even stepped on so that one of the steel covers is dented.

It STILL plays well. It's not perfectly in tune anymore, and I wouldn't gig with it, but it is still serviceable for fooling around on. It's nearly 25 years old now.

Conversely, I've paid 10 or so dollars for some of Hohner's lower-end models within the last few years (including the Hot Metal), and most of them lasted ONE jam session. ONE. The reeds blew out of tune, and when a thin reed like that gets bent farther than it should, it usually bends in a way that doesn't lend itself to being bent back properly.

The problem is you can't BORROW a friend's harmonicas like you borrow guitars. You also can't gig with just one harmonica.

An electric guitarist can "make do", sometimes, with a cheap Squier or other import-plywood thing; at least I've heard that said. I don't know any guitar players who have done that.

The crappy, toy-quality harmonicas at the big-box guitar stores are junk. I wouldn't even give one to a child to learn on; I've bought some that were warped or out of spec right out of the box!

My "brand" back in the day was Lee Oskar. They are manufactured by Tombo, a Japanese company, and have been since the 1970s. Lee Oskar was the harmonica player in the 60s rock band War. I was passingly familiar with their music ("Low Rider" is their most popular tune, and it features Oskar's famous harmonica riff), but I bought them because they were praised by some famous blues players I admire.

These days, a standard 10-hole major diatonic Lee Oskar harmonica retails for an average of US $33.00.

The MINIMUM number of harmonicas necessary for the player in a run-of-the-mill blues cover band would be at least four. The keys of A, D, E and G are ubiquitous in blues music, and most songs can be transposed to those keys without ruining the feel of the song.

That's over $160, and that's just for the harmonicas, not counting replacement parts.

What possible solution is there to a quandary like this?

There are three- and five- piece packaged sets that average $110-$150. Should anything happen to any one of those harmonicas, the price of replacement would be 30% of the total cost of the package. That gets very expensive very quickly.

You can't gig with instruments that won't hold up under serious playing, you can't play all your songs in the same key and you can't play an instrument that is permanently out of tune. Sure, I've played with a couple of harmonicas that are worn out and flat by a few semitones, but eventually you can't cover that up anymore; they go too flat to hide by skipping notes or glossing over them.

Any other harmonica players out there? What to do?

20 Oct 13 - 07:54 PM (#3568645)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Richard Bridge

I don't play them myself but most of the serious players I know do carry a roll of harps, which I think will cover maybe ABCDEFG and the same number of natural minors.

Most serious singers I know will get upset if you move a song even a semitone from the key that is best for their voice, and quite often moving a song up a semitone will take it out of fingering range on a guitar - and sometimes the same for dropping a semitone: E to Eb for example is a nightmare on the guitar. So ideally you'd carry 24-and I'm not sure if you'd want the other minor as well, and I thought I'd seen other specific scales too.

20 Oct 13 - 08:15 PM (#3568650)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Leadfingers

IF the gigs are definate , you bite the bullet and buy the harps to do the gig ! Simples !

How much do you think a decent guitar , PLUS a mic and mic stand cost ?

AND a reasonable quality amp ??

20 Oct 13 - 08:51 PM (#3568659)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Mark Ross

At least with the Lee Oscars you can buy replacement reeds for about half the price of a new harp. When mouth harps went to 5 bucks I remember complaining to Sonny Terry that I could remember buying them for $1.50. sonny said that he could remember paying $.35!

Mark Ross

20 Oct 13 - 08:51 PM (#3568660)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: McGrath of Harlow

If you keep your eyes open at festivals you can build up a fair range of pretty serviceable harmonicas over the years at folk festivals over the years, without breaking the banks. Well you can over here anyway.

21 Oct 13 - 06:50 PM (#3568680)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,matt milton

"You have the opportunity to perform, for guaranteed money, regularly (at least every weekend)."

"There are three- and five- piece packaged sets that average $110-$150. Should anything happen to any one of those harmonicas, the price of replacement would be 30% of the total cost of the package."

I very rarely get paid for gigs and the total cost of the various guitars, banjos, mandolins, amps and mics I own is many times the amount of money you're talking about.

