RE: Lessons

Scorcher asked about lessons:
>How many of you has taken one-on-one lessons with a Teacher (not a
>seminar, but real lessons)? How valuable was the experience?

Scorch, Like you I am mostly self-taught from books, CD's and e-mail lists.
I did have the good fortune to have had a teacher who wasn't really very
good at teaching, but still offered the best harmonica learning experience
I've had to date.  Harry is largely self-taught, too, and has a hard time
articulating how he manages to play specific effects.  He offered no
structure to his "lessons", no lesson plans or exercises as such.  My
"lessons" lasted about a year and consisted of one evening a week where we'd
play together or listen to and play along together with CD's or DVD's (not
counting the dozens of gigs I'd tag along to).  I'd hear something I didn't
understand on a CD or he'd do something amazing on the harp in a lesson or
at a gig and I'd stop him (or catch up to him after the gig) to ask "how he
did that?".  Most often he couldn't tell me but he would patiently play it
over until I got enough of a handle on ~what~ he was doing to work on it
myself to figure out ~how~ he did it.  Though he taught mostly by example,
he anchored me in terms of what could be done, and how it should sound.  He
wouldn't let me get by easily until I actually got a certain chop or
technique down to his satisfaction.  He gave me that critical feedback that
isn't possible from a book or CD, in which case you are your only judge.  I
wouldn't have known where to start or stop without his guidance.

Here's a good example of how I learned via our relationship.  In my biggest
discovery that Harry instigated, he insisted that I learn to U-block, which
is his standard embouchure.  I told him that I had tried it before and could
do it to some extent, but had found TB and pucker more comfortable and
useful.  The problem was that there were things he was doing that he could
only begin describe in terms of his U-block embouchure.  He was insistent
that I give the U-block a good shot, which I did, and the results were
nothing short of amazing.  It turned out that the U-block forced me to do
things with the back of my tongue and throat that I can also apply with the
other embouchures (deep bends, ultra-fine control over bends, etc.).  That
discovery alone was worth all the lessons I took.

Beyond harp technique I learned tons about many things musical from Harry.
He is an extremely "musical" fellow (plays several instruments
professionally and has for 35-40 years).  He's got a real history in the
blues.  For one thing, his mentor--and his model for teaching me--was George
Smith.  He's been gigging forever and has played with tons of great
musicians.  I got more "musical" just by being around him.  His stories
alone get your foot stomping.  In short, through my relationship with Harry,
I became a ~musician~.  I'm light years ahead of where I would have been had
I not had the good fortune to sidle up to him.  I'm still saddened greatly
because he had to move to California last summer.

So, ol'e Scorcher, my advice is to try to find a teacher who is far better
than you are technique-wise and whom you can get along with.  You'll know
very quickly whether you are benefiting from your connection.  If you don't
start noticing significant benefits fairly soon, you probably have the wrong

Good luck, Michelle

BTW, does Harmonica John Frazer teach?  He can blow and he's in San Diego.

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