Business owners drowning in red ink blame "the ecomony," the president," "the Republicans," the Democrats," "the Big-Box stores," "interest rates," "online sales," and on and on. Bull shit! Businesses lose money and ultimately close because of prejudiced, rude behavior that treats everyday people - consumers - like lepers and criminal suspects. That's not to say that shoplifting, tampering and vandalism aren't problems for retailers; they are huge problems that, understandably, need constant attention.

But retailers who don't like Italians, senior citizens, Blacks, Jews, teenagers, gays, walkers, joggers, bike riders, parents with strollers, etc., and believe they can exist and prosper by catering only to some magical, mythical white-bread ideal customer base (presumably dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns, with perfect hair and teeth) need a lesson in humanity, humility and reality, not another bank loan and more - largely deceptive - advertising.

As far as the online sales taking business, you may be right, but it's your own fault: we're tired of your crappy brick-and-mortar attitudes and treatment. News flash: Amazon and e-Bay, selling millions of products from around the world, don't care if we're wearing cargo shorts or carrying a messenger bag or riding a bicycle, or if we're a little sweaty or have messed-up hair ... the selection is better and the prices are lower! Business owners, If you continue to second-guess, suspect and mistreat your customers, based on ethnicity, age, disability or just some indefinable "weird" appearance (illegal profiling) your business is only going to get worse: just deserts in my book.

If you can read minds, you should be doing a nightclub act. If you can't tell the difference between a Buddhist holy man and a homeless shoplifter, or a retired professional and a panhandler, you shouldn't have any contact with the public in any capacity. Ed.



WITH TWO FULL YEARS remaining on our extended factory warranty, and FULL DOCUMENTATION TO PROVE IT, our

Trane air conditioner needed $2,280 in repairs. Ouch! To make matters worse, Trane repeatedly and continually denied our warranty claim - with excuses and "red-tape roadblocks" - for over seven months, from July 2018 to February 2019. Bummer.

Only after sending detailed written complaints and clear copies of all related documents to every city, county, state and federal consumer enforcement entity, local and national news media, Attorneys General in five states, the FTC, the U.S. Attorney General, Trane's corporate offices in the United States and the Trane headquarters in Ireland, etc., we finally received a check for just under $1,800 (still $480 less than the repair charges) from Trane's parent company, Ingersoll-Rand, SEVEN MONTHS after filing our warranty claim for repairs!

My wife and I are grateful for the partial reimbursement and settlement, but greatly disappointed in the warfare required to receive it. How many Trane customers, with similar expensive breakdowns under current and valid warranties, simply give up and walk away with nothing because they don't have the patience and resources to file that type of full-blown consumer complaint action?

 Make of it what you will. - Publisher


 # # #

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for
 a lifetime.”

MISSION STATEMENT: This short-but-focused music course is for anyone, young or old, male or female, who wants to earn part- or even full-time income as a "grass-roots street musician" playing the harmonica. The course was first designed to help substance abusers get clean and do something more productive than panhandling and shoplifting, so expect some "tough-love" shots along the way, but anybody (and I mean "anybody" ... even if you've never even touched  a harmonica) with an interest in the "harp" and the concept of street performing can have some fun with the course ... and make money, too.

This course is unique and complete in its purpose, even to the extent of including short segments on instrument funding for the financially challenged and entertainment psychology for the timid. Suggestions about brands, types, models and keys of harps (from someone who isn't trying to sell you anything, so you'll have a truly objective viewpoint) and some helpful music terms and principles are also covered, along with interesting tune selections to get you started - right now - harp maintenance, etc. If you've ever wished there were a "speed course" for performing, this is it, Babalu.

Relax. There is absolutely nothing for sale on this website; no offers for additional lessons, memberships, etc. Just COMPLETELY FREE, PROFITABLE MUSICAL PERFORMANCE INSTRUCTION - Publisher's promise! (If you're having trouble believing that, despite my assurances to the contrary, perhaps you're reflecting your own dishonesty onto others.)

Mickey Parker  cool  Las Vegas


There's no gimmick, no trick, no joke, and no charge. I can teach you how to earn tips - good ones - playing the harmonica as a street musician. With some honest effort you should be in "earn-as-you-learn mode" in about an hour. If you're panhandling - whatever the reasons or circumstances - you can make fifty times as much busking (street performing), and you can be doing so by this time tomorrow.
If you're happy in your work and don't think you'll ever want to be a street musician, I hope you'll read the course anyway; consider it a "survival kit" or just an interesting hobby or an opportunity you might want to share with someone. I'm certainly not suggesting people give up their careers to play the harmonica as a street musician; that would, except for some special circumstances, be absurd. But equally absurd is the notion that the homeless can quickly become compliant, productive workers, with no room for any intermediary steps. This street performing course and concept are meant as a creative middle-ground alternative.