I'm sure I'm not the only musician on this board who is having a bit of a sympathy failure here!

...hang on a second... if you don't own a set of harmonicas, how did you even get these gigs? How do you practice?

21 Oct 13 - 07:35 PM (#3568686)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Ebbie

I'll go along with Leadfinger's comment. :) A harmonica 4-set doesn't come close to costing what ONE stringed instrument will run you. Presumably you could start your harmonica career with just four keys- but you wouldn't have a guitar even on layaway for that outlay.

And MOST guitar players don't even get paid. :)

21 Oct 13 - 07:41 PM (#3568690)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Bee-dubya-ell

If the idea of buying used harmonicas doesn't turn you off, check Craigslist and eBay. I've been frequenting our local Craigslist looking for some cheap percussion stuff to put together a one-man-band rig, and someone had a collection of around twenty older harmonicas for sale not too long ago at a very fair price. Finding anything would be a hit-or-miss (mostly miss) proposition, but it still might be worth a look.

21 Oct 13 - 07:51 PM (#3568693)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: McGrath of Harlow

I've always thought the limiting factor wouldn't so much be cost as weight. Those full sets of harmonicas must weight a ton.

I've always been one to have just one or two harmonicas in plausible keys. Best I ever had was a doublesided one from Brazil I picked up for four or five quid from a street trader at a Fleadh. Gave me G and D playing straight harp, which was fine for my kind of sessions. But I mislaid it in a pub after a few years. I hope whoever picked it up valued it. Never seen one like it.

But then I've never been a serious harmonica player.

21 Oct 13 - 09:36 PM (#3568719)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,Big Ballad Singer

The gigs are there because I am a singer and have assembled a band of touring veterans who have played with major professional acts. The clubs that are offering guarantees have heard me sing and play.

At that time, I played in the two keys I still had that were serviceable. I was singing in front of a pickup band at a jam session, so I only had a couple of tunes to perform anyway. The time when I was originally approached about these gigs was also over a year ago. I know the offer has lasted; the cheap harps have not.

How do I practice? On crappy jobs that are just this side of rubbish and completely out of tune.

What most players who play "straight" or "folk melody" style harmonica don't realize is that blues-style or "cross harp" style puts incredible strain on the reeds. Interestingly, most often, by the time my harps have gone permanently out of tune in cross harp, they were already WAY out of tune in first position.

FYI, for people who don't know from such things:

1st position is playing the harmonica in the key marked on the harmonica. The note you get when you exhale into the 3rd hole gives you the "Do" of the major scale in that particular key. Think of tunes like "Red River Valley", "Frere Jacques" and thousands more folk songs; they are played in first position.

2nd position is what most people think of when they hear "blues harp" or "blues harmonica". Suffice it for now to say that you use a harmonica that is a major fifth BELOW the key you are playing in. If you are playing a song in G major, the correct key harmonica for 2nd position is a C harmonica, and you begin the "blues scale" on the second hole by inhaling.

A few other thoughts:

1) The idea that I couldn't get a guitar for the price of those harmonicas is TOTAL rubbish. I can go to any one of TEN music stores near me and get a perfectly serviceable acoustic guitar for under 100 dollars, and I've done so over the last 25 years more times than I can count. There's an imported acoustic guitar at a store I can WALK to from my house that's only $89 used, and I'm sure if I offered cash I could get it for less.

I could go to a store and get a cheap electric guitar, a strap and even a cheap distortion pedal for less than what my harmonicas would cost. No, they wouldn't be the greatest-sounding things, but I could tweak them a little and, hey, they'd be for a rock gig, so it wouldn't much matter, would it? ;-)

There's a WORLD of difference between the average budget acoustic guitar and a comparably-cheap harmonica. I gigged for three years with Yamaha FG-series guitars and even cheaper ones. As long as the thing can be tuned fairly well and has decent action, it can serve to be played on a gig. On the other hand, the cheapest mass-produced Asian-made harmonicas might not last one gig. I blew one out of tune a while back after playing it ONCE. Not for one GIG; I mean literally playing it ONCE.

