How to Get Started on the Chromatic Harmonica

Updated February 21, 2017

The chromatic harmonica can be used for any type of music. The main advantages that the chromatic harmonica have over the diatonic harmonic are its capability of producing extra notes by means of a slide button on its side and the fact that it offers 12 holes instead of 10. Consult "Play the Harmonica," under Related eHows, before starting on the chromatic harmonica.

Hold the harmonica firmly in your left hand with the first hole (the lowest note) on your left side.

Place your left index finger on the upper part of the instrument and your thumb along the bottom.

Cup your right hand around the back of the harmonica.

Position your right index finger on the slide button.

Pucker your lips as if you were about to kiss grandma on her cheek.

Close your lips over hole No. 4 of the harmonica, making sure that no other notes are sounded (lip blocking).

Repeat lip blocking for all 12 holes of the harmonica.

Practice lip blocking both blowing and drawing.

Or use this technique: Put the harmonica into your mouth as if to blow four holes (holes Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5).

Bring your tongue forward covering all holes (tongue blocking).

Move your tongue to the left just enough to allow air into only one hole (hole No. 5).

Prevent air from escaping through the sides of your mouth.

Breathe deeply through the harmonica; do not suck!

Practice tongue blocking on different holes of the harmonica.

Hold the harmonica in your left hand and close the right hand over the left.

Open and close the right hand over the left. A wavering tone will begin.

Make the right hand move back and forth smoothly. A rich and mellow vibrato will result.

Blow on hole 5 (b5) - slide out, which is the note --> C. Count 1-2-3-4 holding each note (4/4 rhythm).

Now, move up the chromatic (12 half-tone) scale step-by-step:

b5 -- slide in --> C#(Db)

Draw on hole 5 (d5) -- slide out --> D

d5 -- slide in --> D#(Eb)

b6 -- slide out --> E

b6 -- slide in --> E#(F)

d6 -- slide out --> F

d6 -- slide in --> F#(Gb)

b7 -- slide out --> G

b7 -- slide in --> G#(Ab)

d7 -- slide out --> A

d7 -- slide in --> A#(Bb)

d8 -- slide out --> B

d8 -- slide in --> B#(C)

b8 -- slide out --> C

Practice this scale upwards ands downwards in 4/4 rhythm.

Make sure the single notes come out clearly!


Being able to produce a clear, single note is a prerequisite for doing anything on the chromatic harmonica, much more so than on the diatonic harmonica. Make sure you get those notes both in slide-in and slide-out position, blowing and drawing. You need to be able to control and separate the tones on each musical piece you play. You can create a quick note separation (called articulation) by physically "biting" the harmonica with your upper lip while playing.

Things You'll Need

  • Chromatic Harmonica
  • Harmonicas
  • Music Stands
  • Sheet Music
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