From that classic intro lick to the now-iconic and cliched followup, “So you wanna be a harp player?” Scott “Harpo” McCloskey’s “Harpin’ It Easy” taught many of us to suck and blow our way to some semblance of musicality on the harp. I remember asking the Guy Behind the Counter at my LMS about learning the harp as a preteen. Without hesitation, he took out the package, ripped it open, threw down the cassette tape and booklet, held up the included plastic “toy” harmonica, and said, “this is crap” then threw it in the waste basket with a clang. Then he pushed the tape and booklet over to me with a C Marine Band and continued, “But I wish I had this little instruction course when I was learning to play.” He charged me for the harmonica, which was the more expensive of the two items. So he basically gave me the tape and booklet for free.
This package has disappeared from the face of the earth. But it’s a good tutorial for a beginner or even intermediate harp player to brush up on. So in the interest of historic preservation, I am providing:
- The original booklet, scanned and processed for both print and computer display
- Both sides A and B of the cassette, conveniently broken into short subject-oriented tracks
Equipment: I recorded in stereo mp3 at 192kpbs on a small handheld Sony ICD-PX312, played through an old but fantastic handheld Panasonic Stereo Radio Cassette Player RQ-V164, with EQ set to middle on treble, mid and bass, and XBS set to “off” and volume on full. No additional processing, except renaming the files on the recorder after splitting them into tracks, which is honestly where I sank most of my time and work in this project.
The tape broke on my first attempt to record. I had to take the cassette apart and reattach the magnetic tape to the mylar tape with tiny little strips of scotch tape. Fortunately, it held up through recording both sides.
I did the scan work on ElementaryOS Luna (based on Ubuntu 14.04) using open source software Simple Scan at 600dpi from lossless copies using GIMP and LibreOffice Draw.
C harp not included.
If you want your mind blown with the potential of the “diatonic” harmonica, look up Howard Levy (“Bela Fleck and the Flecktones”). He plays the diatonic harp like a chromatic instrument for all musical styles and idioms. For great blues and extra instruction, look up Adam Gussow (“Kick and Stomp,” Satan and Adam, and his Youtube channel “Modern Blues Harmonica,” full of helpful information for beginner and intermediate players). Adam Gussow pays homage to his mentors, such as the great early black players his personal mentor, amazing street musician Nat Riddles.