11 Ways to Connect in the Harmonica World

By Winslow Yerxa

Harmonica players, even top professionals, are amazingly generous and enthusiastic about this odd little instrument. Finding other harmonica players to jam with, learn from, and just hang out with used to be difficult. Now it’s ridiculously easy to connect with like-minded parties. You have tons of options.

Take lessons from a pro

A teacher can quickly show you something that may take pages of an instructional book to describe. A teacher can also offer immediate corrective feedback on dozens of physical nuances of technique. Check out Craigslist and more specialized sites such as Thumbtack.com, or local classified ads and music store bulletin boards for teachers offering their services.

Even though face-to-face interaction is best, harmonica teachers are increasingly using web cameras and online connections to teach by video at a distance using online video conversation services such as Skype and FaceTime.

Enjoy harmonica performances

If you go to a concert that features or prominently includes harmonica, you’re bound to meet other harmonica players and enthusiasts. To find harmonica performances to attend, check listings in your area for concerts and club dates by blues, jazz, and even classical acts that feature or include harmonica players. Also check out gig postings on the various harmonica pages on Facebook.

Seek out musical events that don’t focus on harmonica

Harmonica events and activities aren’t the only ones worth checking out. Harmonica can play a significant role in events where the instrument isn’t the main focus. In fact, even when no harps are onstage, harmonica players still turn out, especially for concerts in styles of music with a strong harmonica association, such as blues.

Let loose at jam sessions and open mic nights

At a jam session, musicians play for their own enjoyment. The audience is secondary, so musicians feel less pressure to put on a show. It’s more of a collegial atmosphere, though sometimes players compete with one another.

Jam sessions are a great way to become familiar with styles of music. Some jam sessions are held in bars and nightclubs at off times, and others take place at club meetings. Either way, you have to do some digging to find them.

Some bars and nightclubs offer open mic nights once a week. Check the entertainment and club listings in your local newspapers or online listings.

Contribute to harmonica discussion groups online

Online discussion groups are a great way to converse with other harmonica players worldwide. You aren’t obligated to speak up, however. You can just lurk and read posts by others or research the archives of a group for information on a topic. Never hesitate to ask a question, though.

Here are the main harmonica forums, starting with the biggest, followed by forums with more specialized subject matter:

If you’re interested in a particular style of music, check out discussion groups that focus on a musical style as opposed to a single instrument. To find groups, cruise Yahoo! Groups or just Google the name of the style together with “discussion group.”

Surf informational websites

The Internet is bursting with all kinds of harmonica information. Some of it you have to pay for, but most is freely available with a little searching. Here’s the best of the best harmonica sites:

Use paid content learning sites

Several excellent teachers host paid teaching sites where paying subscribers can work through structured learning materials, get feedback from teachers, and much more. Here are a few:

Join a harmonica club

Sometimes it’s great to get together with other harmonica players to talk shop, jam, and learn from one another. One way to do this is to join a harmonica club. Here are some good opportunities:

Share your enthusiasm at harmonica Festivals

At these harp fests you can hear great music, jam, learn new licks and tricks, and share with like-minded fanatics. Check for festivals in your area or consider attending the most popular festivals worldwide:

  • The Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival: Staged in even-numbered years in a host country around the Asian side of the Pacific Rim, the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival draws several thousand attendees to competitions, concerts, and workshops.

  • The SPAH Convention: Every summer, SPAH, the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica, stages a weeklong convention (really more of a festival) in a different U.S. city.

  • The World Harmonica Festival: In odd-numbered years, the Fédération Internationale de l’Harmonica stages a festival in Trossingen, Germany.

Sign up for a harmonica seminar

Seminars provide an experience somewhere between a harmonica festival and a private lesson. Seminars are social, but they’re focused on teaching and learning. Here are four traveling seminars that have been offered consistently over the last several years:

Advertise

Sometimes all you need to find other musicians is a handwritten notice on the bulletin board in the local music store or library. Or you may be able to post a free ad on Craigslist or a similar local online service. In your ad, mention the instrument you play, your level, the styles of music you’re interested in, instruments you’re looking to play with, and the goal.