The Harmonica ("Harp")



About the same time America was moving west in the covered wagon, a little musical instrument called a "mouth organ" was introduced to America from Europe. Because it was small and portable, inexpensive and easy to play, it soon became a favorite folk music instrument of the pioneers, the western cowboys and the riverboat crews. Many of our traditional American folk songs were born on the harmonica. In the evenings, the sound of harmonica music could be heard from the campsites, as pioneers families would get together and share their music. Out on the prairie, lonely cowboys would entertain themselves by playing sweet lonely melodies on their instrument to pass the idle time. The blues harmonica, or so called "blues harp", is most often the type of harmonica used in folk blues music. Based on a pentatonic scale, the blues harp's lovely melodic sound and whining blues tones gives the instrument a special folk character not heard in any other musical instrument. The ease at which one can master the blues harp makes it an almost perfect instrument for accompaniment as well as solos. It's a favorite choice to take a break, and many a singer/guitarist of the Folk Revival period positioned the harmonica in a holder which fitted around the neck, so they could simultaneously add the flavor of the instrument to their music. In particular, many old gospel songs are very expressive and emotional, and the harmonica lends itself perfectly to this type of music, for it expresses the feelings of the heart close to the human voice. Just a few bars of a good gospel tune, like Amazing Grace, is a tremendous way to bring a feeling of satisfaction to your soul.