Sunday, October 2, 2016

Come On, Get Happy

The Folkmaster® Harmonica is a professional instrument, whereas the Hohner "Ol' Standby was a serviceable one.

The difference is especially noticeable in the very highest register (holes 8, 9 and 10) which I just never played on the Standby. The reason is that they were difficult to play, seeming to require more air and that the air be coming from one precise angle, the way that thumbs must be held just so in order to get a note to sound from the cap of an acorn, or how the breath must be passed over the top of a glass bottle in order to make a tone. It's a lot of consideration for someone who is in the middle of playing a melody and can't afford to lose any time between notes to make adjustments.

It's almost as if those notes are "not meant" to be played, and are there just because it's ostensibly a "10 hole diatonic harmonica" Like the very top keys on a cheap piano that kind of just make a *ping* sound, which you can live with because you never need them. If you ever graduate to those few specific compositions by Shubert, Chopin or Debussey that actually use them, then you would have graduated to a better piano, through hook or crook.

The Folkmaster® is a better piano.

I made 33 bucks last (Saturday) night, beginning at 9:28 PM and knocking off at 1:31 AM.

I have just recently started to see groups of people who will stand or sit around nearby. Not right in front of me where I might feel a compulsion to interact with them or to play in such a way as to not  subvert any tips that their standing so close to the jar might imply are at least under consideration of being thrown.

I like to fancy that either:

A: They are enjoying the music but are really kind of broke.

B: Enjoy the kind of stuff that I do when there is nobody really listening, and so, pretend that they aren't listening just to see how far I will push the outer envelope of strangeness in order to catch someone's attention.

C: Enjoy the "vibe" that I am creating, at least right around the Lilly Pad, and hang around for the same reason that certain people will pick a certain tree to meet at, or a spot where a huge owl makes frequent appearances.

D: I am playing what they think would be the appropriate soundtrack for the kind of night they are having.

It would be pretentious of me to assume that they even notice me; but there has been a correlation between when I have thought that I was sounding good, with new strings, new harp and in a good mood; and their appearance.

They remind me of animals like deer, which only come closer by degrees.
A couple times, when I had stopped to tune up or smoke a cigarette, I noticed a few people turn their heads my way, as if wondering why I had stopped.

So, I have made about 40 dollars in 2 nights with the Folkmaster® harmonica, that I had cringed over spending 20 on. It has opened up a new world of key signatures and helped me see the fret board in different ways; and I am finally starting to understand why so darned many songs are written in the key of E blues on the guitar. It's like the way an old acquaintence of mine described having sex in the doggie style position: "Everything is right there in front of you."


alex carter said...

The Suzuki harmonicas are well thought of, BTW it's a different company than the one that makes the motorcycles. While Hohner makes "professional" harmonicas, the ones you've been buying are ones they shit out by the millions and the quality is just "good enough" in fact it's probably a relief when some reeds get stuck or stop working altogether so Dad can get a break from his son's incessant playing or the town square finally gets a rest from that stupid crusty kid and his Marine Band wheezing.

I've considered playing the "harp" but even really good playing gets no respect here; the assumption being you're good because you've spent time in jail with only your "harp" for company, I guess. Combining it with guitar is much better, and I think I've seen a harmonica-and-guitar guy maybe twice, not more than that, around here.

alex carter said...

I should add that most serious "harp" players become adept at taking their "harps" apart and using a fine paintbrush to clean out food particles etc that jam up the reeds, even re-tuning the reeds, and all sorts of black magick. The rest have someone do it for 'em because say I'm an ace harp-fixer, sure I'll happily go through your $40 Special-20 and have it running again for a $10-spot, because I can probably do it 15 minutes. Some "pro" harps are even made to be easy to take apart like the Hohner XB-40 and that other one Toots Theilmanns endorses.

As mentioned, I really seriously considered making the "harp" my instrument. But when all's said and done, it's an underappreciated instrument. And a "pocket" trumpet or even a cornet takes up about the same space as a set of "harps" and for some reason, if you can pull off any decent music at all on a trumpet or cornet, you're a damn hero. Play a "harp" and it's, "What were you in for?"