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Keeping it Simple

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Keeping it Simple
FREEMAN: In prison with the blues

Simple can be good.

As a matter of fact, I often prefer it to complicated.

My music is an example of that. I liketo listen to a wide variety, ranging from classical to heavy rock, but a lot of the time I opt for tunes built on a basic three cord progression.

They sound right to me.

Many of my recordings feature just one person on the guitar… although I also enjoy it when someone joins in on harmonica.

But then again, the harmonica is a relatively simple instrument.

The diatonic version that is commonly used for playing the blues has ten holes, each of which produces different notes when you blow into, or inhale through,it.

That means there are 20 notes, plus a few more you can get by bending the draw notes, but quite often only three or fourare required for any tune or riff.

While I was living in Moshupa, my sister gave me a harmonica for Christmas.

It fit in my pocket, and it came with a book and cassette that promised to make the process fun and keep it simple.

Blues and Country Harmonica for the Musically Hopelessdid exactly that and along with the fun, it gave me a basic understanding of how music works, which proved quite handy when I tried to figure out the guitar.

Twenty-five years down the road, I wanted to share that learning experience with afriend who loves music but doesn’t play an instrument, so I ordered the updated course which has ‘Hopeful’ instead of ‘Hopeless’ in the title.

When it arrived, however. I discovered it was not nearly as simple as the original version.

It is still excellent, and I recommend it for anyone who would like to progress rapidly, but it is not what I wanted for my 80-year-old mate.

For example, the version I started with had a long section on the ‘close-enough’ style and the author stressed that it was fine to hang out there for months or longer as long as you were having fun.

The new one skips that bit and gets stuck into what I consider very challenging techniques quite early in the course.

Maybe John Gindick is now so advanced that he no longer sees them that way… which is why I’m writing about this now.

I think that as we become better at any activity, it is difficult for us to remember what it was like to be a beginner, and as we learn new skills, we sometimesforget the value of the basics.

Being aware of that, though, could help us when we want to teach our skills to others.

Anyway, I eventually solved my harmonica lesson problem by purchasing a cassette to MP3 converter, so I could copy the original course onto my computer and then print it on a CD for my friend.

That exercise required four days of trial and error and a fair bit of patience, but I think it was worth the effort.

Sometimes trying to keep it simple can get very complicated.

I guess that means both can be good.