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Author Topic: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"  (Read 4924 times)

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mikesmics

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"The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« on: December 12, 2010, 09:20:47 AM »
 ::)  I see so much of this comment on this forum that I thought it might make a very interesting topic.

Why would, and what would make people say that?  Where did such a reputation for this fine instrument come from?  Is it because they make toy versions of it?  They make toy and plastic and stamped tin versions of just about every other "fine/real" instrument out there, but they are still considered to be "real".  I've even seen a real full grand piano made out of plastic.  Some of the most revered musicians out there use the harmonica as their main axe, and some of the most popular music is harmonica-based.  You can now pay more for a harmonica than for a good, even great guitar, a not bad upright piano, (or a car  ;))  ( Just as an aside, the didgeridoo suffers the same malady, when in fact it is the oldest known woodwind instrument known, about 40,000 years old, and nowadays is used as both the lead instrument and for background/rhythm in a variety of bonafide musical forms).
« Last Edit: December 12, 2010, 09:43:29 AM by mikesmics »

Offline jazmaan

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2010, 09:35:22 AM »
Didn't you omit the word "diatonic" there?   :D :P



(Just kidding!)

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2010, 09:47:27 AM »
Didn't you omit the word "diatonic" there?   :D :P



(Just kidding!)

Shhhhh!  (whispering; no diatonic discussion here)! ;D

Offline Gnarly He Man

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2010, 09:50:54 AM »
The oldest instrument in the world is the human voice.
I know, I was there  ;D
But seriously, there is a show on the telly here in the states called Sing Off, where vocal groups compete.
The first group to be eliminated this time around was a peerless ensemble from Yale, the only one that didn't do beatboxing as part of their sound.
So good singing is great, but the novelty of vocal percussion was missing.
What does this have to do with the thread?
Is beatboxing a real instrument? No more than the k-a-z-o-o(ooh, the idiotic noisemaker) :P
Is the harmonica a real instrument? Much more so than beatboxing. >:(
Does harmonica get more respect than beatboxing?
You tell me :-X
Gary

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2010, 10:01:37 AM »
The oldest instrument in the world is the human voice.
I know, I was there  ;D
But seriously, there is a show on the telly here in the states called Sing Off, where vocal groups compete.
The first group to be eliminated this time around was a peerless ensemble from Yale, the only one that didn't do beatboxing as part of their sound.
So good singing is great, but the novelty of vocal percussion was missing.
What does this have to do with the thread?
Is beatboxing a real instrument? No more than the k-a-z-o-o(ooh, the idiotic noisemaker) :P
Is the harmonica a real instrument? Much more so than beatboxing. >:(
Does harmonica get more respect than beatboxing?
You tell me :-X
Gary

Human voice?  Vocal percussion?  Check this out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05ip-N0H1Ig

Oh, and I said, "oldest known woodwind instrument".  ;)
« Last Edit: December 12, 2010, 10:11:17 AM by mikesmics »

Ribcracker

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2010, 10:34:05 AM »
Quite frankly, I have never heard anyone say that a harmonica isn't a real instrument. Ever! And I don't think anyone ever would. I just think that's something some of us have invented because we feel defensive for some reason. I've heard people who are indignant in general say things like; we aren't supposed to say "this" or do "that" anymore because it's not pc. Listen, pal, it's never been appropriate/acceptable to be rude or disparaging to someone else's culture, customs or their instruments. And no one wants to take your customs (or your instrument) away from you.
So relax. No one is dissing our our beloved hamonkas. Ask anyone!  It's only your imagination. Most people are bowled over by adept harmonicists.

samtheman

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2010, 10:59:28 AM »
Quite frankly, I have never heard anyone say that a harmonica isn't a real instrument. Ever! And I don't think anyone ever would. I just think that's something some of us have invented because we feel defensive for some reason. I've heard people who are indignant in general say things like; we aren't supposed to say "this" or do "that" anymore because it's not pc. Listen, pal, it's never been appropriate/acceptable to be rude or disparaging to someone else's culture, customs or their instruments. And no one wants to take your customs (or your instrument) away from you.
So relax. No one is dissing our our beloved hamonkas. Ask anyone!  It's only your imagination. Most people are bowled over by adept harmonicists.

Yep - I've often thought the same thing.  I'm sure *I* never heard anyone say that.  It's a classic 'straw man' polemic.  It's very similar to the whole outrage over flag burning in the '60s.  There is only one known, documented incident of flag burning from that decade but to hear people talk about it and write about it, it happened all the time.