My wife and I are retired and comfortable, thankfully, but people with fortunes that make our savings look like "lunch money" have been wiped out by I.R.S. liens, medical bills, lawsuits, etc., virtually overnight. I just can't be so arrogant as to believe that "that can't happen to me" ... or anyone. If it does, you will not  see me begging for spare change with a little cardboard sign; you'll see me smokin' it on the harp somewhere and trying  to "get it together again."
Anybody can be destitute and desperate in the short term, I've acknowledged that, but when I see people embrace panhandling as a career and lifestyle, it sickens me. Articles and interviews on homelessness always seem to focus on somebody who has been homeless for "years" and the guy who brags about "making $80 in a couple of hours and going home for the day." Hogwash on both counts. Unless there are serious mental health issues involved - and we have agencies to help with that - long-term homelessness is a conscious choice based on laziness, lies, lack of motivation, and just plain recalcitrance.

The objections we hear most often are, "I ain't gonna do it [anything productive] and you can't make me!" and "I ain't gonna make no fool of myself playin' a damn harmonica!" Well, excuuuse me, panhandling and dumpster-diving are so much more dignified; I'm betting nobody ever told Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, John Popper, Lee Oskar, Charlie McCoy, and on and on, "Stop that; you're making a fool of yourself!"

For what it's worth, I make a clear distinction between panhanders and street performers. Hey, if you're good at it, enjoy it, and want to travel the world  playing a harp or whatever ... go for it ... with my blessing. You are not a bum; you are not a panhandler. You are an entertainer!
You don't need talent to play chords, articulate, and improvise on a diatonic harp to make nice tips and possibly fall into some other opportunities along the way. And, believe me, your skill on this instrument will take off like a rocket, if you'll just give it a chance and your best effort. But you do need the motivation to get cleaned up, sobered up, plan for weekends and holidays, learn where the best crowds are, etc.

Remember, you're not only the star of this show; you're the manager, the musical arranger, the choreographer and the accountant, too! Run things the way you  want to ... all of it, and give those "other guys" - including yourself - a swift kick in the butt when they need it. You can do this if you want to, but as the song The Sign, by Ace of Base, says: "No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong." No one's going to put a gun to your head and make you play the harp as a street performer.

The most important point is,
DON'T START OUT TRYING TO PLAY SINGLE-NOTE MELODIES! No, no, no! Anything approaching tipping-quality attention, interest and entertainment is extremely difficult to play that way on the harp, even for advanced beginners, and you'll only succeed in boring everybody, making a fool of yourself, and wanting to give up and never even hear the word harmonica again!

But it doesn't have to be that way if you'll just listen to what I'm saying here: I can teach you the basics of filling your harmonica playing with Benny Goodman-style riffs and embellishments (rapid-fire deedily-opp-a-du-opp's, etc., all over the place) in less than an hour ... and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, will earn you folding money, not just "spare change." And it's so damn easy, you'll say, "Harp, baby! Where ya' been all my life?"

Just relax and play the tunes as you remember them in your head as chordal melodies, two - usually three - or even four holes at a time. 
True mastery of the harmonica, like any instrument, can take years, but you can learn enough to get into your own little "paid apprenticeship program" in just a few minutes. Really.

Playing chords on diatonic harmonica is not a new or unusual concept, as any text about harmonica history will clearly confirm. The novelty here is chordal harmonica play using up-tempo, jazzy embellishments applied to familiar tunes, stuff you make up yourself (improvisation) or, ideally, a combination of the two. Think of Benny Goodman smokin' it on his clarinet, playing any silly, souped-up little tune - even Three Blind Mice. That's the effect you're looking for. In other words: be a pro, get paid like one. To be clear, this method goes far beyond what is briefly mentioned - and rather condecendingly so - as "cowboy style" or "close-enough style" in some basic lesson plans. There's nothing "cowboy" about classical tunes like Hungarian Dance #5 (I started playing that after seeing Stymie play it on one of the old Little Rascals episodes [I'm pretty sure that was George Fields actually playing, with Stymie faking it] ... blew my mind, and you can have the same effect on a street audience; easy, impressive tune, but you'll need a harmonic minor key harp, covered later on in this course) and Funeral March For a Marionette, William Tell Overture, etc.

Remember, all you need is a few measures of a tune, an A, maybe a B part for variation and interest, and a couple of repeats with slight changes. You're playing, generally and ideally, to a moving conveyor belt of passersby who will hopefully leave a tip and keep on moving. Make it convenient for yourself and your audience; the best method I've seen is to play one-handed and just hold out your hat. It doesn't happen all the time, but if you're personable and can get two or more friends - especially other musicians, amateur or professional - to start ribbing each other about how cheap the other one is and competing against each other you could  end up with enough for a nice lunch in less than a minute. Don't forget to pay your taxes at the end of the year!

