Friday, August 29, 2014

Why So Few Women of the Harp? Liam Ward

This is the third in a series of articles about blues harmonica playing written by Liam Ward.

Aside from the indomitable Jason Ricci getting to up to his old antics (, it’s hard to catch anything other than an ageing man playing the blues harp. Perhaps even more than guitar, the world of harmonica has remained a staunchly male environment for a very long time. Why do so few women take it up?

Vikki Thorn

It’s a real shame that it’s such a restricted group and that the women who do play - when discussed at all - are usually compared only with other female players (e.g. “she is one of the best female players I have heard” etc.)

Now, you might say that the history and calibre of men on the instrument means it’s unfair to compare apples with pears, but I have a sneaking suspicion that women out there doing their thing on harmonica wouldn't like to be sidelined in this way. (The only woman I know in my area who brings a harp to jams certainly wouldn't. If others disagree, please let me know because I’m not trying to speak for you!)

So why so few? At risk of dragging everyone down into a feminist pit of despair, I suspect part of the problem is culture-wide. Just as with any other instrument (or any other arena for that matter) women are much less likely to get noticed if they don’t look the way that some media exec wants them to look, and that isn't nearly as big a problem for men.

I’m sure there must be more women out there who haven’t got the attention they deserve. Speak up and let’s hear it for the girls!

Liam Ward

Liam Ward is a UK-based harmonica player and teacher, and founder of He is a former National Harmonica League Player of the Year and a regular contributor to Harmonica World magazine and Blues in Britain. Liam currently plays with hokum blues outfit The Rumblestrutters as well as appearing as a guest with many other artists.

see also other 2 posts..

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