Here's the thing.  Since the harmonica is extremely portable and pretty cheap (yeah, we gripe about prices a lot here but really, compared to other musical instruments, harmonica's are cheap) it gets into a lot of people's hands, or at least it used to.  So, for several decades it had been possible for everybody to hear somebody, somewhere, playing a harmonica - and based on the odds and the nature of the instrument it's was far more likely to hear really bad playing. 

I'll bet that if saxophones were historically as cheap and as ubiquitous as the harmonica you'd have a heck of a lot of people walking around today with chips on their shoulders about how they think the world perceives them and their chops.  And for every 40 players, 38 of them would probably be really lousy sax players.

Sam   

 

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2010, 11:10:59 AM »
Seriously, I have heard this sentiment echoed here on quite a few occasions.  Just today in a post by Minima as an example: "One of my work colleagues considered that the harmonica was not a proper instrument ... because his 8 year old plays a $2.00 one."  The intent of this post is just to explore this perception by some about our instrument out of pure interest.

Offline Jens Bunge

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2010, 11:13:33 AM »
If you really want to spoil your day, you can read the comments of a certain "alliecat73" on a youtube clip of "Flight of the Bumblebee" played on harmonica:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmjCaXZ8wVI

Starting from page 17 of the comments, he insists on his opinion, that the harmonica is NOT a real instrument, but just a childrens toy. This guy admits he plays trumpet and french horn which take "a lot of practice and skill, unlike harmonica".

Jens

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2010, 11:16:22 AM »
If you really want to spoil your day, you can read the comments of a certain "alliecat73" on a youtube clip of "Flight of the Bumblebee" played on harmonica:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmjCaXZ8wVI

Starting from page 17 of the comments, he insists on his opinion, that the harmonica is NOT a real instrument, but just a childrens toy. This guy admits he plays trumpet and french horn which take "a lot of practice and skill, unlike harmonica".

Jens

Hence the harmonica should require no practice and skill?  Then I must be totally inept :P

Minima

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2010, 12:45:14 PM »
Pretty much.  

Some of you must be very privileged! If you've never heard anyone condescend on the harmonica!   I'd like to live somewhere warm and sweet cocooned like you guys who never hear any unpleasantries about the harmonica as a professional instrument ;)

Would you get into the Royal College of Music or the Moscow Conservatory, on the grounds of your harmonica playing?  Or perhaps, the De La Salle Institute, or the Paris Conservatory playing harmonica?  You would for the flute...or the piano etc.  Even ethnic instruments, like the Dizi, or Xiao - in regional conservatories these are viable.  But the harmonica?

Well that's a world away from my school orchestra memories.  The harmonica just did not figure.  It was irrelevant as far as music tuition went.  It was the butt of all mouth organ jokes.  Even my friends and family who I've grown up with, and have seen my harmonica multiple three fold in the space of 6 months, are not that far from giving it a bashing: the difference is - they've grown up and matured, and are more accepting of me playing it.  In contrast, they go out of their way to tell me that hearing the flute being played is relaxing, but hearing my harmonica being played, they keep quiet and pass no comment.

Mike - the funny thing, was, the colleague who rubbished my harmonica, actually played the banjo a few years ago!   Double standards eh, lol.  Well, I'm the only person I know who plays the harmonica.  I've seen folk musicians in concerts play a harmonica, but most everyone else I know, plays piano; guitar; cello; violin; flute or hi-fi.   I hope the tide is changing, and the harmonica is being accepted as a serious musical instrument.  

Now there is something, about childhood instruments, being considered as non-serious musical instruments.   The 'recorder' suffers from this fate - not that it is easy to play either.  The Baroque recorder, and the tenor recorders are fabulous - however any time colleagues or acquaintances find out I play the flute, they mention: "I was never that musical.  I only played the recorder but I was stuff at that even." - as if to say, somehow, there is a hierarchy of instruments, and the recorder is below the flute, just as a harmonica is below any other 'proper' instrument.  

I'm sure whoever plays the Orchestral Triangle in the orchestra gets a lot of ribbing and wide-eyed wonders!

Mario

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2010, 01:36:33 PM »
Quite frankly, I have never heard anyone say that a harmonica isn't a real instrument. Ever! And I don't think anyone ever would. I just think that's something some of us have invented because we feel defensive for some reason. I've heard people who are indignant in general say things like; we aren't supposed to say "this" or do "that" anymore because it's not pc. Listen, pal, it's never been appropriate/acceptable to be rude or disparaging to someone else's culture, customs or their instruments. And no one wants to take your customs (or your instrument) away from you.
So relax. No one is dissing our our beloved hamonkas. Ask anyone!  It's only your imagination. Most people are bowled over by adept harmonicists.