Most courses, on many subjects, get to a certain point and tell readers to "get a good book on the subject," or "get yourself a good teacher ..." total cop-outs and nothing more than a path of least resistance for the author. I've made it a point to not make any of those kinds of silly recomendations; it's all right here. I'm happy to answer specific, relevent questions, but please spare me the favorite of the Craigslist crowd, "Duh, where is this place?" followed by a multi-page e-resume and a phone number where I can reach them. Yeah, you be sure and wait for my call, Jethro.

The 10-hole diatonic harmonica, designed to easily play beautiful chords as well as single notes, went into mass production in 1829. Variations for special purposes notwithstanding, the basic note layout - a complete diatonic scale in the middle range with gaps in the low and high ends - hasn't changed in all that time ... it's that good.

For the technical-minded with a musical background who might not be familiar with this particular instrument, a diatonic harmonica produces a major tonic chord on the blow and a dominant seventh on the draw, which compliment one another in a virtually mistake-proof manner. Forgive the techno-speak detour; I've tried to stay away from it - most of it is over my head, too. The point? Sheer genius that has endured almost 200 years and shows no signs of waning. Why not capitalize on it?

Lee Oskar, in an interview for Ben Marks' article in the July 2015 issue of
  Craftsmanship Quarterly titled "The Return of the Harmonica," had this to say in that regard: "The harmonica was originally designed for the musically hopeless. It's one of the few instruments you can just breathe in and out of and sound like you're making music. I failed music in school, in Denmark, as a kid. But when I was six years old and put a harmonica in my mouth, it sounded like a symphony."



Don't forget to breathe both in and out.
Yeah, there will be people who bark back, saying, "Anybody knows that." Well, smarty-pants, Rod Stewart, by his own admission in his autobiography, played harp for a year before he got that (he described the sound as that of a chicken being strangled repeatedly). So, if you're more musically inclined than Rod Stewart, bark away; otherwise just accept the fact that we're all starting from a different knowledge base and lighten up.

Jonathon E. Brickman, writing on harmonica instruction, suggests students just pick up the harmonica and start experiencing the location of the notes by ear, as opposed to trying to learn from charts and written material. Excellent advice. That approach will not only help you learn faster, it will help keep it interesting and fun, a huge consideration.

Whether you're playing single notes or chords, don't "jump and peck";  keep your lips moist and glide very lightly from one note or chord to the next and, basically, move the harp  back and forth while keeping your head still, as opposed to constantly moving your head  back and forth, which can give you a sore neck. Buddy Greene, a well-known harp player, demonstrates a technique moving neither the harp nor his head ... just sliding his lower jaw from side to side. Meh. Cute gimmick, I guess, but hardly worth the potential for painful, debilitating TMD issues.

Mr. Greene, who opens his act by belittling those who play "grampa harmonica," when asked for a motivational quote or tip for my readers, declined by informing me that my course has "NO INSTRUCTIVE CONTENT and wasn't something he could endorse." That assessment probably has more to do with the audience I'm trying to reach than the course itself. Fair enough, sir. My free course - dealing with human issues and economic survival, not just never-good-enough artistic nuance, and certainly a work-in-progress - will continue to improve, but I suspect you'll always be the same short-sighted hypocrite.

Many songs won't work at all in chordal style; a few that work well are listed below; I'm sure there are many more. Some are cool, some are corny, but starting with familiar tunes helps learn your way around the instrument by ear and helps you build improvisational skills without having to concentrate so heavily on the basic melody and rhythm.

Remember, many very lively and familiar jazz tunes - When the Saints Go Marchin' In  is a fine example - were once very somber spiritual songs. Louis Armstrong made that his trademark song and musicians have been "tearing it up" ever since! Pete Seeger totally changed the character of Down By The Riverside, another fairly mundane spiritual song, when he began playing it as a Vietnam protest song in the 60s.

When you play a tune, it can be anything you want it to be - with all the ghost notes, grace notes, run-ups and turnarounds your music teacher or your parents wouldn't let you use ... just as fast and creatively as you feel like playing them! The harmonica is the perfect instrument to do just that, even if you have no musical training ... or some you'd rather forget.

For me it was strict, "oom-pah-pah," polka accordion (with metronome accompaniment, of course) that I absolutely hated. Parents, don't  force your children into a "trained monkey" role. Let them  pick the instrument (or none at all) and have some fun  with it. If my parents hadn't indoctrinated me with the belief that the accordion was the "real instrument" and the harmonica was "a toy," I'd have been totally into the harp decades ago.

