Harmonica/Advanced techniques – Wikibooks, open books for an open world

Overbending, generally known as overblows and overdraws, is a tough method to grasp. The physics are easy to clarify: In an overbend, the other reed as in regular play is dropped at vibrate – in an overblow, the draw reed is made to vibrate upon the blow airflow, and in an overdraw, the blow reed is made to vibrate upon the draw airflow. For that reason, overbending can’t be finished on a harmonica with windsavers.

As a result of the other reed generally acts as a buffer for extra air, that is simpler stated than finished. The sound can also be harsher, just like the sound of a tough pressed organ key.

Overblowing is completed the identical approach as a bend within the higher register – by tightening the jaw, bringing the tongue up barely, and making an attempt to sound the specified harmonic. To enhance the overbending functionality of a harmonica, one could make the hole between the reeds and the plate smaller.

On a chromatic harmonica, overbends might be finished from gap eight to 12. On a tremolo, they are often finished on each gap.


Often known as grace notes, this often contain enjoying a notice a half-step decrease/increased actual fast after which play the precise piece. if nt indicated, that is often superb in blues, rocks, and jazz. On a harmonica, you should use one of many following:

Slide jab[edit]

The method is for a slide-in notice. One will method a slide-in notice with the slide out, then jab it in shortly.

Reverse jab[edit]

The method is for a slide-out notice. One will method a slide-out notice with the slide in, then launch it in shortly.

Bend grace notice[edit]

use bending to bend the notice half-step decrease briefly, earlier than enjoying.


  • Begin with a chord proper subsequent to the precise gap, then shortly go to the precise gap and block out the remainder with a tongue slap.

Tremolo vs Vibrato[edit]

Identical to guitar’s misnamings, Tremolo and vibrato on a harmonica can also be misnamed. So let’s set it straight, as per music concept:

  • A vibrato is a fluctuation of pitch, often accompanied with synchronous fluctuations of loudness and timbre, of such extent and price as to present a delightful flexibility, tenderness, and richness to the tone.
  • A tremolo is a fast fluctuation of depth (loudness and sound strain) with out altering the pitch.

Whereas all sort of musics use ornaments, bear in mind, play it solely when it’s musically applicable. Generally, it is best to not do any ornamentation, particularly if it is not how one would play on this fashion (e.g.: Canon in D performed in classical fashion could be very completely different from enjoying in blues fashion)


Hand/Finger Tremolo[edit]

A hand/finger tremolo is achieved by quickly opening and shutting the cupped arms across the harmonica to regulate quantity.



Shake is often known as warble. A warble is an alternation between two notes. Many gamers confuse them with trills, however trills sound dissonant attributable to their mixture of notes. Warbles, however, sound harmonious and clean.

In warbles, the left notice is the primary notice whereas the correct notice is the added notice. When enjoying warbles, be sure to choose two holes and maintain your breath for the entire sequence.

To alternate between two notes, use one of many following 4 strategies:

    • Jaw flick: Flick your decrease jaw back and forth.
    • Tongue flick: Choose two holes together with your lips and flick your tongue back and forth.
    • Head shake: Shake your head back and forth.
    • Hand warble: Transfer the harmonica back and forth together with your arms.

To do a hand warble, observe these steps:

  1. Maintain the harmonica such as you would usually do.
  2. Play the primary notice, sustaining your inhaled breath for the entire sequence.
  3. Unbend your proper wrist barely. Whenever you do that, the correct hand presses your left hand and the harmonica to the left, sliding the left gap out of your mouth and the correct gap into your mouth. Discover that if you unbend your proper wrist, your left wrist bends barely backward.
  4. Enable your proper hand to launch the strain, letting your left hand spring again and carry the harmonica again to its beginning place.

Keep in mind to maintain your breath. Let your proper hand drive the movement and let your left hand reply like a spring. Work on this transfer slowly till you may precisely transfer only one gap by nudging the harmonica gently after which releasing the strain together with your proper hand. Whenever you get the grasp of this transfer, attempt repeating it at a gentle price, first slowly after which quicker and quicker.

