Harmonica Lessons: Beautiful Music in A Few Simple Blows

harmonica lessonsIf you are looking to learn a new instrument or just want to perfect a few tunes, we have a simple and easy suggestion for you: the harmonica.  Harmonica lessons will get you far, and the rewards will be diverse and applicable to you in many situations and environments.  Just think– you will have an instrument that you can pull out of your pocket to play instantly, anywhere.  There is a lot more music hiding inside this four-inch instrument than meets the eye.  We are going to help you take a peek inside this little player with some basic Harmonica lessons to get you in on all the joys that this friendly music-maker has to offer.

Types of Harmonicas

If you are at the stage where you are looking for Harmonica lessons, you have probably already picked up a Harmonica.  However, we are still going to go over the different available options so that you will be able to know what type of notes your harmonica has.  Look out for yours on this list:

  • The diatonic harmonica is the most common harmonica type out there and usually the cheapest.  If you are just starting out, you will want to pick up one of these.  The diatonic harmonicas are set in a certain key that cannot be changed (usually key “C”).  Diatonic harmonicas also include the blues harmonica, the tremolo harmonica, and the octave harmonica.
  • Next, we have the blues and the tremolo harmonicas.  The blues harmonica is commonly used in the Western world, and the tremolo is popular in Asia.
  • The chromatic harmonica is more advanced as it contains 10 different notes that are controlled by a mechanical apparatus to control the noise the separate holes will make.  There are also 12 to 16 hole chromatic harmonicas that are commonly used for jazz music due to their flexibility.

Harmonica Notes

First, you will need to know the basic harmonica notes.  Here are the basic 10:

Hole     1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

Blow    C          E          G          C          E          G          C          E          G          C

Draw   D          G          B          D          F          A          B          D          F          A

  • The most common harmonica key is C.
  • The Blow refers to the note made when blowing into a hole on a harmonica.
  • Draw means the note when breathing in.
  • This above note layout is called the “Richter tuning”, which is found on most harmonicas.

Lessons in Tablature

Harmonicas are played by following a tablature.  Tablatures are useful to slim down your sheet notes and provide an easy system of holes and breath patterns that the harmonica player can follow.  Here are some instructions on how to read harmonica tablature:

  • The arrows indicate breathing patterns.  An upwards arrow will mean to breath out, and a downwards arrow is for breathing in.
  • Holes on a diatonic harmonica will produce two neighboring notes on a scale.  For instance, playing “C” and “D” on the same scale can be done by blowing into the right hole and the drawing in from that same hole.
  • A harmonica’s holes are distinguished by numbers from the lowest tone (on the left-hand) moving up.  For instance, the two lowest notes are up 1 and down 1.  On a 10-hole harmonica, the highest note will be down 10.
  • However, there are some holes on 10-hole harmonica that overlap, such as down 2 and up 3.

Lessons in Technique

harmonica lessonsThere is a basic technique for playing a harmonica, and as you read on, you will find that it is quite simple.  Here is a lesson for playing your harmonica properly:

  1. Blow:  Simply blow into your harmonica.  You will hear a note!  Holes that are close to each other are meant for harmonizing, so go ahead and try blowing into 2 or 3 holes at once to see the sound it makes.
  2. Breathe in:  Take in a breath when you are changing note positions.  Do this gently, and you will take a note up a step.  If you breathe in and out through the harmonica’s mouthpiece, you can touch on all the notes that your harmonica is tuned for.
  3. Play a scale:  Once you have the breath part down, take a shot at playing a scale.  Start with the basic “C” scale, which starts with up 4, and then up 7.  This pattern is repeated except on the 7th hole.  For the 7th hole, you will draw in first and then out instead of the other way around.
  4. Play around:  Play around with your harmonica and the different scales that it has to offer.  Also, play around with your breathing techniques when your lips are pursed over the harmonica.  As you do this, overtime you will develop more and more control over your instrument.

And Onward

After you learn how the basics of your harmonica, the notes, and the tablature, you can consider doing these things to help spice up your technique and playing skills:

  • Take a course online:  There are plenty of online courses here that will give you some easy and convenient practice in the comfort of your own home.  There are major perks about taking a music class online: you can learn from a qualified instructor at a much cheaper price, you can learn at your own pace, and you will be less likely to be self conscious about how you sound.  Remember that learning an instrument is always a step by step process, so give yourself time and allow yourself patience.
  • Skip holes:  At first, this might seem a little advanced, but skipping over holes is a great way to add a different sound to your music.  Try skipping holes by pulling your harmonica away from your mouth slightly, and then returning it to its original position.  This will stop your airflow without removing the harmonica completely.

Develop Your Sound

No one will be a master at a new instrument right away.  Like anything else you are learning for the first time, give yourself time to develop a good sound.  The key is to practice a little bit every day, and to not get discouraged.  Soon enough, you will be playing some beautiful notes on command!