Replacing the reed plates on the used Lee Oskar harmonicas I still have left would cost a bit less than new harmonicas, but I don't have enough shells and I'd have to special-order the reed plates, and I don't have the scratch for that anyway.

Leadfingers, I can't "bite the bullet" and buy the harmonicas. I lost my job in July and have no cash to my name that isn't being scraped together to try and keep the bills paid for my wife and children. Right now, I stand to lose phone service, my car insurance AND my car within the next few days to couple of weeks. I don't even have the cash to spare for ONE decent harmonica, let alone enough to gig with. I was receiving unemployment, but that has ended for now; in my state, you can only claim for a certain length of time before you have to wait and then basically reapply. That amounted to about $200 weekly, hardly enough for gas for the car, let alone for everything else.

Believe me, if these were guitar gigs, I'd be there already. I have a decent acoustic guitar with a pickup and a preamp. I just don't play top-40 covers or for free in coffeehouses, so I don't get those gigs.

"Most guitar players don't get paid". I'm not sure what all the variables are in everyone else's case, but in my particular case, there's a circuit in my area of clubs and bars that cater to a blues-and-jazz-listening crowd. I'm playing music from a certain era, with a certain "image" that goes along with it. It's showmanship and "shtick" ALMOST as much as it is musical performance. In fact, the reason I have people offering me guaranteed money is because around me, the term "blues band" means a bunch of slobs in old sneakers and blue jeans and t-shirts playing the same tired rock/blues catalog that they all learned from Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Let me show you all a study in contrast:

I do not know these people and have never heard them play, but
here's A typical "blues band" photo from around my area. NOTE: I am not suggesting they are untalented; I am simply showing you what is par for the course. That picture could have been of anyone for any reason. There's no telling whether they're a band, a team of mechanics or the officers of your local Moose Lodge.

Here, on the other hand, are Grammy-nominated artists "Little Charlie and the Nightcats".

I'm not suggesting that everyone go out and spend $500 each on a new suit, but seriously! I look at the second picture and I see a professional music act. I look at the first picture and I see... some dudes standing there by a tree.

I digress...

When I was gigging years ago, I carried one major harmonica in every key. I had doubles for the four or five most common keys, especially for playing in the keys of G and A, which suit my voice best. I also carried a few minor-tuned harmonicas for non-blues songs that I played with other people. Then there were the couple of octave-down harps and one octave-up harp. They were useful, but more of a luxury that I could afford 20 years ago.

Figure that I had about 25 harmonicas in my case at any given time. I would be spending a MINIMUM of $500 to have all of those right now, and that figure is impossible because the special-tuned harps don't exist at a $20 price point.

Right now, I could make do with about $250 worth of harmonicas. There's a 5-pack of workhorse-quality Hohners in the keys of G, A, C, D and E. It sells for $170. I could add a couple more harps for around $75-80 and have one working set. If I BABIED them and NEVER drank anything but water on the gig or at practice**, they'd hold up for a year or so until I could sock away the cash from the gigs for some spares, one or two at a time.

(**NOTE: A friendly suggestion to anyone who wants to play the harmonica: ANYTHING you eat or drink on a gig or when you practice will wind up getting on the reeds of your harmonicas. Soda, booze, anything with sugar in it will gum up the reeds over time. Anything with dairy or mayonnaise in it will clog up the reeds and eventually just get nasty, and harmonicas don't have "spit valves" like brass horns do.)

Also, bear in mind that I don't need a separate amplifier nor special microphone if they are not things I can afford. I have played hundreds of gigs with just the mic that the house provided. I treat my role in the band like a horn player would; I can show up at a venue and as long as there's a place to play and a sound system that works, I can get the job done. The tone is mine, not the equipment's, provided there's an instrument worth a damn in my hands to begin with.

I don't need to have all the stuff that makes the "classic" (read: everyone does it) amplified harmonica sound that people associate with "da blooz".

I'm not trying to make it sound like everyone else in the world has it easy and I don't. I'm just stuck in a really pain-in-the-ass situation. If I could sell my guitar (which I can't; it was a gift from a friend), I'd do so and turn the money into a few harmonicas.

