So I'm officially one fifth of the way through my "30 Weeks" goals! This week, my goal was to learn to play "When Irish Eyes Are Smilin'" on a harmonica. This may not sound like a lot, but I have a spotty history with musical instruments...
At five, my mom and dad signed me up for violin lessons, which I apparently didn't like and gave up immediately. When I was twelve, Dad got me private piano lessons and I never got the hang of practicing or reading music, and after a few months (and one fairly decent rendition of "My Heart Will Go On") I gave up. (Dad later bought a family keyboard with a bunch of sound effects that I took to college with me, but it was really more of a novelty. I lent it to a friend for his band for the better part of a year.) When I was fifteen, after expressing interest at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, Dad tried a different approach and bought me a Celtic folk harp with a copy of "Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp" by Sylvia Woods. Fourteen years later, it's sitting in front of my bedroom window with the original set of strings. His last try was on my eighteenth birthday; he gave me an acoustic guitar. At the time I had a boyfriend who played, but as the relationship waned, so did my interest (and don't get me started on the Strat I bought a few months later with my graduation money...the plastic is still on the pickguard and in a few years it'll be vintage). At some point, I don't remember when, I taught myself "Silent Night" on a toy accordian...
Dad passed on two years and a month after he gave me the guitar, and then it was on to my own musical endeavors. My last run-in was with a clay ocarina purchased on a whim in South Korea. I got it from a crowded, seedy little music shop and there was dust on the box, but it was the prettiest color of pale sky blue, the same faded hue as my Strat. I played a few Christmas songs with it, but then realized the tuning was off and it ended up in a basket with my music books. Eventually it busted.
Which brings us to now. The best way I can explain why I want to learn the harmonica is that it's cheap, it's portable, and it doesn't require a lot of extra gear or maintenance. (Wiping the spit off once in a while, maybe?) So using a toy harmonica that belongs to my son, I attempted to play the first line in the chorus of "When Irish Eyes Are Smilin'" by ear. It's a little tricky because you don't just go up and down the soundboard like you would on a piano--breathe in and you've got one note, exhale in the same spot and you've got a lower note. After a few attempts (and figuring out how the notes actually work), it actually sounded recognizable! I did a quick online search for the sheet music--and what I found was even better: AN ENTIRE WEBSITE devoted to harmonica tabs! And even better, they had tabs for the song!
I am so glad I made this a goal, because I have a fresh love of learning music and it has resurrected my hope that I'll learn to play an instrument well (and by "well" I mean "more than once" and "people aren't crinkling up their faces and leaving the room"). And on that note...(good pun, eh?)
I don't know if I'll continue on with this blog. I'm trying to be genuine here, but I guess that's the problem--I'm trying. When I just write about things, like I did in this entry, I feel good about what I've written. This wasn't just about me learning to play the harmonica, it was about how good it feels to be making music again. I don't have to try to make it mean something, and that feels good--but this blog isn't the place for it.
I'll probably update from time to time with a new recipe or news about the biz (because I just can't seem to stop myself!), but probably not too often, at least not for now. ;)
Thank you for reading.