[Edu-sig] Harmonica and CP4E

Stephen R. Figgins fig@oreilly.com
Fri, 18 Feb 2000 10:27:26 -0800

I was describing my experience learning to play harmonica to a friend
this morning.  I was comparing a couple of books one an older book on
Ron 'n Blues Harmonica by Jon Gindick, and also the Mel Bay book You
Can Teach Yourself Harmonica. 

I started with the Mel Bay book, but there was a lot of focus on what
the notes were and how to hold you tounge.  I was finding it very
challenging.  I switched to Gindick's book.  He started out by telling
a story about when Adam and Eve first learned music, and continued
with stores of Stone, a caveman harmonica player.  The stories were
silly, but the writing was extremely encouraging.  He was covering
some advanced theory stuff on I-IV-V chord progressions and how to
play harmony with them.  He explained cross-harp, straight-harp and
slant harp methods, how to progress through a set of notes to
improvise sounds.  How to bend the three hole.  How to pucker out a
single note.

The topics were advanced, but the approach simple and inspiring, fun
to learn.  Glindick starts you out with three simple chords and four
basic harmonizing notes, and gets you experimenting with rhythms,
length of notes, basic riffs.  It has been a blast.  Can't say I am
very good yet, but about a day of the Glindick book has taken me
further along than about a week of struggling with the Mel Bay book.

The friend with whom I was describing this pointed out that
intermediate and advanced players tend to forget the passion part that
got them into it in the first place.  They think about all the things
that are important to know, and when teaching have a tendency to focus
on those things.  He suggested this was true of any art.  It's a
tendency toward drill and structure.  We agreed that this was probably
the most damaging thing you can do to the young artist.  You kill
their inspiration by trying to teach them all the fundamentals.  If
instead you give them a lot of slack, they have more room for play.
You increase the chance that they might make a mistake, but that opens
them up to new questions, new opportunities for learning.  

I was struck by how similar Glindick's approach and the Wilderness
Awareness School's approach were.  Inspiration and storytelling,
encouragement, a sense of play.  They build excitement while teaching.
And the voice used in the instruction is not that of the reserved
teacher, but that of the involved mentor.  They sound like someone on
the inside, passionate about your success, friendly, accessable.

Something to consider when teaching CP4E.

Stephen R. Figgins