…a friend asked me some time about my harmonica playing. I’ve actually not declared myself to be “a musician” until very recently. What I finally got is that what I do with the harp is music even if I don’t have a strong grounding in the mechanics of the art.
The way I understand it (and my experience supports this) is that you can spend a lot of money on a very finely made expensive harmonica and you won’t necessarily get a lot more sound out of it. So my favorite is a “Blues Harp” in the key of A. I’ve also had one of those in B, and I think I had a C once. (It would make the most sense for me to get one of those again, now that I think more of accompanying others.) Right now the one I carry around with me is that A. I also have an A flat, Lee Oskar. It’s a beautiful harp with a pretty sound, but I don’t know much what to do with it.
That brings me to the question, what do I play or do with my instruments. I have been carrying them around for about almost 10 years now, only occasionally being intentional about the matter. And I’ve joked often that I know only one song. It’s called “The Song That Comes Out When Vincent Plays.”
I mostly improvise around a handful of riffs that I’ve developed for myself by just being with the instrument. I have this thing that I do sometimes. I take a harp, and just put myself in a place that I believe is beautiful. Then I start to play what comes for me. I move around and look at my surroundings, and the song changes as I see new things. It’s like stream of consciousness improv. I’ve never empowered it before by seeing what it really is. I’ve always just shrugged it off as “just screwing around.” And I’m not saying that it’s anything special. I just see that I’ve never given it the space to be anything special. It could be.
I do wonder what would happen with an audience if I just pulled out a harp and started riffing off of how they occurred for me.
Lately though, I’ve started to be more intentional about learning the lyrics to certain songs. If you’re keeping track, here are some that I’ve been working with recently.
Pilgrim Highway – Mark Erelli
Just Another Gringo in Belize – Jerry Jeff Walker
In the Palm of Your Hand – Alison Kraus
Let’s Make a Family – Mark Erelli
Yakity Axe – Chet Atkins & Merle Travis
Ford Econoline – Nanci Griffith
…there are others, it’s just the my brain is still a little bit of mush this morning.
I know that I’ve been away from the journal for a while, and I keep teasing that I have a bunch of entries saved up inside me. I am almost to the end of a writing project for work, and then I’ll be able to do a lot more of my own discretionary writing. Even before that though, I can scribble out a couple of seasonal entries and will do that soon.