I just got back from Captiva last week where I was teaching blues harmonica at a Gindick Jam Camp.  One thing I was reflecting on was how much harmonica (or any instrument for that matter) is like shakuhachi and how the music shares a lot of similarities.  We spent quite a bit of time working on teaching players how to use dynamics in their playing by exaggerating the differences in volume between certain notes and phrases.  This is not unlike how I understand meri notes to be played.  On one of my lessons with Kurahashi Yoshio we had a great talk about making meri notes very soft to add feeling and depth to the music.  Another thing we spent a lot of time on at the harmonica jam camp was allowing space between phrases.  It is the same thing with Honkyoku.  Ma is very important and I notice that many beginners rush from phrase to phrase with no regard for the ma (space) in the piece.  I still find myself doing this from time to time when my mind isn't with the music completely.  I try to play the phrase and then pause slightly before the in-breath.  

I find if I exaggerate these aforementioned ideas it is usually just about right.  When I am recording myself it seems like I am adding too much space or like my meris are too quiet.  When I listen back I am usually suprised how much better it is and how much better it sounds compared to when I just play through a piece.  I also find that the ma gives me a moment to relax and keep my embouchure from getting too tight and my lips form fatiguing.  I just thought I would share this thought this morning while I was thinking about it.  Now back to practice.  See you soon!


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