Harmonica/Basic Holding and Playing a Harmonica

Find out how to maintain harmonica[edit]

For all harmonicas, the decrease quantity must be in your left. In case your harmonica doesn’t have numbering system (often within the case of East Asia Tremolo), the bottom be aware must be in your left.

  1. Diatonic
    1. Maintain the physique of the harmonica within the left hand between the thumb and index finger. The three remaining fingers will then be curved barely, to type a small resonating area.
    2. Place the flat of your proper hand over the harmonica (not the mouthpiece aspect!), and enclose it, forming a decent cup. Optimally, the cup ought to type a big resonating area.
  2. Tremolo
    1. With the left hand, maintain the harmonica someplace across the left of the middle. If one has the power, maintain the harmonica with the thumb and index finger, and let the three remaining fingers curl collectively to type a resonating area.
    2. With the appropriate hand, maintain the harmonica someplace round the appropriate of the middle. If one has the power, maintain the harmonica with the thumb and index finger, and let the three remaining fingerscurl collectively to type a resonating area. The fingertips of each palms ought to contact one another, whereas the palms face one another. Some gamers additionally advisable crossing the fingers to make sure resonation is fashioned, however this may increasingly hinder the motion of the harmonica.
  3. Chromatic
    There are fairly a number of variants for holding a chromatic. One is a deviation of the diatonic maintain, utilizing the appropriate thumb to work the slide button. That is significantly utilized by Blues participant, which regularly play Chromatic in third place solely.
    The opposite widespread variant could be very related:
    1. With the left hand, maintain the harmonica someplace across the left of the middle with the thumb, index and center fingers.
    2. Then twist your proper hand alongside the wrist, in order that the fingers level to a two o’clock place and palm going through up. Place the appropriate palm on the backside of the harmonica (often set proper under the left thumb) and wrap all of the fingers besides the index fingers across the harmonica. If completed correctly, the appropriate wrist will type a proper angle. Your index finger shall be touching the slide button, and can at all times be touching there, regardless when you use the button or not. If it is a 16-hole variant, maintain it in related method, besides your cup shall be positioned nearer to the middle. Alternatively, break up the cup.

I personally have seen that the cup can be most effecicent when it is fashioned across the larger register. This additionally benefit from forming a tighter cup, as little to no air shall be leaked from that nook. The opposite nook issues much less, because the decrease register usually sounds full by itself. Thus, some gamers will let the cupping proper hand cowl the whole larger register of the harp: the whole cup will cowl the appropriate face of the harp (particularly over the nook opening), whereas the thumb blocks the holes to stop air loss, in addition to offering a decent match between the cheek and the cup.


Whereas a participant can at all times widen their mouth over a number of holes (often on the bodily restrict of 5) and play chords and intervals on a regular basis, the music often sounds higher when the melody is performed one be aware at a time; whereas intervals might sound nice for many newbie songs (often written in the important thing of C or G, simply performed on a key of C harmonica) because it “thickens” the sound, songs which are simply barely extra superior will sound bizarre if the interval is finished improperly.

With the intention to play single notes, quite a few sorts of embouchure (mouth form) are mostly used:

Commonplace Tongue block[edit]

This embouchure is favored by many expert gamers, as there are a lot of results that may solely be completed through the use of tongue block, and, actually, obligatory for jazz and classical enjoying. Merely put, it includes stretching the mouth over about 4 to 5 holes, after which utilizing the tongue to dam the holes.

That is essentially the most troublesome embouchure, however there are a lot of strategies of reaching it.