Thanks for all the input so far!

21 Oct 13 - 09:43 PM (#3568720)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle

I sympathise with OP. I gave up the harmonica. Most instruments -once you've nought them - they stay bought. okay you need strings replacing - but buying a whole new harmonica every few weeks drove me up the wall.

Plus the fact - every time you bought them they seemed to find some way of making the quality that little crappier.

Bloody annoying instrument!

21 Oct 13 - 09:51 PM (#3568723)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

A decent full chromatic will rub 105 to 225 USD.

IT carries well ....Will bend and also slide.

( cheap investment for one who "gigs every day"....if already don't ... the meat slicer will teach you to "flat tinge" ....and your band mates can have today lingua for lunch...if you don't.

22 Oct 13 - 01:17 AM (#3568738)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Ebbie

OK, OP. I had seriously misjudged your situation. In fact, I was not aware that harmonica quality had declined so much, although I did know that prices have escalated. In my youth everyone had a harmonica or three; frankly they tended to *rust* before they went seriously out of tune.

22 Oct 13 - 01:24 AM (#3568740)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: michaelr

I still don't see what's so "tricky". You want the gig, you do what you need to do to do the gig. What was the question?

22 Oct 13 - 01:33 AM (#3568743)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Ballad Singer

Ebbie, I was absolutely floored when I saw an advertisement about two years ago for the Hohner Bluesband in a set of seven different keys for around $40! I couldn't believe that I could have some cheap, but sturdy enough harps for that low of a price.

I was right. It's unbelievable how much more cheaply the Chinese Bluesband harps are made now.

The cheapest harp I would buy from Hohner these days runs about 20 dollars. That's about what a Hohner Marine Band (a VERY popular model and the one almost all the old Chicago players used) cost when I started seriously playing. The Marine Band now costs close to FIFTY dollars.

John Phillip Sousa encouraged young people to learn the harmonica, as it was a reed/wind instrument that one could play his marches on. Hohner responded by issuing the Marine Band 1896 and putting Sousa's name and face on the packaging.

I honestly think Hohner got their arses handed to them in the 80s when Tombo really started getting noticed because their Lee Oskar harmonica was used by several very popular veteran players, like the late Junior Wells. Tombo also pioneered the RETAIL sale of replacement reeds, plates, etc. Hohner had those things available for years before Tombo, but never in stores. You had to write or call Hohner and order parts, and for years it was a chore unless you were a dealer.

Once Tombo's quality, tone and ease of maintenance became really popular, Hohner got caught in second place. By the late 90s... voila! Hohner replacement parts! Hohner advertising how simple it would be to maintain your harmonicas!

The downside to that is that Hohner began diversifying, selling harps at every conceivable price-point and lowering the quality of the materials they used. They were trying to make up revenue by flooding the market and playing on their name recognition.

Now most big-chain music stores have Hohner harmonicas. You just have to pay stupid inflated prices for their junk.

Tombo, Seydel (another German company like Hohner) and other better manufacturers have taken advantage of Hohner's decline in quality by raising their prices by 20% or more over the last 10 years or so, because they know if you don't want Hohner's cheap plastic and weak reeds, but you don't want to spend 50 bucks on a Marine Band, you have to look to one of these other makers instead. Instant profits!

22 Oct 13 - 01:59 AM (#3568746)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: PHJim

If you are trying to make a living at playing, then you have to be able to make enough to pay for the upkeep and replacement of your instruments. You can't afford to lose money on a gig and if you blow out a harp every gig, then that has to be figured into your price for the gig.
I guess I've been spoiled, but I couldn't gig with an $89 guitar any more than you could gig with a $4 harp.

22 Oct 13 - 04:01 AM (#3568769)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,FloraG

I expect they are tax dedectable - but I don't know about depreciation.
+ check your home insurance covers them

22 Oct 13 - 04:50 AM (#3568773)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Mr Happy

Best value for money models I've used lately are Planetone [don't know if its said 'Plane Tone or Planet One']

Good tone & cost £6 - £7 each

22 Oct 13 - 12:16 PM (#3568888)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: dick greenhaus

If you're being paid x dollars for a gig, and it costs you x+1 dollars to do it, it's not a business, it's a hobby.

