地lso marching band, WGI, etc. Well we did it again this year at Minnesota Brass. This season’s problem to solve: harmonicas. The 2023 Minnesota Brass production “Speakeasy” used Billy Joel’s Piano Man as the ballad. I thought it would fun to play a little ditty on harmonica, so I worked with our arranger to put it in.

Playing Harmonica

I had never played harmonica, so I did some research. I wanted to make sure it was achievable, and that whatever I ordered would be suitable. I started with this youtube video and some harmonica note charts:

Image courtesy of harmonica.com

Harmonica Joe provides an easy harmonica tablature on his site for Piano Man. Looking at the tablature (tab), it’s played using two holes at a time. This allows for a nice harmony in thirds. I double-checked the sounds from the youtube video on my piano (in the key of C).

Then I went to our score, suspected a Bb model would do the trick, and then verified with our click track against the piano.

Click Track: For studio recordings it’s a metronome click for folks to use to stay in time with each other. For pageantry it refers to the MIDI output file of the arrangement produced by the computer’s notation software.

I purchased one harmonica in Bb to see if I could do it. For our ditty we used the bottom line from Harmonica Joe’s tab, effectively the 2nd half of the phrase.

It wasn’t too bad to learn! At one point I thought I broke the harmonica but it just got too wet from saliva and the reeds stopped responding 中 I put in the case and picked it up later – relieved that it still worked after it dried

Then I called my Sweetwater rep and ordered enough Fender Bb Harmonicas for the entire baritone section. $100 later they all had their own harmonicas.

Harmonica Storage

The next issue was going to be: where do we put the harmonicas in our uniforms so they’re easily accessible? A couple of our baritone players also have 3D printers and had some ideas. They skipped thinking about putting it in the uniform, and made a clip that goes directly on their horn:

Super easy! You don’t need to dig it out of a pocket. The harmonica slides right out of the holster and the holster clips to the first valve slide.

They all picked up playing the harmonica pretty quickly. The baritones would play on them at practically every break. It was like trying to get a batterie member to stop chopping on a pad In the end it paid off – it was a nice touch to our Piano Man performance:

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