Red River Valley (up-tempo, jazzy, choppy: "dit-dit-dit-dit" not "daaaaah daaaaah" droning; it's more fun for you, more entertaining for your listeners, and imperfections and adjustments are a lot easier to just gloss over and keep going)

When The Saints Go Marchin' In (same as above - tear it up - use it for experiments with embellishments you can use on other tunes)

He's Got The Whole World in His Hands

You Are My Sunshine

Ob-La-De, Ob-La-Da

Camptown Races

Piano Man

Blowin' In The Wind (I tried this on a lark, having heard it played on one of the old Johnny Cash specials, really didn't hold out much hope for it working well with the fairly restrictive chord system; easy to play, with plenty of room for articulations and creativity, and so much cooler than traditional "campfire" songs)

I Walk The Line

Down By The Riverside (played up-tempo and embellished - see articulations below - this becomes your "generic fiddle-type music" and has become my absolute favorite; play any short tune, go to Riverside almost as a chorus, a different tune, back to Riverside, another tune, etc.)

I've always admired accomplished musicians who start out with a few phrases from a familiar tune, then go off on an improvisational trip  that has everybody slack-jawed for several minutes, and end up back at the same familiar melody they started with. You can create a similar effect with Riverside.

Turkey In The Straw (similar to above, familiar and fun, but don't over-use it)

Ode To Joy (instead of thinking of this as boring, public-domain music-lesson stuff, think: "How would Louis Armstrong play this song?" Played up-tempo and combined with your articulations, some quick trills, and the right attitude, this tune can become a weapon, no kidding!)

Sentimental Journey (same as above - up-tempo - lots of trills and articulations - great place for the "train whistle"; piece o' cake: two long draws around your 5-6-7 or 6-7-8 chord with a sort of "wee-o-weeee, wee-o-weeee" articulation, maybe two sets of those within the song - again, make it a surprise and a treat, don't overuse it)

For He's

a Jolly Good Fellow (use this if you're asked to play "Happy Birthday," not a good chordal tune)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat (for participation and excitement at a children's party, etc.)

Three Blind Mice (corny? maybe, but spice it up with lots of articulations and trills and have some fun with it)

This Old Man (simple, familiar tune, excellent for precision breathing and articulation drills; kids - and mommy and daddy - will love you)


William Tell Overture (Lone Ranger theme - use your trills - covered in detail a little farther down the page - in holes 1-2-3 position for those 64th note runs - you're only going to have a few measures of the A part with a major key harp, a few of a B part, too, if you've got a harmonic minor harp - whichever, don't let on that's all you've got ... get in and get out: make it a "teaser," piece o' cake, and blow some minds. Don't try to slow it down and analyze it; up to a point, it actually works better the faster you play it)

Again, you’re going to be playing, basically, any three holes at once; you’re going to alternate blowing (exhaling) and drawing (inhaling) to give it melody and interest. And you’re also going to articulate while you’re doing it. (Note: if you're giggling and making faces every time the word "blow" or "hole" is used ... grow up or go away; this probably isn't for you.)

Here are some articulation licks you can use to add embellishments to your performances. They work best with a sort of up-tempo, bluegrass, square dance, fiddler-type feel and rhythm. Down by the Riverside is a perfect tune for this. You'll be playing multiple-hole chords while you do them, so they're easy to learn and a lot of fun. You'll soon be making changes and improvements on the fly to mesh with whatever you're playing; it adds variety and interest to your show, and it's a great way to extend and refresh a limited repetoire.

It would be pointless to even try to transcribe the myriad harp articulation possibilities. Once you've got the basic concept down, you can compose your own. Experiment, compare, improve. As I wrote earlier, you can do this if you want to; if you're still in rejection mode a full scholarship to Juilliard  probably wouldn't help.

Deet-doe deet-doe, diddle-diddle deet-doe
Dit diddle-diddle-diddle, deet doe-doe.
Di-dit-doe dit-doe, diddle-diddle deet-doe
Dit diddle-diddle-diddle deet doe-doe.
Yo-ee yo-ee diddle-diddle deet-doe
Heet diddle-diddle-diddle deet doe-doe ...
Heh(draw) waaaaaaaaaa(blow, hand-flutter vibrato)

Lots of "notes" from one breath, in or out, long or short as needed. Don't worry about textbook explanations and diagrams about how it works; as Mr. Brickman would say, just start experimenting, you'll do fine. The key to this system - for simplicity, speed and harmony - seems to be a "diddle-diddle" articulation, varying the first letter, which works well on blow or draw, and makes it sound like you're really "burning it up." To commit that to memory, think of the nursery rhyme: "Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon." I've also heard of people who yodel as a harp articulation, the point being, the instrument has always been about innovation. Innovate, experiment, cut loose. Smoke it!

