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Harmonica Education Program

 

Harmonica Education Program

(Reprinted from The Harmonica Educator, Fall 2004 issue)

Note: This article is reprinted from the book, “A Handbook For Harmonica Clubs: For Forming and Running a Harmonica Club” © 2003 Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

Note. The following information is provided with suggestions for harmonica club members, on becoming a successful harmonica player.

What it takes to become a successful harmonica player

Basic skills needed

Music reading ability. In the future, more and more players will want to participate in a harmonica ensemble. Due to the complexity of ensemble musical arrangements, players must develop their music reading skills to be able to play 2 to 5 part musical arrangements. Gone are the days, when “by ear music in the key of C” will be sufficient for playing these arrangements.

Resistance to reading music in all keys

Realize that people resist change. No matter how sincerely individuals may be convinced of the necessity for reading and playing music in all keys, the natural emotional response, to this new requirement and the changes it will bring, is negative. No matter how acute the need to upgrade skills in musicianship and performance, it will take a super effort on your part to sell it, implement it and win enthusiastic cooperation to upgrade these skills.

Everyone must keep abreast of the changes in the harmonica field

Harmonica periodicals, harmonica club newsletters, and seminars are the key means for harmonica instructors, musical directors, and harmonica players to learn about and stay on top of what is happening in the harmonica field.

Establishing a positive environment for the harmonica

There may not be a consensus right now, but the writing appears to be on the wall --- to change the way the public thinks about the harmonica as not being a serious musical instrument, then players will have to change the way they are presenting the harmonica to the public.

Steps to be taken by the Harmonica Educator to upgrade the harmonica player’s musicianship and performance skills

1. Provide opportunities for training to upgrade the soloist and ensemble player’s musicianship and performance skill.

2. Focus on areas of harmonica instruction that will help upgrade the musicianship and performance skills of the soloist and ensemble player.

3. Target a market of players such as beginning players and by ear players, who are interested in playing as a soloist or in a harmonica ensemble.

4. Present a wide range of music to the public. One factor that will greatly influence the public’s view of the harmonica, as a serious musical instrument, is for harmonica clubs and the musical public to hear a wide range of music from the early musical periods to the present performed by disciplined soloists and ensemble players. Make a practice of playing quality music arrangements from the musical score for solo music. Include musical accompaniment, string ensembles, vocal, recorder music for the public, and less of the practice of playing by ear arrangements of the same old songs in the keys of C or G. Target a market of the musical public to hear quality music performed by disciplined soloists and ensemble players.

5. Work at organizing the overall field of harmonica musical education, into an efficient musical program of training, in specialized areas of musicianship and performance for the soloist and ensemble player. Determine the specialized categories of musical training.

6. Provide a training program for the development of harmonica instructors and musical directors. Provide a week training seminar for potential instructors, to become familiar with specialized areas of harmonica musicianship and performance skills, for the soloist and ensemble player.

7. Provide workshops and seminars for ensemble players of the diatonic, chromatic, bass and chord harmonicas concentrating on understanding of technique, the elements of music, articulation, dynamics, tempo, balance, blend, intonation, phrasing, and style. Additionally, the workshops and seminars should place emphasis on all players listening to the music performed, and to fellow ensemble players. Other workshops and seminars could emphasize the same for the harmonica teacher, as well as for the artist/performer playing with musical accompaniment (see the section on harmonica seminars, later in this book). Once workshops and seminars have been established, no matter how humble their beginnings, the recognized improvement in a participants’ musicianship and performance skills is normally enough to keep the workshops and seminars going and growing.

Consider what are the important areas for study, and what are the obstacles to overcome for the beginning player

a. Being able to play a variety of music from the score written in all keys.

b. Playing music written for the soloist and ensemble player for flute, recorder, oboe, voice, and barbershop music.

Encourage harmonica club members to participate in the upgrading of musicianship and performance skills of the soloist and ensemble player

Encourage club members to select individuals, who are interested in training as harmonica instructors and musical directors.

Analyze some reasons why many players want to play the music, by ear versus the musical score

For one thing, it is harder to play the music, from the musical score for individual musical parts. This requires a high degree of musical ability to play as a disciplined soloist or ensemble player. Much of the better musical solo and ensemble arrangements are difficult to play. It is easier for the average player to play the harmonica by convenience, rather than by the way the music wants us to play. It takes a lot motivation, effort, and practice to be able to play the better musical arrangements, for vocal, choral, recorder music, string ensembles, and solo selections with accompaniment. Because of this, the average player tends to occupy himself or herself with playing the music by ear, and in the key of C or G. As a result, these players tend to rely exclusively on their ears to learn music and get by up to a certain level, but a lack of reading skills restricts the level to which they could aspire.

Some final thoughts

Until a great majority of harmonica music is played from the musical score, the future is likely to bring a mix-and-match assortment of by ear harmonica music presented to the public. One factor that will greatly influence the public’s thinking, about the harmonica, is for them to hear a wide range of music from the early musical periods to the present performed by disciplined soloists and ensemble players. Do not specialize in just one type of music to play to the public. Make a practice of playing a wide range of quality music arrangements from the musical score, for solo music with accompaniment, string ensembles, vocal, recorder music for the public, and less of the practice of playing by ear arrangements of the same old songs in the key of C or G. By ear novelty music selections can be added to the repertoire. However, this is after the basic music repertoire is established. Target a market of the musical public and other harmonica clubs to hear a wide range of quality music, performed by disciplined ensemble players and soloists.

Richard Martin


 


Planet Harmonica - 2004