To differ the sound of the warble, you may mix the warbling strategies described above. You’ll be able to change the tempo of the warble. Additionally, you may bend the notice down after which launch it when you maintain a warble. Usually, you goal the left notice because the bending notice. The exception is if you do a warble on Draw 5, the notice to the correct, Draw 6, bends extra readily and contributes extra to the bending effort. Enable the 2 notes to bleed collectively for moist warbles. Maintain them separate for dry warbles.

To play a dry warble (or generally known as a clear warble), begin with the left notice remoted after which transfer far sufficient to isolate the notice on the correct. Each notes are by no means performed without delay.

To play a moist warble (generally known as a grimy warble), sound each notes concurrently at the very least a part of the time. To do that, begin by enjoying the notice on the left after which transfer to the correct far sufficient that you simply embrace the correct notice however not far sufficient that you simply exclude the left notice. You’ll be able to change between the 2 sorts of warbles, both progressively or all of the sudden.

When training passages with warbles, get the grasp of the passage with out warbles. Then add the warbles.

Slide Shake (“Trill”)[edit]

What historically known as as a trill on a chromatic is not a trill. Because it includes transferring the slide out and in quickly, it’s extra appropriately a sort of vibrato.

Flutter tongue[edit]

A flutter tongue is completely different on chromatic harmonica because it truly principally includes the throat. It’s achieved by making a type of loud night breathing sound at the back of the throat, each inhaling and exhaling.

Tongue vibrato[edit]

You make vibrations inside your mouth together with your tongue (relies upon, forwards and backwards, up and down, or some combined movement) as in case you
have been making an attempt to bend the notice utilizing the tongue movement.

In easy phrases you simply transfer your tongue forwards and backwards very quick as if making an attempt to whistle exhaling and inhaling the air. Do not use your throat or lungs for respiration for some time, simply use the quantity of air in your cheeks. Transfer the tongue actually quick. On this case the trajectory of the air stream will not be straight and strain on the reed is considerably combined inflicting some sort of turbulence.

This impact could be very spectacular when used on a bent notice with at the very least half of the tone room above and beneath. One of the best use of it for my part is by getting the deepest bent notice, say, 2 draw 2-step bend after which do what was described above by including some air strain.

In superb, if you vibrate your tongue the notice fluctuates from the 2-step deep bend to nearly pure 2 draw – with bigger increment of time dedicated to the 2-step deep bent notice and smaller increment of time dedicated to the unbent notice or I’d say to transition from 2-step bend to unbent notice and again. That’s, you might be to listen to the bent notice nearly consistently with transitory vibrato impact alongside the potential bending vary. All this occurs through the tongue vibration.

Throat Vibrato[edit]

Throat vibrato is among the most essential harmonica strategies to grasp. It provides colour and selection to your notes in the identical approach that it does for a singer, and it’s intimately related to good tone. There are a number of alternative ways of reaching varied vibratos on the harp, together with diaphragm vibrato, hand vibrato, and throat vibrato. Diaphragm vibrato and throat vibrato are intently associated, whereas hand vibrato is achieved by opening and shutting the arms to differ the air seal cup behind the harp.

Diaphragm vibrato primarily makes use of the diaphragm for altering the quantity of air flowing by the harp, which offers a rhythmic pulsing of quantity from softer to louder to softer. Throat vibrato often is the most emotional of the vibratos by making use of pitch modifications in addition to quantity modifications.

The important thing to throat vibrato is a clean oscillation of each pitch and quantity. Executed poorly it sounds chunky, and never clean. Executed effectively it sounds clean and pure and great. Try for a sine-wave kind steady smoothness, with constant pitch and quantity modifications. Rhythm is a crucial a part of the vibrato. You are able to do vibrato at completely different speeds, so that you select a pace that matches with the rhythm and really feel of the music. The pulses of the vibrato must be made to divide the notes into even intervals so as to add to the rhythmic content material of the music.