 After a few phrases of your tune (chorus, verse, bridge, whatever you've got), repeat the final phrase once or twice, slowing it down towards the end, vibrato out your final note/chord. It's a simple formula that's actually harder to explain than it is to do, and executed correctly, you will come off as something of a sidewalk virtuoso.

Start right now with any harmonica you can get your hands on (but don't buy one in the toy aisle in a department store; they sound terrible and often cost more than a real instrument - a notable exception being the Swan brand, which is sometimes sold in toy departments).

True beginner instruments that you can make tips with like the Suzuki Easy Rider or the Swan go for less than $10 (sometimes half of that - including shipping - brand new from online dealers) so don't tell me, "Can't do it; ain't got no money." That’s crap and you know it; you've got the money, it's just earmarked for your next buzz. Wake up! We're talking about a tool  that can make you hundreds of times its cost, over and over again. Geez! No, wise guy, you're not going to be winning the million-dollar prize on America's Got Talent, or buying a house that Billy Joel used to live in, but you won't be living under a freeway bridge in a cardboard box either.

Don't buy a so-called "melody maker" harp, regardless of the brand. They do have merit and special applications for experts, but their altered note layout  makes them completely inappropriate for our goals here, which are to have absolute beginners earning tips right away playing chords. The same can be said for chromatic harmonicas (they'll have a button/lever on one end to raise every note a semitone); they are expensive, bulky, fragile and difficult to play. You want a standard diatonic, Richter-tuned, 10-hole harmonica, also called a "blues harp." This is the most popular, best-selling harp and economy of scale usually means the best selection, quality and price, whatever the product.

This might be a good time to mention that harmonicas are not returnable, unless there's a clear defect, because of health issues, so buy carefully. Best bet? Buy online (through e-Bay or Amazon). The prices will be better, you'll find exactly the model you're looking for (without any pressure to buy a slow-mover) and get it faster if it needs to be ordered.

What key harmonica? 

Other than relative pitch range, low to high (G,A,B,C,D,E,F), if you're going to play alone the key doesn't matter. But staying in the middle range (B,C,D) helps avoid "buzz" from the low notes and squeaks from the high notes. C-major harps are mass-produced, available in any brand or model, always in stock, work perfectly fine, and can be quickly replaced in case of loss or damage.

The economy harps mentioned earlier (Suzuki Easy Rider, Swan) can certainly get you started, but won't have the volume and projection of the better harps (this can be a plus if you have to practice very quietly somewhere). Performance-quality harps like the Suzuki Bluesmaster (mellow) and the Lee Oskars (brassy) come in at around $35 and $45, respectively. 

Fortunately, none of these models has those horrible, protruding brass reedplate edges along the mouthpiece (sometimes refered to as "sandwich style," as if it were a virtue), which can really hurt if you're going to be playing and practicing several hours a day. Avoid any harp with such protrusions; the reedplate edges should be flush and smooth, if they can be seen at all.


Lee Oskar also offers minor key harps, basically, with a flatted third. A beginner can easily play interesting Classical songs like Hungarian Dance No. 5 (Gypsy fiddle music) and Funeral March for a Marionette (Alfred Hitchcock theme), kickin' Cajun/Zydeco music like You're No Good for Me, Groove Thing, etc.; your minor-key harp will sound very much like those accordion parts (Rosie Ledet, call me, we'll jam); Sixteen Tons (great for adding some gritty, workin' man vocals/scatting to the act), Summertime, etc., or just some very cool, free-style improvisations, all in chords, and sound like a pro.

If you're still not on board with the busking concept - hopefully a means to an end and not an end in itself - how can the positive public reaction to performing, whatever the quality in the beginning, not  be better than, "Got any spare change?" Duh!  You're asking people to help you; give them some impression of trying to help yourself.

Down by the Riverside, Sentimental Journey, Ode to Joy and no doubt many others, played exactly the same as you learned them in major key, sound superb and unusual on a harmonic minor-key harp, so you can get plenty of productive use out of it. I've had this section in and out of the course, undecided about the impact of suggesting the additional expenditure, but here it is again. It's not a deal-breaker, one way or the other, but if it comes up, you'll know what's being talked about and can make decisions from there. Minor-key harps come in either "harmonic" or "natural"; the harmonic is far-and-away better for the method and purposes being taught here.

