I started playing harmonica in the middle of November 1998. I made a mental note. I was 19 ½ at the time. People start playing music for different reasons. I had two. The first was that for some reason (possibly tying to the ancient way of the samurai?), my still developing frontal lobe determined that a real man must play an instrument. A tiny instrument. The other reason that I started was because I wanted to be in Jimmy Buffett’s band. At least I had the sense to realize that was unlikely and started writing songs and playing guitar (at the time Buffett was still playing with the badass Greg “Fingers” Taylor at first chair harmonica). Now, a full 12 years later I have learned a few things. About the downside of playing harmonica. So if you are tempted to pick one up and start, please read on. What you find may just convince you not to.
7) Harmonicas are expensive.
Looking at a harmonica it is tempting to think that because it is small that it is cheap. This is far from true. Of course there are cheap, piece of crap harmonicas which you can buy. They tend to work just about as well as a cheap; piece of crap condom might work. Want to try it? A standard 10 hole diatonic (normal) harmonica costs anywhere between $25-$40. This would not be a big deal unless you factor in the different keys you will need. Then your number might jump to 15. So you are suddenly looking at between $375-600. And you need to replace broken ones. And if you play blues you will need a mic and tube amp (unless you are the Bruce Willis type of “bluesman”). Now you are approaching $1,000. And you still sound like crap. So you will need lessons. Wait, they make harmonica lessons? Yes, and a great harmonica teacher is hard to find. And when you do find a guy like Grant Dermody, lessons cost $1 a minute. And the shortest lesson is 30 minutes. And a good teacher will easily convince you that you are so bad you need an hour lesson. Of course these will pay off when Buffett hires you (“Fingers Taylor left The Coral Reefer Band about 8 years ago).
6) Annoying Bob Dylan comparisons.
Let’s try and forget the fact that Woody Guthrie ever existed (if you have never heard of him slap yourself as hard as you can, and ask the next person you meet to punch your face). Even if we could do that, it still doesn’t make Bob Dylan less of a thief or more of a pioneer of playing harmonica and guitar at the same time. To the best of my knowledge the first person to do that was Jesse Fuller, who is most famous for writing “San Francisco Bay Blues.” Sadly most people don’t know that. So if you happen to want to try to play harmonica and guitar at the same time, rest assured, you will be compared to Bob Dylan. If you do happen to play harmonica and guitar at the same time, and your harmonica playing does in fact sound like Bob Dylan’s playing, please, quit playing immediately. The quality of Bob Dylan’s harmonica playing is somewhere between that of children’s toys coated in lead paint, and that of a cheap, piece of crap harmonica. The last thing any harmonica player would want is to sound like him. Like a wounded bobcat.
Pictured: A wounded bobcat
I can’t speak for any other instruments, but since harmonicas are small and seem look like toys, everyone thinks they can play. Bob Dylan didn’t help with his cheap, piece of crap playing. Because of this there is going to be a time when your friend, the drunk guy at church, or a prostitute might want to play your harmonicas. This is not only gross, but how good would you feel if a prostitute blew your low F sharp note and broke it? Not very good considering the fact that you would probably have to order a replacement by mail. Also you do not want the mouth of a prostitute anywhere near the instrument where your mouth will be because that is how germs are shared. Plus it’s a prostitute. I personally have had to punch my old roommate for playing my harmonicas (he thought it was HILARIOUS to play them when I told him not to). Even though he was actually not a prostitute (surprising) it was still gross. It was also a great excuse for punching him. I would do the same to anyone else who dares to try it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!!!!
4) You will be forced to perform at random times.
Pictured: The monkey represents you as a harmonica player
Did someone ask if I had a harmonica? Hell yes I have a harmonica!
It's so EASY!
Note: In the days following this posting, I had the lingering suspicion that I was forgetting something. Upon some serious naval gazing it came to me! I was! There were at least two more very legitimate reasons not to start with harmonica playing! First of all, the harmonica is commonly misidentified by too-hip for their own good morons (AKA, buffoons). The lists of their offenses is long, but by far the worst is when they call a harmonica a "Jews harp." Let me just say that I don't even say the word Jew. Ever. Not even as part of another word like: juice or June. When reffering to Jew's I simply call them "those people." I figure that their is zero chance of being labeled an anti-Semite if I never say it. So to call myself a "Jew's harp player" would be obscene! Not only is the name possibly racist, an actual Jew's harp is in fact a jaw harp, which is one of those metal things that go "boing boing boing" and are often played by hillbilly Scooby Doo villians! So, no thank you, I do not want you to racistly misidentify the instrument I spend hours practicing in order to be less crappy than Bob Dylan. Thank you.
Second, the harmonica is one of the only instruments (it belongs to the free-reed family) which requires an inhalation of breath in order to create more than half the available notes. Essentially, you cannot play harmonica without inhaling. Also known as sucking. Of course, because not all harmonica players are incredibly stupid/perverted (that covers only 98%) the rest have decided that it should be called "drawing." This is smart, because it is in fact a better term, a more controlled inhalation of breath as opposed to a violent "sucking." There is also the part about not instigating consistently awful comments about "sucking." Do I really need to expound on the wide variety of unoriginal/obnoxious ways the term "sucking" can be misconstrued? Oh, you have all watched Two and a Half Men? OK, good to know. The Buzzman.