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How to Play a 24 Hole Harmonica

Updated April 17, 2017

The 24-hole tremolo harmonica is played with the same blow/draw rhythm as the 10-hole diatonic harmonica. The difference is that instead of blowing and drawing on the same hole to create two separate notes, each tremolo note is played by a blow or draw at a single hole location. On the 24-hole harmonica, each note can be played through two reeds, one set slightly off key from the other. This dissonance creates the distinct tremolo sound.

Hold the Harmonica in the "V" of your hand between the thumb and fore finger. Your grip should be loose enough for flexibility in your wrist but firm enough to control the instrument.

Place your lips around the tops and bottom of both rows of holes. Do not jam the instrument into your mouth. Keep the contact with the instrument light, using your lips as a guide rather than a grip.

Blow air into the instrument. Use natural breathing, sending air through the reeds of the harmonica gently. Do not puff the air with your cheeks.

Move the harmonica back and forth across your lips with your hand as you blow to become familiar with all of the "blow" notes. On the 24-hole harmonica, every other hole will produce sound as you blow.

Draw air through the instrument. Use natural breathing to pull air through the reeds of the harmonica. Do not suck the air through.

Move the harmonica back and forth across your lips as you draw the air through to become familiar with the sound of the "draw" notes. The holes that did not produce sound when you were blowing through will produce sound when you draw air through.

Hold the harmonica steady and blow air through the reeds. As you are blowing, use your tongue to block all but one double set of holes to play just one note. On the 24-hole harmonica, the note will have an extra vibration created by the slightly off pitch top reed, but the note itself will be on key.

Hold the harmonica steady and draw air through. As you are drawing air, use your tongue to block all but one double set of holes to play just one note. On the 24-hole Harmonica, the note will have an extra vibration, created by the slightly off pitch top reed, but the note itself will be on key.

Alternate blowing and drawing, without moving the harmonica, using your tongue to isolate the notes you want to play. Identify the range of notes you can play without moving the harmonica.

Starting at position number four, blow and draw a note on each hole to play a "C" scale. Each position number represents a blow hole/draw hole set. Move the harmonica to the left as often as necessary to play all eight notes of the scale. For each position except position seven, blow first and then draw. At position seven, you will need to draw first and then blow to play the scale correctly.

Repeat steps one through nine, using your lips to block the upper or lower rows of each note to create tones with no tremolo.

Tip

Keep the reeds of your harmonica as dry as possible. Tilting your head up slightly can help you keep saliva at a minimum. If the reeds stick, slap the "Play" side of the instrument against your palm to knock out the moisture.

Things You'll Need

  • 24-hole harmonica
  • Scale reference guide
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About the Author

Smokey Yokems has been teaching through writing and performance since 1982. Yokems' strength is translation. Her publications include work-for-hire children's stories, corporate video scripts and a tri-annual newsletter for a nonprofit educational foundation in Maine. Yokems holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and performance from Oberlin College/Lesley University.