RE: 2000 hours - YIKES

Hey Mike, good questions I think.

With *no* musical background besides some voice, I played harp in front
of an audience, on stage at about 8 months.  I learned the skills in
about 4 to 6 months of occasional practice.

At about a year I was playing well enough that I recieve frequent
I began serious 3rd position and minor key playing at about 18 months.
Now just at 2 years in, I play with several local bands.
I do not do overbends/blows or tongue block however - yet.

One thing I am convinced of - playing for 1 hour with a live band is
worth about 4 hours jamming at home with a CD.  I'd guess many players
would agree.
The more I play out, the more polished the skills become.
Real-World experience, I think.

I am even known for bringing my harps to karaoke places and playing a
solo in between singing verses.  It has made me rather well-known in the
area.  It adds something to the usual drunken karaoke vocals.  The DJs
let me set up my mic or adjust levels for me.
People realize a "real" musician is on an take notice.  I did this for
about 4 months prior to playing with the band for the first time.  It
helped a lot with "keying" songs as well, since many karaoke songs list
the key when they start.  I began to hear the key a bit more and it
helped to memorize the positions.  I get to practice harp and vocals a
few times a night, not even a whole set, but better than nothing.

I'd guess my progress is about typical.

Lonesome Dave

- -----Original Message-----
From: Mike Due [mailto:mike@xxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Thursday, January 16, 2003 9:29 AM
To: Harp-L
Subject: 2000 hours - YIKES

I picked up diatonic a couple of years ago, and am coming out of a
of inactivity while recording a CD as a bass and guitarist. In revisting
Mike Will's wonderful site ( I
noticed in his introduction a statement that follows:

"How long does it take to learn the diatonic harp and to play the blues?

Of course that depends on you, your musical background, your natural
aptitude, and your goals.  I've seen the number 2000 hours cited as how
much time is required to be reasonably proficient at blues harp playing,
and that seems to me to be as good a number as any."

Holy Hoener's Batman! That's a lot of lip-locking on the old brass
Not trying to toot my own horn (or harp in this case), but that seems
outrageous to me. I learned how to visualize the note layout, bend
shakes, growls, etc. in about 3 months of limited effort, somewhere
80 hours. I even played the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" and
several other rock kinds of tunes on stage after about 6 months. I have
been a bass player for over 20 years, I'm sure that helped, but I really
didn't think this was that difficult. So this 2000 hour thing really
my mind, except if we're talkin' about someone who's never been a
before,,,,there's a general learning curve to cover there too.

So I'm curious, and have a quicky 2 question survey:

1) How long had you folks played the diatonic before you played in front
of an audience (or were moderately proficient enough to do so)?

2) For you master harpers, how long did it take you to get to the point
where you could play in third position or higher, play overbends, use
tongue-blocking, etc.?

Despite my (relatively) quick start, I'm starting to sober to the notion
that the skills referenced in question #2 will take considerably more

- -Mike Due (formerly posted as Herrdue)

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