Fortunately, very little. Harmonica reeds can become clogged with tiny crumbs (avoid eating just before playing or at least take a few giant, swirly swigs of water to minimize particle contamination), sand, dust or just plain saliva. If you think you've got blockage (less noticeable playing chords), test by playing single notes (blocked reeds can sound "wheezy" or not sound at all). When needed, you can rinse a harp under running water, about 10 seconds, front and back, repeat that, tap both sides on a towel, leave it out in the open to dry. You should be good to go after that. Swab the mouthpiece lightly with a cotton ball barely moist with hydrogen peroxide at the end of the session. Rarely, you'll see some small particle just inside a hole; flick it back out with a toothpick before it can fall farther in. That's it!


If you're seeking financial help from a friend or family member for "gear" remind them this isn't just a pricey toy; it's a musical instrument and, effectively, a business expense. I'm not telling you to manipulate anyone; if you get money from someone for a harp or whatever be sincere about it and follow through. But I will suggest that it might help if you actually just "happen" to get them into the music store with you ("I wonder if they have harmonic minor-key harps [my favorite is Lee Oskar in Dm] here?"), as opposed to just scoring the cash and off you go. You might get even more help than you expected, with the benefactor feeling even better about their increased involvement.

If there's a secret to success here it's to not be wimpy or bashful about your performances. Cup the harp in both hands (most beginners tend to hold the harp by the ends, like an ear of corn - with their pinkies sticking straight out, no less - a dead "rookie" giveaway), opening and closing them to vary the sound, and wail on that baby like you've been doing it for years! There's also a lot to be said for a one-handed grip. The late DeFord Bailey, one of the most famous harp innovators in history, noted for his amazing steam locomotive imitations on the harp, can be seen playing with a very relaxed one-handed grip in some of the rare video footage of his performances.

I like to work on new little riffs and embellishments while walking, and a one-handed grip gives a relaxed, chin-up posture; it's safer around traffic and frees up the other hand for groceries, books, whatever. Using either hand, just pretend you're making a shadow puppet of an alligator - we all did it as kids. Chomp, chomp. Looking at Mr. Gator from the side, you'll have your thumb along the bottom, forefinger along the top. Just slide your harp into his "jaws," almost all the way back, a relaxed grip along the top and bottom plates of your harp, the other fingers falling naturally.

Confidence. Showmanship ... and discretion. L

et's not kid ourselves. Most municipalities frown on or outright prohibit street performances of any type. Don't make a big show of staking out a location and making it "yours." If you're asked to move along by some authority, politely do so. Your instrument fits in your back pocket like a comb. Keeping your act mobile and avoiding any negative vibes and attention is easy.

Sure, it might be

 awkward and embarrassing at first, but it can’t be any more embarrassing than panhandling! If you're drinking or snorting every dollar that passes through your hands because it's a familiar "path of least resistance" - a vicious circle by any other name - stop right now. As Dr. Phil says on his TV program, “How’s that workin’ out for ya’?"

Get it together, man; stop pushing back and looking for reasons why this won't work. People have been proving it will  work for almost a century!

Blow and draw chords using holes 3-4-5 together, 2-3-4 together, 3-4-5 together, 4-5-6 together, etc. (Rock Of Ages is an excellent practice tune using just those three groups - six chords - if you're having trouble getting started. Using those three groups, try a simple, generic Irish jig.) "Wah-wahs" sound good using low to mid-range notes; vibratos work well anywhere on the board, any time you want a note to last a little longer, and can be one of your most powerful tools.

For an easy "trill" effect, short or long, to add some interest (as a variation to replace just about any blow note) and excitement (blow harder = more volume), roll an R, "rrrrr," while blowing and either using it for one note/chord or moving simultaneously from one end of the harp to the other, low to high (a glissando - you'll hear musicians just call it a "gliss") in one long, smooth motion, usually to end a tune. Wherever you stop, a quick (staccato) draw chord (any three or four adjacent holes), then another quick blow chord, same location, higher, lower, it all works). Finishing with a "draw-then-blow" sequence will create "tension" then "resolution." Smile. Eye contact. That's it; tip time.

Don't worry about the technicalities of these moves; there’s really no wrong way to do this. You've listened to music all your life, and even if you've never studied concepts like resolution, you'll know what it should sound like and improve at it quickly. Another 

good technique involves slowing down (ritardando in music-speak) and varying the tempo (called "rubato") and resolution (end of tune); repeat your last melodic phrase, and finish with a vibrato (experiment with it: learn to watch people's reactions, responses, body language, etc.), at which point you're holding out your tip container. "Help a struggling musician, ladies?" Practice the whole sequence until it feels natural and produces the result (folding money!) you're looking for.