Yep - I've often thought the same thing.  I'm sure *I* never heard anyone say that.  It's a classic 'straw man' polemic.  It's very similar to the whole outrage over flag burning in the '60s.  There is only one known, documented incident of flag burning from that decade but to hear people talk about it and write about it, it happened all the time.

Here's the thing.  Since the harmonica is extremely portable and pretty cheap (yeah, we gripe about prices a lot here but really, compared to other musical instruments, harmonica's are cheap) it gets into a lot of people's hands, or at least it used to.  So, for several decades it had been possible for everybody to hear somebody, somewhere, playing a harmonica - and based on the odds and the nature of the instrument it's was far more likely to hear really bad playing. 

I'll bet that if saxophones were historically as cheap and as ubiquitous as the harmonica you'd have a heck of a lot of people walking around today with chips on their shoulders about how they think the world perceives them and their chops.  And for every 40 players, 38 of them would probably be really lousy sax players.

Sam   

 

I totally agree Sam, every time when I play harmonica in front of audience (I am not talking like concert, but random audience, birthday party per example) there are always at least few people who are quite stunned with my performance (and I am not that good at all  ) . They say something like "I have a cousin who plays harmonica but You are so much better" "My brother plays harmonica too, but he can`t play melodies, he just improvises" "and so on, You get the picture.

The bottom line is, everybody can try to play harmonica because of portability, cheap versions of harmonicas and so on but it is relatively rare to find a good (not even very good or great) player.

When You see harmonica in movies they are often played just for scenery, no melody, just random blowing and drawing with exception in "Once upon a time in the west" where it at least plays a few notes melody :)  People tend to unconciously pick up that kind of "propaganda".

My mother used to say (few years back when I started diatonic), son why are You playing that little thing which hurts Your lips, You seem talented for music, play a real instrument, there is Your grandpa`s accordion in the closet :)

Renault

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2010, 02:18:54 PM »
"Listen, pal, it's never been appropriate/acceptable to be rude or disparaging to someone else's culture, customs or their instruments."

Right on my brother! John Wayne said that he lived by a motto that his father taught him "Never unintentionally insult anyone."

I have a vague recollection that there is/was someone on this forum that is in a Conservatory (in Europe?) and uses the harmonic as his main instrument.

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2010, 02:51:14 PM »

My mother used to say (few years back when I started diatonic), son why are You playing that little thing which hurts Your lips, You seem talented for music, play a real instrument, there is Your grandpa`s accordion in the closet :)

And there you have it!

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2010, 02:55:20 PM »

Pretty much.

 

 ;D ;D



I'm sure whoever plays the Orchestral Triangle in the orchestra gets a lot of ribbing and wide-eyed wonders.


Hmmm.  Maybe I should try that, and become a respected member of a symphony orchestra ;D

SHG

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2010, 03:17:24 PM »
I know the harmonica is real.  I've seen one.

SHG

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2010, 03:24:48 PM »

I'm sure whoever plays the Orchestral Triangle in the orchestra gets a lot of ribbing and wide-eyed wonders.

[/quot

Hmmm.  Maybe I should try that, and become a respected member of a symphony orchestra ;D
[/quote]



Actually, there is no "triangle player" in a symphony orchestra.  The triangle is played by a percussionist who is adept at fifty different instruments.

Also, the best triangles, or the Stradivari of triangles are made by Alan Abel.  He found the best sounding triangles were made from old knitting spindles
« Last Edit: December 12, 2010, 03:33:12 PM by Bozz »

Offline Jimmy Halfnote

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2010, 04:25:30 PM »
 Philip Achille studied at the Royal College of Music in London, didn't he, for a BM degree, on chromatic harmonica .
                  He was also a busker     :)
                                                                                                   jh.

Offline wolfman

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2010, 05:00:31 PM »


    As my granddaugther,age 4 or 5 used to say"And thats from that"

CactusGuy

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2010, 05:36:31 PM »
I have heard more than one person express that opinion since I started learning that *other* type of harmonica, and even after I started learning chromatic. My response to them is that anyone who thinks the harmonica (either type) isn't a real instrument has never seen one skillfully played. Or if they did, they didn't comprehend it.


