When people think of teachers and instructurs I feel they often think of very experienced teachers. There is of course nothing wrong with this but I think there is value to be teaching harmonica even as a beginner, or rather a slightly more advanced beginner. In this article I will outline my thought on the benfits for the student and the teacher when the teacher is not very experienced.
Drawbacks of an inexperienced teacher
Let’s start with some obvious drawbacks. An inexperienced teacher will of course be unfamiliar with some of the more advanced techniques. If the student want to progress very quickly he or she may feel held back. Also the teacher may feel inadequate when teaching harmonica as a beginner. If this is enough to discourage the teacher or the student is a matter of personal preference.
Advantages for the teacher
I find that one of the things that is most valuable to be as a teacher is that I need to explain what I do. That extra effort you need to put in to explain what you recently learned to explain to somebody else can be really beneficial for your own learning. Teaching is also a great driving force to keep developing yourself. If your student(s) are not that much more inexperienced that you, this can be a strong driver.
Advantages for the student
Learning from a seasoned pro can be intimidating for some people. A less experienced teacher can definately be a plus if you feel that way. The fact that the teacher was learning the same thing not long ago can also work in favor of the student. It is easier to remember what was hard when the experience was not that far back. The teacher can be seem more as a fellow explorer of the instrument.
What about a combo for teaching harmonica?
It is of course up to each and everyone to decide who to learn from. However I feel that the idea of beginning teacher should not be too easily discarded. Especially when you live in an area where there are no experienced teachers. The combination of a slightly more advanced beginner teaching harmonica in combination with online teaching such as Bluesharmonica.com can be a powerful combination. This is also good for the teacher as you can get great material that way (both need to be members of course).
I hope you see that there can be value in both teaching as a beginner and being taught by a beginner.
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In my opinion the diatoinic harmonica is the best instrument in the world. It is especially suited for beginners which is both a blessing and and a curse. I do find sometimes that when don’t know what to expect when they take up playing harmonica. In this article I want to set your expectations as a beginner harmonica player.
One of the best thing with the diatonic harmonica is that you can start playing very quickly. Within a few minutes you can start with a train imitation. Building on this you can also do simple accompaniment with rhytmic patterns. This means that you can actually start playing with other musicians right from the start. You just need to be aware that you won’t be playing any advanced solos or melodies just yet. The best way to make progress is to practice daily, even if this means short sessions.
Most blues harmonica players are looking for the big fat tone you often hear in chicago style blues. When first starting out you will most likely have a thinner tone than you would like. This is because your tongue placement and throat relaxation have not been fully developed yet. The train imitation exercise mentioned earlier is the best way to getting a relaxed embouchure that
Getting into single note playing
To give you the most options for your later playing I recommend that you use the tongue blocking embouchure. Most people find tongue blocking more difficult that puckering to begin with. For this reason you will most likely have to expect that your single note playing will not be very clean to begin with. As long as you work on getting your precision up over time this is not a big issue as a beginner harmonica player. Learning tongue blocking is definately worth the time but it may feel like it takes a lot of time. Truth be told, you will be working on your embouchure as long as your play.
Developing your technique
Playing techniques as tremolos, vibratos and tongue blocking techniques such as tongue slaps are best added as needed when learning new material. You can always start learning new material without a certain technique and then add later. For example if a riff you are studing contains a lot of tongue slaps you can first learn it clean so that you are familiar with the sequence of notes. When you know the riff you can work on the sound of the riff with the techniques you need to add.
If you play over 12 bar blues and play in second position you can start playing solos pretty quickly. You may want to have developed a little bit of single note precision but second position and 12 bar blues is pretty safe for a beginner harmonica player.
I hope this gives you a fair understanding of what to expect as a beginner harmonica player. Don’t forget to check out the Welcome Package for becoming a subscriber to my newsletter. Click below to sign up!
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