22 Oct 13 - 01:19 PM (#3568910)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Tootler

Checked Mr Happy's link.

There is an update note at the foot of the page.

It says that Planetone have gone out of business following the death of their Managing director.

22 Oct 13 - 03:09 PM (#3568942)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: meself

If it's your gig, and you're putting a band together, you call the shots - buy one good harp, pitch every second or third or fourth song in a key suited to that harp, let your guitarist handle the instrumental breaks in the other songs. He won't mind. Replace harp when worn out. Buy more as budget allows.

22 Oct 13 - 05:58 PM (#3568991)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,Stim

If this is really a steady gig with a steady cash flow, apply for an Amazon credit card and buy a set of Lee Oskars(which they have). You can pay it off in small bits-even $15 or $20 a month if need be, and you'll have the instruments that you want. They'll give credit, though with a fairly low credit limit, to just about anyone, but it will be enough to buy what you want--

22 Oct 13 - 06:31 PM (#3569000)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: mg

I wonder if the friend would truly lmind you selling the guitar and buying what you need to help support your family.

22 Oct 13 - 06:35 PM (#3569001)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Steve Shaw

The harmonica is my only instrument. I've learned the hard and wasteful way over the decades about what works and what's crap. If you just want to play dependable harps that you won't have to constantly fiddle around with, but don't want to spend too much dough (though it's really easy to spend too little, thereby spending too much, if you see what I mean), I recommend Lee Oskars. I don't care for them much myself, but they are good and robust and well made. My own favourite, in the same price bracket, is the Suzuki Bluesmaster (though the Suzuki Promaster, which has the same reeds but on a metal comb, is even better - at a price). Hohners are beautiful when they are beautiful but rubbish when they let you down, which they often do. I'm in love with Hohner SP20s but I do have the skills to fiddle around under the covers (ahem...). There's no such thing as a free lunch and there's no such thing as a good, cheap harmonica. You really do have to start at the $25/£25 point, minimum. Seydels come in from that point upward but the very first one I ever bought, about three months ago, a Session Steel, let me down after just one session. I'll say no more.

22 Oct 13 - 08:28 PM (#3569053)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Al Whittle

I can think of fifty quid guitars thatI've sold and passed on that I would be happy to do a gig with. And you can always sell it - I usually DO.

But it really is a bugger to spend your money and then blow it out - and you're left with zilch. If i were you, I would talk with pro musicians.

You want to play harp - you must do what the pro's advise.

I've never done it - but common sense would suggest to me that if you paid a little attention to amplifying the harp - you wouldn't need to blow so hard onstage.

It works that way with guitar strings. For noisy gigs I play a modelling acoustic guitar that i can wind the amp up to 11, and make the noisy bastards ears bleed. I never break strings. If you play amplified you can actually be more subtle at normal volume because the sound is more compressed.

Perhaps I am talking crap, but you never know It might work for you.

23 Oct 13 - 07:00 AM (#3569184)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Mr Happy

Problem with buying gob-irons, unlike most other insts, is that you can't try 'em out to see if they're properly in tune etc.

23 Oct 13 - 10:33 AM (#3569256)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Al Whittle

there used to be a thing on the desks of music shops that you could put your harmonica in , press a bellows and you could sort of hear it - but not very well.

24 Oct 13 - 12:01 AM (#3569464)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Ballad Singer

Interestingly, it is against the health codes in the US for retailers to sell used harmonicas or accept returns on them except in cases of mechanical defect, wherein they would return the harmonica to the manufacturer. Not even the distributor is allowed to get the harmonica back if it's been used and found to be faulty. It has to go all the way back to the factory, where I would imagine it would be recycled or otherwise destroyed.

I don't know if people are actually forbidden to sell used harmonicas on the secondary market, but the time, effort and yuck factor involved in taking a stranger's used harmonica down to the screws and disinfecting every last bit of it is totally prohibitive, not to mention freakin' gross.