Couples are naturals for this and can make a bundle taking turns, one "passing the hat" while the other plays. If the one playing messes up you can just blow it off or work it into the act: roll your eyes, point at your partner, smile and say, "Can't take him anywhere!" Then it's your turn to play, the other's to collect, joke, comment, sing, scat, etc.

Even if you sound terrible you can still make it work: hold out your tip container and say, "Maybe a little help for some music lessons?" If you make people laugh they're likely to open their wallets. I'm reminded of what Jim Carrey said about the late Jerry Lewis: "I am because he was. That fool was no dummy."

Remember, this isn't about being a harmonica virtuoso (but if that's your goal, good for you); it's about interacting with folks and earning some money in a pleasant, honest way - and it's much more about attitude than talent. Don't be overly self-conscious about your playing, just be enthusiastic and remember: at the end of the day, music is a subjective art-form. "Number one, please yourself. Don't learn how to play it, just enjoy it. If you do it every day and it feels good, well, then you're bound to develop technique." - Lee Oskar*

Street performing, "busking," isn't a bad gig. You're not likely to be the next Bob Dylan or Stevie Wonder, but you'll make enough to get by, you’ll still have your independence ... and who knows when somebody will stop and say, "Hey, we're gettin' a group together ... wanna sit in?" If you meet someone you like, who asks what you do, which sounds better: "I'm an entertainer" or "I'm a panhandler"? No contest. One thing's for sure: your opportunities for something positive happening in your life will be far greater than they would be just begging for spare change.

The harp has much of the same coolness of the guitar without the problems associated with that instrument's size and weight. Sure, it's a romantic and nostalgic notion, the old photos of beginning artists making their way to their next coffee house gig (Bob Dylan on his way to do "a session for a sandwich") or just bummin' it around the country, guitar case strapped to their back. But nowadays, with so many incidents involving explosives and large firearms - using suitcases, backpacks and similar storage gear - even if you could play the guitar, its large case would not be a welcome sight in many places. The "Mississippi saxophone," as the harp has been called, on the other hand, fits in a pocket, purse, Buck-knife sheath, tool pouch, etc. Nobody's beeswax  until you want it to be. There just doesn't seem to be any limit to the coolness and convenience of a tiny blues harp!

This just in: I had looked for years for a double folding knife holder (for a convenient way to carry one major key harp and one minor key harp) without any success. One day recently in Walmart, in the sporting goods/shooting supplies department (looking at safety glasses, not guns), low and behold, I saw what appeared to be exactly that; it's actually meant for two ammo clips (booo) and holds two harps on your belt as keen - and professional - as you please.


comments and suggestions are welcome and may be sent to:
Mickey Parker,

*Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers,
Kim Field, 1993, Simon & Schuster

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Dental implant promotional methods, procedures need legislative review, reform, enforcement . . .

DENTAL IMPLANTS, being offered by virtually every licensed dentist in the country (and, conceivably, even some who are unlicensed), should be much more carefully regulated. At the very least dental implant procedures should be limited to installation by oral surgeons only - and even then, only those with additional, special training in the procedures and the myriad of serious potential complications involved. Even oral surgeons should be held to strict standards regarding minimum staffing and specialized equipment for implant procedures. These complex procedures cannot be safely and effectively done in small, squalid "general practitioner" surroundings by dentists who "went to a seminar" or "read a trade magazine article about it."

Allowing inadequately trained general dentists in minimally equipped, understaffed dental clinics (I believe there are even mobile dental clinics - run from large vans - doing the work) to perform these risky, invasive implant procedures is as absurd as allowing general practitioners to perform open-heart surgery on an out-patient basis. What's next? Dental implants at the mall? Dental implant "salons" at the Big Box stores? Hey, Mom can get her nails done while Dad starts his dental implants procedure "nightmare" at the booth next door! Don't laugh - under current law it could happen!

I have permanent nerve damage because a Las Vegas dentist (who claimed to have "more than 20 years of experience with dental implants") "experimented" with these dental implant procedures on me in 2010 and BOTCHED the job . . . big time. There is no effective treatment: not implant removal, not bone reduction, not fancy-sounding laser beam treatment (ridiculous in this application, as if burning the surrounding flesh would magically make the severed nerve endings mend themselves). Bottom line: there is no cure for nerve damage received during faulty dental implant procedures. Good job, Doc!

The first of three implants was drilled so deep it pierced my mandibular nerve; I wish I could return the favor ... with a rusty railroad spike! The other two were so high, there was no clearance for the necessary abutments, and they had to be removed as well (X-rays taken the next day confirm all this). So much for those "over 20 years of implant experience" the dentist claimed to have! My implant placements looked as though they were done by an auto mechanic!