A couple of helpful ideas that may assist tremendously:

  1. Convey the harmonica deep in your mouth. If the mouthpiece hasn’t penetrated previous the entrance tooth, it is advisable open your mouth wider and get the entire entrance of the harp pushed additional again within the mouth. This has two results: it offers you a fuller sound, and permits your breath entry to a number of holes.
  2. Tilt the harmonica in order that the mouthpiece is tilted downward; that manner, you should use extra of the tongue to dam, and one can find the approach much less tiring.
  3. Push the tongue to the harmonica. Don’t use the tip of your tongue to dam the holes – as a substitute, press it to your decrease entrance tooth and gently push the tongue ahead in order that the highest of your tongue contacts the harmonica. This may enable clean transitions as you progress from gap to gap.
  4. After you place your stretched mouth over the holes, jerk the tongue to the left on larger octaves, and to the appropriate on decrease octaves – then place the tongue over the holes, such that just one gap is opened for air. If in case you have issues doing each side, strive jerking the tongue to the left solely.
If it looks like you make multiple sound, both press the tongue wider on the harp, or slender your lips.
  • Benefit
    • Permits enjoying of octaves, side-pull, pull, slap, self accompaniment, and lots of different methods
    • Permits legato and quick phrasing
    • Louder quantity; Lips can create larger stress on the harmonica, which may create larger stress within the cavity of the mouth.
    • Permit altering tonal high quality via manipulation of oral cavity
    • Permit longer enjoying; tongue block enable air move into the mouth
  • Drawback
    • More durable to bend with the tongue (however not not possible, if one can management airflow correctly)
    • More durable to make the most of free-tongue particular methods (corresponding to singing into the harp)


That is in all probability the instinctive single-note enjoying most gamers tailored: the lips narrowed to a small gap, in order that the breath was directed into one gap at a time.

  • Benefit:
    • Studying curve is small (as stated above, instinctive embouchure)
    • Frees up the tongue for a lot of different Blues-oriented results, corresponding to bending, tongue vibrato, and singing into the harp
    • Good for very brief staccato passages
  • Drawback:
    • Troublesome to play legato, because it really includes shifting the whole harmonica back and forth.
    • Lack or surplus of air can solely be maintained via the nostril.

Lip Block[edit]

In blues, a distinct lip block is used:

  1. Stretch your mouth throughout roughly 3-Four holes
  2. Tilt the rear of the harmonica upward (or tilt the mouthpiece-side downward) in order that the decrease lip touches the comb, which ought to correctly block the non-playing holes on each side of the present gap.
  3. Higher lip must be on prime of the higher cowl plate.
  • Benefit:
    • Similar as pucker, however permits for much more throat methods (e.g. throat vibrato) and bending (as now you can even use your lips to manage the embouchure)
  • Drawback:
    • Similar as pucker, plus troublesome to manage the correct tone, since bending shouldn’t be very simple.
    • Not as loud since it is easy for the decrease lip to get in the way in which, quieting the reeds.


A complementation possibility require a lot higher dexterity on the tongue; curl your tongue right into a “U”, and use it to direct the airflow to the holes.

  • Benefit
    • present quick velocity when shifting up and down the harmonica
  • Drawback
    • Require rather more focus; if one didn’t focus sufficient, there shall be no airflow towards the outlet.
    • Require throat bending
    • Unable to make the most of tongue block particular methods.

The U-block must be used primarily as a complement of the tongue block, because it permits fast switching of notes that lies between the 2 outermost notes.

Taking part in (and correct technique to breathe)[edit]

Fairly lots of people, significantly those who simply purchased a harmonica, will simply blow into the holes. Keep in mind that the Harmonica makes use of airflow in each instructions to play notes! Strive it! Hear the notes which are performed with in every airflow course! (If it sounds bizarre, don’t be concerned: we’ll come again to it later.)

The important thing level is to breathe from the diaphragm. That’s, it is advisable breathe previous the chest and into your lungs; your abdomen, not your chest, must be the one which expands and contracts as you breathe. Additionally, you need not breathe arduous; simply breathe such as you often do.


One distinctive technique to modify the sound of the harmonica is by singing or talking into it. The next lists a number of phrases/strategies to strive:

  • Phrases
    • RU, DU, TU,
    • HUY
    • Ta, Da, Ka, Ga
    • Ya, Gya, Tya, Kya – a bend that was launched shortly, good for grace notes
    • Dow, Gow – make a remark begin pure earlier than bending it barely
    • pit – good for actually brief notes
    • Toil – produce an echo-like impact
    • Too-wee – for producing a practice whistle type be aware
  • Different


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