The bellows were taken out of music stores (at least this is what I was told) because the bellows would get dusty and whatever accumulated inside the holes in the bellows would be blown into the harmonicas, thus creating, essentially, a used harmonica, or at least one with yucky stuff blown into it.

I once lost approximately $50 worth of harmonicas at a jam session because some drunken ass who fancied himself a player decided he would nick a couple of mine from the side table while I was playing with my back turned. I looked in my case, saw they were missing and the idiot was still in the room, and looking for all the world like he wanted to hide under the bar.

Since I knew this dirt-bag to be devoid of personal hygiene habits, once I assumed he had tried to play my harps, I just told him to keep them; I encouraged him to go practice VERY far from the bandstand (like as far away, as quickly as possible) before I introduced him to a new song. It's called the "break my foot off in your arse" blues.

In the meantime, I've lost my cell service and my car insurance. I got ONE chance to APPLY for a deferment of this month's car payment. The next one is due in 22 days and there is no option for extension or deferment.

Anyone want to buy any Catholic collectibles? Lovely antique statue of the Sacred Heart, plus lots more.

How about vintage Disneyana? Really cute pre-Disney-World porcelain Mickey and Minnie.

Technics turntable? Leather men's car coat? "Charlie 1 Horse" brand beaver-felt cowboy hat?

Thanks for the input, all. More to come on this topic, I'm sure... it's always an adventure.

24 Oct 13 - 03:36 AM (#3569491)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,Howard Jones

This problem is one facing anyone who's been out of work, then finds a job and needs to equip themselves with the tools of their trade, whether that's a suit for the office, a bag of spanners, or musical instruments.

Is there any assistance available in your area for people in that situation? This might be from government or charities. You'd probably have to demonstrate that this can be turned into a way of making a long-term living, and the difficulty is that some people don't take being a musician seriously, although it's really no different from other freelance work.

Have you asked the other band members to lend you the money - you've got them the gig, so surely it's in their interests? If you can't equip yourself, there's no gig and no work for them.

24 Oct 13 - 04:15 AM (#3569499)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: breezy

try a kazoo mate

If you are serious then you buy serious

24 Oct 13 - 04:52 AM (#3569511)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Al Whittle

its why god made credit cards. when I had a job - before I went pro I took out as many with as big a credit line as I could, I knew such a time would come, and of course it did over the next thirty odd years - several times !

24 Oct 13 - 09:56 AM (#3569596)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: GUEST,Big Ballad Singer

Howard, unfortunately, no, there isn't any sort of resource such as you describe. The county social-services office will only give cash assistance to married people if BOTH people are either working or are in the county's work-equivalent program (putting the little pepper packets into the disposable cutlery kits you get at the drive-thru food places, or something LOL). We have grade-school-aged children, and we homeschool, so my wife cannot work outside the home. Thus, we are ineligible for said financial aid.

Breezy... "if [I'm] serious, then [I] buy serious"? With what money, exactly? I don't even have the cash to pay the bills I have. I don't think the people who give me my cell (which is already off) and Internet service care a rip that I have both bills and instruments to pay for.

Big Al, credit cards are not an option. Wish I could get one.

If I could find a source for a loan or a line of credit, I would guarantee, in writing, through a notary or however, a return in full within x number of months or what-have-you. There are just no sources where I would be able to justify asking for the money I need to satisfy my present bills and purchase instruments. You have to be working to get those "payday" loans, or in other cases you have to have collateral. Neither apply in my case.

24 Oct 13 - 10:34 AM (#3569606)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Steve Shaw

Those music shop bellows on the counter are a big con. All they tell you is that the harp has reeds inside it. It can't tell you whether the reeds have evenness of response (always a massive issue with cheap harps) or whether they are properly gapped, and you won't pick up much out-of-tuneness either. The reason? They do not play the harmonica with anything remotely resembling a human embouchure, and embouchure is everything (almost). I gave up buying super-cheapie harps a long time ago. Every harp I buy these days is OK off the shelf, though there may be minor gapping issues to fix (usually because I like gaps slightly more open than they sometimes come). Any harp that isn't fine-tuned to equal temperament gets retuned before I take it out to play. I rarely have to do any corrective work at all on Suzuki Bluesmasters or Promasters, and very little on Lee Oskars (they can come somewhat narrowly-gapped for my taste). Hohners are never quite right for me out of the box, but the required tweaking is easy and quick enough to do.