The traditional technique to get throat vibrato is to mimic a fast fireplace machine gun (eh eh eh eh eh), like if you have been a child. Then do it inhaling as an alternative of exhaling. It is the identical throat movement that will get the throat vibrato. Work on it till all of the chunkiness is gone, and it sounds as pure in your play because it does in a singer’s voice.

A great way to get the texture is to place vibrato on the three draw half step (and even much less) bend. Your throat is concerned getting the bend initially, so there’s some really feel there earlier than you go for the vibrato. Respiration from the diaphragm will assist management the vibrato. There’s at all times an interplay between the throat and diaphragm when doing a vibrato, since every is concerned in controlling the air stream. For throat vibrato, clearly the emphasis is on the throat–but you will most likely discover some involvement of the diaphragm as effectively.

Attempt it amplified, however play softly. Observe very smooth draw bends. Sooner or later you will discover what appears like a direct connection between your throat and the notice. Each little nuance of throat movement is mirrored within the sound. Work on enjoying the three draw half step bend softly. Then put some vibrato on the notice by pulsing the air stream together with your throat. The pitch will change up and down since you’ve bought a maintain of the bend together with your throat. Maintain at it, it is price it!

Combo vibrato[edit]

It is a combo of diaphragm, tonque and jaw method whereas bending the notice. The diaphragm is working a fast vibrato, whereas the tonque/jaw are doing a pumping motion to boost and pace up the vibrato much more. Additionally, bend the notice as you do that.

Cut up intervals[edit]

In contrast to different wind devices, the harmonica can play quite a few notes without delay. Except for intervals made up of adjoining notes, a participant can play cut up intervals by blocking the holes between those wanted along with his tongue, thus enjoying solely the 2 outmost notes.

Whereas the precept is straightforward, in apply, that is very tough. Most individuals, once they do tongue block, can solely do one aspect (and often can solely block the holes on their left). Thus, when they’re making an attempt to maneuver their harmonica left and proper to sound the reed, they may both make no sound, or make a mistaken sound. Moreover, most individuals have difficulties stretching their mouth huge sufficient.

To do a rake, place just a few holes in your mouth and rake the tip of your tongue throughout the holes, so the mixture of holes in your mouth is continually altering. Whenever you do that, be sure to really feel your tongue’s edges tapping the corners of your mouth as your tongue flicks back and forth. By reaching the corners of your mouth, you already know you might be raking all of the holes in your mouth. Most tongue-blocking strategies in harmonica enjoying are finest finished with the tip of the tongue tucked away, for rakes, use the tip of the tongue because it’s simpler to glide and outline which holes are blocked at any given second.


A shimmer is a nook change performed shortly and repeatedly. The impact is just like a rake, however you play fewer notes and you’ll be extra selective about which notes you play. Whenever you play a rake, you play about 4 to 5 notes and never all notes will sound good with the background chord. With shimmers, you may choose solely the notes that match with the chord. You do that by retaining the tip of the tongue on the harmonica and canopy all holes besides one — both the rightmost gap or the leftmost gap in your mouth. To alternate between corners, nudge your tongue barely to the correct or left and in addition transfer your jaw barely, simply sufficient to shift the opening in your mouth between the left and proper corners.

If a participant stretches the mouth huge sufficient, and block out a sure variety of holes within the center such that solely two notes which might be octave aside (e.g.: C1 and C2) will sound, they may type a octave.

For chromatic, meaning stretching out throughout 5 holes, after which block out the three holes within the center together with your tongue.
For diatonic, stretch out throughout 4 holes after which block out the two holes within the center. Observe you may solely type a real octave on the blow, and just some draw notes.

Slide bump[edit]

As participant play a slide-out notice, instantly bump the slide in and let it out shortly, which let it stand up a bit.

Slide dip[edit]

As participant play a slide-in notice, instantly let it out and press it again in shortly, which let it decrease down for a short time.


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