Offline SlideMeister

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2010, 05:54:22 PM »
Bingo! It's about time one of you guys nailed it!  8)  I was starting to worry over here. All little kids play them, and NOT ENOUGH ADULTS PLAY THEM WELL, period, end of story, over and out, yadayadayada. When they are played well, there are always folks who feel compelled to come up to you and say so (to their amazement) They don't do that as much with any other instrument, because its no surprise. A good player is always a surprise, because they do in fact think it's a toy. IMO

@ge
« Last Edit: December 12, 2010, 06:01:40 PM by A.J.Fedor »
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Offline SlideMeister

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2010, 06:22:13 PM »
Jens said:
Starting from page 17 of the comments, he insists on his opinion, that the harmonica is NOT a real instrument, but just a childrens toy. This guy admits he plays trumpet and french horn which take "a lot of practice and skill, unlike harmonica".



He probably shouldn't brag like that till he can play the Chromatic cleaner. (he starts clean but gets sloppy at the end) If he really feels he's "lowering himself" playing a "toy" he should just stick to what he's good at.  8)
Scientific Studies conducted as SlideMeister International show that folks who financially support SlideMeister immediately begin to play better! :)

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #22 on: December 12, 2010, 08:42:39 PM »
Jens said:
Starting from page 17 of the comments, he insists on his opinion, that the harmonica is NOT a real instrument, but just a childrens toy. This guy admits he plays trumpet and french horn which take "a lot of practice and skill, unlike harmonica".



He probably shouldn't brag like that till he can play the Chromatic cleaner. (he starts clean but gets sloppy at the end) If he really feels he's "lowering himself" playing a "toy" he should just stick to what he's good at.  8)

Say, why don't you post that comment right on his Youtube video 8)

triggerfinger

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #23 on: December 12, 2010, 10:02:51 PM »
Do I care if somebody called the harmonica a toy? Nope.

mikesmics

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #24 on: December 12, 2010, 10:10:21 PM »
Do I care if somebody called the harmonica a toy? Nope.

I have lots of toys, not the least of which are my harmonicas.  However, in the sense of a real musical instrument...

Ribcracker

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #25 on: December 13, 2010, 04:59:59 AM »
Do I care if somebody called the harmonica a toy? Nope.
Exactly!
Out of morbid curiosity, I read some of the youtube comments that Jens referenced. Wow! Was this a junior high school homework assignment for underachieving boys? What a pathetic display of ignorance, arrogance, and pettiness. Does this portend the level of intelligence we can expect from the upcoming generation? What a dreary prospect. Devolution at work. Pitiful!

FedericoC

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #26 on: December 13, 2010, 05:05:30 AM »
You know, I think Age pretty much nailed it.
Also, don't forget the harmonica is a young instrument, the chrom's even younger.
Guitar didn't have much acceptance in the gotha of art music until Andres Segovia appeared...

You know, I happen to work in IT and I've always been involved in Open Source technologies.
I've always liked what Eric S. Raymond told about naysayers who argued OSS couldn't be a viable business and technical model:

Shut Up And Show Them The Code

so, in our case we'd have:

Shut Up And Let Them Listen To The Music.

the rest will come.

-- Federico

P.S. if anybody is interested in the quoted article about OSS , it's here: http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/shut-up-and-show-them.html
« Last Edit: December 13, 2010, 06:47:55 AM by FedericoC »

Offline Jens Bunge

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #27 on: December 13, 2010, 09:17:52 AM »
Age and Mike,

there is a misunderstanding: it's not the guy who plays the harmonica in the video who comments so badly about the instrument (or "toy" as he calls it), it's somebody else who argues with other viewers.

Jens

Offline smojoe

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #28 on: December 13, 2010, 09:24:02 AM »

Right you are Jens, and the alleycat seems to be the ONLY one disputing the status of the harmonica.

On another note, I played trumpet before my terrible face altering accident and I can tell you that once you get your lips accustomed, a trumpet is easier to play than a chromatic (OR diatonic in some cases). Can't speak for French horn. I am under advisement that the difference is that it takes a lot of wind.

smo-joe

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Re: "The harmonica is NOT a Real Instrument"
« Reply #29 on: December 13, 2010, 09:37:50 AM »
I spoze it's my fault; as I've said in the past: I hate to read, and since I find most of the comments on youtube so totally lame, I generally don't read them. (most youtube commenters think everything is "awesome" and for the record, very little actually is, and none of which can be attributed to anything "people" do. I recently sent a note to a guy to turn off the "comments" on youtube cuz it just gives lowlifes and garbage mouth ignorami an opportunity to alert the world of their existence.  :)

And, right, while I do consider my harmonicas "my toys," I'm the only one I allow to call them that  ;D

@ge
« Last Edit: December 13, 2010, 09:40:35 AM by A.J.Fedor »
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