It’s time to celebrate another quirky holiday at our house today. Happy National Harmonica Day! Our family will pass it practicing the following simple songs for the harmonica. Scroll down to have a listen. ?
We used to attend church with a young boy who carried a harmonica everywhere he went. He kept it in his back pocket, and whenever he was in line on the playground, he’d pull it out and play a few hymns while he waited for his turn to play four-square or knock-out.
It always made me happy to hear him play, and I loved all the beautiful old hymns in his repertoire. I eventually bought a harmonica of my own and asked my young friend to teach me the basics.
That was over a decade ago. Playing it wasn’t quite as easy as he made it look, but wasn’t terribly difficult, either. After just an hour or two of practice, I was able to pick out the tunes of a lot of those old hymns myself.
My harmonica tutor is all grown up now. He graduated from college with a degree in engineering and was working in New York City, last I heard. But I still picture him as the kid with a smile on his face and a harmonica in his fingers.
Many Christmases ago, I bought harmonicas for all my children, hoping one of them might like playing it as much as our friend did. We still have a drawer full of them, all individually labeled with each owner’s name. Most of the kids learned to play at least a few songs and will occasionally pull out the harmonicas to practice. But, alas! None of them tote it around in their pocket.
But wouldn’t you know it? Gabriel got up while I was typing this post this morning, saw the harmonicas laying out on the end table, and volunteered to do a duet with me of “God is So Good.”
Admittedly, we both need a little more practice to polish the song and refine our technique. Ha! Here’s the “sheet music” we were reading off of:
You need to be familiar with the hymns already, as there is no rhythm marked on these musical scores. I just printed up the notes I made for myself and my children when we were first learning.
Since the holes on a harmonica are numbered 1-10, low to high, the numbers in the music correspond to those holes. Plain numbers mean you should blow through the hole; numbers in parenthesis mean air should be sucked in through the hole.
I encourage you to print it out and give it a try yourself or challenge your kids to learn to play this summer. There aren’t many instruments as inexpensive and portable as a harmonica…. maybe that’s why it has it’s own national holiday!
BONUS MUSIC: If these hymns leave you wanting more, you’ll want to check out this post too: Christmas Carols for the Harmonica