Web graphics and videos in dental waiting rooms, using the most beautiful artists' renderings of colorful, even layers of tissue, bone and nerves, depicting the bad teeth flying out and dental implants "floating gracefully up and over and into the gums," are carefully crafted to make the public believe that dental implants can be done quickly, effectively and safely by any dentist. Clearly, false and misleading advertising. Why it's not subject to Fair Claims Practices Act continues to blow my mind.

Truth be told, the symptoms only get worse: the drooling, the spitting, the lisping, the tongue and cheek and lip biting and lack of muscle control while eating (I basically have to eat with my face stuck in a bowl - like an animal - I think there's food stuck to that side of my face, and nothing's there, or I do have food stuck to my face and can't feel it), above and beyond the constant feelings alternating between numbness and electrical charges - all horrible and permanent symptoms.

My experience is not unique or even rare. The 98% success rate* cited by the implant industry sounds impressive, but that 2% failure comprises over 60,000 patients, all unfairly influenced by questionable marketing tactics, ambiguous competency standards, and subjective qualifications. Patients who experience pain, numbness, feelings of electric shock just under the skin, etc. (the collective term for which is "paraesthesia"), following implant procedures are immediately and continually told, as I was, that "it will go away - you'll be fine." And isn't it amazing that how, when pressed, they each had "one" patient with the same problem - "but it went away." Right. On one hand we're told, "this almost never happens," but then after the fact there are these supposed "professionals" who have performed myriad corrective procedures for anomalies involving dental implants. If complications are so rare, where did they get all this corrective experience? If mishaps and injuries are so unlikely, why are patients required to sign a multi-page waiver prior to the procedures?

Dental implant clinics, promoted in the most deceptive manner: "Teeth in one day," with smiling models supposedly biting into an apple immediately after the implant procedure (truth be known, the entire procedure takes over a year, and you'll be limited to a very soft diet for that length of time), etc., ostensibly a legal and ethical violation of informed-consent obligations, are the new physician-run "pill mills" and should be approached with the same regulatory zeal as the "pushers" running those types of grey-area drug clinics. And, similar to the "feel-good clinics" that exploit the law and human weakness for the sake of obscene profits, the time can't be far off - if it's not happening already - that we're going to see implant "pushers" migrating from state to state when things get too "hot" in a particular jurisdiction.

 Anyone who thinks this doesn't affect them, because they're not senior citizens (the principle target market for dental implants) is missing the collective, downhill implications here. Traditional dental treatment as we've known it for the last several decades is being eroded by the big-buck promise of dental implants. The mantra of "Save the teeth, if at all possible" has changed to "Let 'em rot - the implant replacements will pay for my new Porsche!" (Yes, folks, a full set of uppers and lowers is $50,000+! - Anybody who wants to challenge me on that is welcome to look at the cancelled check.) A local periodontist actually has "Periodontist/Implantologist" on his signage and business cards. No surprise that he wasn't "able" to do anything for my gums but "check 'em again next month" ... and suggest some implants(!) for the affected area. Is anyone so dense that they don't see the conflict of interest involved there? We're looking at a system that encourages these people to do nothing - fraudulently and deceptively - so they'll have a shot at a bigger payday on down the road. 

The current, overly permissive and irresponsible policies and actions of the dental implant industry remind me of what Harry Markopolos (chief fraud investigator and whistleblower in the Bernie Madoff case) said in his book No One Would Listen: "The health-care industry makes Wall Street look honest."

Legislators, seriously, please do what you can to introduce legislation that will re-define and restrict these dangerous procedures, especially in the hands of under-trained, under-equipped, under-staffed general dentists (or simply deem implant procedures by general dentists as "illegal practice drift" under existing regulations), and limit the negative impact on public health that will continue to rise as the current regulatory shortcomings, as well as the considerable financial incentives, make the procedures more and more widespread. Your families and friends are out there and subject to this treatment, too.

THE UNDER-REGULATED DENTAL IMPLANT INDUSTRY that continues to allow dentists to misrepresent and perform these delicate and risky procedures has caused me years of pain and suffering. The collective dental implant industry (with projected U.S. revenues - notice I didn't say "earnings" - of roughly $6.4 billion for 2018*) needs to clean up a very deceptive business model and settle my malpractice-injury claim for $3 million.

Ray Parker, Coalition for Dental Implant Reform

*Dental Facts and Figures, American Academy of Implant Dentistry

Why teeth implants may be the most painful (and costly) mistake of your life, Jane Feinmann, The Daily Mail, February 17, 2014

The hidden danger of the gray [zirconia] market, Dental Products Report, Digital Esthetics

Dental implant manufacturer Nobel Biocare to pay $1.3 million to settle $450 million lawsuit for misrepresentation of dental implant products, Law360, New York, April 16, 2013

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