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Harmonica

Playing a harmonica can be a great way to learn to make melodies and play songs you enjoy. It is really easy to learn with the below articles and tutorials. The only way to learn is by doing so grab your harmonica or buy a model from the products subtab. One of Led Zeppelins best songs "When the Levee Breaks" has a Harmonica and sounds amazing, you should definately listen to it. Jimmy Page`s guitar backward echo technique, where he would put the echo ahead of the sound, was used on the harmonica for this song.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Harmonica resources. We have a Harmonica forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Harmonica how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Harmonica books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Intro


The harmonica is a very enjoyable and versatile instrument. A lot of people take up playing the harmonica as a hobby and often end up playing professionally, either part time or full time – so, as you can see, it is a great skill to learn. There is, however, a tendency to give up too soon as there is a misconception that it is hard to learn to play the harmonica. But that is a myth, going by the number of people who really enjoy playing it, and when you learn it the right way, you too can have a lot of fun with this interesting instrument.




The harmonica is a mouth instrument. It is pre tuned. Chords are also set up, so that when you blow, you get one chord and when you draw you get another. It is not difficult to learn to play a few simple songs quickly. Getting to the more complex pieces takes the requisite amount of practice and you need to develop a few particular skills when you learn. So let us get started.




Basic Skills You Need To Play The Harmonica


The basic skills you need to learn are breath control, tone control, tone production, single note technique, bending technique, the tongue blocking technique and to go with these, timing. Just master these, and you are more than half way there. It takes some dedicated practice, and because the instrument is easy to carry around, you can practice just about anywhere, so long as you make the time for it. Experts even suggest that when you play regularly, you probably handle the rest of your routine better because your breathing system is more under control. So that makes it two benefits in one skill for you!




Types Of Harmonica Instruments


To learn to play the harmonica, you need to know the types available so that you can eventually buy your own. Let us take a look at the different kinds of harmonicas:


 



Diatonic, Blues Harps, Mouth Organs Or Harmonicas


The most popular, these diatonic harmonicas have great tone and are portable. You can play them along with other instruments simultaneously. With these unique harmonicas, you can play the flats and sharps together by busing techniques like bending, over blowing and over drawing.


 



Chromatic Harmonicas


With chromatic harmonicas, the flats and sharps in a scale are played by combining button slide in and slide out. You can play in any key as ou have the complete 12-note octave with the sharps and flats. In each hole of the chromatic harmonica are four reeds of which two make natural notes and two chromatic. These are usually used in jazz and classical music, pop, blues and funk. Think Stevie Wonder to imagine some great chromatic harmonica playing.


 



Tremolo And Echo Harmonicas


These harmonicas have two rows of holes, unlike the diatonic and chromatic, which have a single row of holes. In the octave type, the upper row of holes is at a higher octave than the lower row of holes. Tremolos have the upper rows a little off tune so that you hear a vibrato like sound. In these harmonicas you don’t have to use techniques like bending and single note.




So depending on which one you want to play, the options are many.


 



The Best Harmonica To Buy


That would naturally be your next thought. Which is the best harmonica to buy? Usually, you cannot try a harmonica before you buy it since it’s a mouth instrument. Different makes have different contours, so you’ll find that some seem like the perfect fit in your mouth. As a beginner your aim would be to get familiar with the instrument, learning to move and play on it, getting used to the sounds of blowing and drawing. Gradually you would get a good feel of the harmonica and be able to decide on the one that can suit your playing technique.




You have a choice of 12 basic keys of harmonicas, although, as a beginner it is good to start with the basic ten hole harmonica in the key of C, which is a midrange harmonica.




As far as diatonic harmonicas are considered, there are several excellent brands like Hohner, Lee Oskar, Hering, Suzuki, etc.




Getting Started With Playing


To be a good harmonica player, you need a good sense of rhythm, a sense of emotion and enjoy a style of music so that your personality comes through when you play. To get started, just hold your harmonica and try to run your mouth up and down it, getting a feel of blowing, drawing air and listening to the notes. You will see that while some holes are easy to play, some are not.


 



Holding Your Harmonica


The first thing to learn is how to hold your harmonica. You can hold it in your left hand, so that the numbers are facing up. Hole no.1 must be to the left. Next comes the mouth position, also called the ‘embouchure’. The right way is to make a complete seal with your lips touching the metal case. When you blow a few notes, you will know by the sound of the notes. Keep your mouth and jaw relaxed. You basically need to learn to play one note at a time and develop the skill. This is done with two techniques called lip blocking and tongue blocking. You must be careful not to over do the blowing and drawing. Then you will learn breath control.




You must remember, as you learn, to diligently practice the easy songs that you are instructed to practice. This will help you play the tougher songs with ease. Instructors advise you to record yourself when you play so that you know how you sound when you play back. It is best to progress gradually. For example, in a new song, learn the notes first, then the rhythm, and so on. It is a good idea to use a metronome to maintain the beat.




The best way to get really good at playing the harmonica is through practice. You might feel your lips feeling tired – but as you continue to play, the lip muscles will strengthen and you will develop the stamina to play longer.




If you can’t wait to play the diatonic harmonica like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Huey Lewis and the like, stay at Discover A Hobby for more information and tips that will take your harmonica playing to higher levels. The instructional videos are a treat to learn from, and the books listed here carry in depth knowledge on everything related to harmonicas like tablature, techniques and the like used by professional players. Don’t miss the links that take you to websites that educate you on harmonica playing. You can get started with making music on your harmonica right away.