As for buying second-hand, well you can't live your life thinking that everyone in the world has a deadly transmissible disease. Having said that, I wouldn't buy a second-hand harp with a wood comb or one with valves, both of which are gunge and germ traps (you can, of course, if you can be arsed, change all the valves). But I'd happily buy a harp that is all plastic and metal which is unvalved. I remove the covers (and mouthpiece, if applicable) for a good clean, wash the assembled innards in warm soapy water, scraping off any gunge, dry and give a good wipe with isopropyl alcohol. A far bigger issue is whether the thing is being sold because it's knackered!

24 Oct 13 - 01:42 PM (#3569671)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Stringsinger

Howard Levy is the master of the overblow on SP20's. It seems to me to be practical
to master the overblows and play more tunes on one harp. It would require more practice, though. He gets a great sound.

24 Oct 13 - 04:43 PM (#3569730)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Howard Jones

It's Catch-22. How can you start to earn money without any money to start with?

Could you pawn your guitar for enough to buy a few harps, and redeem it later from the gig fees? How about crowdfunding?

24 Oct 13 - 05:14 PM (#3569735)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Ballad Singer

I don't really know from crowdfunding... and don't you have to offer some kind of reward or some such if people contribute to those sorts of things? Maybe someone can help me understand that concept.

I might be able to pawn it; I have to see if I can get to a pawn shop. The nearest ones are a bit of a drive, and gas is at a premium to be sure.

24 Oct 13 - 08:07 PM (#3569772)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Al Whittle

no one ever checked the truthfulness of the details I supplied when applying for credit,

I was always bloody careful to keep up payments and make sure they had no need for concern. My career was always on stop/start because my wifes medical condition was so unstable. and the cards helped me through many a crisis.

wouldn't use the pay day loans - they are crooks.

you'd be surprised - most muso's have to hustle, and scrabble around to keep the show on the road.

24 Oct 13 - 09:14 PM (#3569787)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Big Ballad Singer


I don't talk much about my life in the past on here; that's mainly because I never had time to do much more than browse once in a while.

I've been singing in public since I was 7. I'm 39 now. I've been performing on my own and with bands for nearly 25 years.

I've hustled every kind of hustle a cat can hustle. I've not only made ends meet, I've made ends make babies together! It sure took a lot, but my motto back in the day was, literally, "I'll always have a hustle".

For those who are not used to this particular jargon, there are different kinds of "hustle". There's hustle as in physical effort, like on a sports team.

Then there's hustle as in suckering people. Three-card monte, keeping an ace up one's sleeve... that kind of hustle is long behind me now; that kind can get one in boatloads of trouble. 'Nuff said.

Then there's the kind of hustle Big Al is talking about. It's the kind that says "no matter what, get it done".

I've been very encouraged by the advice and suggestions here so far. I'm down, but I've been down before. I will blow the blues again VERY soon, and I'll have your energies to thank in part for that.

On one side note, however, I'm afraid your experiences with credit-card companies, etc, are a little dated, Big Al. These days, what with electronic fraud and identity theft and what-all, the banks are fact-checking like crazy so they don't hemorrhage money like they did back in the 80s and 90s. It was probably YOUR fault, Mr. Whittle! ;-)

25 Oct 13 - 04:54 PM (#3570081)
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
From: Rara Avis

I have three harmonicas belonging to my late husband: Marine Band Hohner No. 1896, with book, in G; Hohner's Chromonika II Chromatische Mundharmonika in C; and King Harmonica "Best Double Holes", key unknown. The first two are in their origianal boxes. They haven't been played in decades. If you want them I will mail them to you. Send me a PM.