I have recently rediscovered the diatonic harmonica, the “blues harp” which you hear just about everywhere. Around xmas time I decided to treat myself to something a little different. “Harpin’ By The Sea” (http://www.harpinbythesea.com/) has been going since 2011 and is a national gathering, right on my doorstep, of diatonic harmonica afficionados. There are workshops, a jam, an evening gig and much more, a chance to touch base with the blues harp community. Although I have been concentrating on chromatic harmonica for a number of years, the first harmonica I really got into was blues harp. After a while reading books I could make some of the right sounds, but I became frustrated because getting all the notes of the chromatic scale is quite difficult technically. This means that although you can accompany, you can’t always easily play tunes. It turns out that switching to chromatic unlocked my musicality and allowed me to learn jazz tunes I love. But having reached a bit of a plateau in my chromatic practice, I’m now finding myself drawn back to diatonic, with the benefit of a load of jazz theory to help me out. For Harpin’ By The Sea, I had to choose a workshop, and with some trepidation opted for “intermediate”. I needn’t have worried because it was spot-on, reassuring me that I am practicing the right sort of things, and have the potential to progress. The overall theme of this year’s event wast Cajun/Zydeco music and I really learnt a lot. Hopefully I will be able to attend next year, and I might even be brave enough to get up at the jam!