Learn How to Play Harmonica

The harmonica is a fun, simple instrument used in a variety of musical styles, ranging from rock and country to blues and folk. The harmonica is easy for a beginner to pick up and make sound with, and it has a lot of room for virtuosity and expert playing as well. Most harmonicas are diatonic, meaning they play in a single key and feature ten holes. The first four holes play chords, while the other holes play single notes.

Most diatonic harmonics will feature numbers on their topsides. The harmonica should be held with these numbers facing upwards since they'll act as a guide while you're playing. Pinch each side of the harmonica between your thumb and index fingers. Some harmonica players will prefer to "choke up" on the instrument and grip it closer to the junction between their thumb and forefinger, though holding it with only your fingertips is certainly acceptable. The extra three fingers on each hand should be free to move around. Wiggling these fingers while playing will create a vibrato sound as you play, an effect that might be desirable for some songs.

Don't get in the habit of cupping your fingers and hands over the harmonica. Although using this technique might make the harmonica sound richer and fuller to you, the fact is that you're creating a muffled sound for your audience. During a live performance or recording session, you'll want to be in the habit of pinching the harmonica instead of cupping it.

As long as you're holding the harmonica correctly, you don't have to make any special preparations before playing. Simply pick up the harmonica and blow. You'll notice that breathing in the harmonica, known as a "draw," makes sound, too, and the note it produces is different than blowing. This is an important facet of harmonica playing. The notes and chords on a harmonica are arranged in ascending order from left to right, just like on a piano. Hold the harmonica within your lips, instead of on your lips, as you play. Keep your lips in the exact same position as you move the harmonica around to play different notes.

One of the most important techniques to master early on is the ability to play single notes. This is done by only projecting air through a single hole of the harmonica at a time. You can do this by puckering your lips as if you were kissing the harmonica in order to direct a thinner stream of air through the instrument.

Approved by Jesse Anderson