Thanks to the Internet, there's never been a better time to learn how to play the harmonica. There are countless online instructional video courses available, most of them on YouTube. Many are supplied by some of the world's top players. In addition to observing how to play, the instructors explain what they're doing. To start, be aware that there are two different types of harmonicas--the diatonic (blues harp) and the chromatic--and they are very different.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Computer with Internet connection
- Harmonica in the key of C
Place your diatonic harmonica in your mouth with the low holes to the left. Softly blow and suck on holes one through four. You will be able to play two chords. Now view the beginner lessons that Adam Gussow has uploaded to YouTube. Find his first lesson on his website and click on "quick start for BEGINNERS," the fifth item down on the menu at the left. Listen to the entire lesson before you start playing. There are instructional videos to the advanced level. As you improve, it's worth investigating other players.
Click on the Jason Ricci You Tube video once you achieve the intermediate level. The list to the right of the video has many lessons. He has developed some very useful techniques for the "overblow," a means of reaching additional notes on the diatonic harmonica. He also can teach you how to play very fast runs. View his performance videos to see and hear some of his techniques in action.
Learn how to play the chromatic harmonica. It is a bigger instrument than the diatonic. The chromatic usually has 12 or 16 holes, with a button and slide that change each note a half step. It is well suited for jazz, classical and melodic material. Start to learn this instrument online at Gary Lehmann's YouTube channel. Watch his videos entitled "Chromatic Harmonica for Beginners," parts one, two and three. Here you will receive a solid grounding in chromatic harmonica playing.
Look online for additional instructional video clips of many of the well-known players to give you an insight into different approaches to harmonica playing. For diatonic harmonica, seek out clips of blues players like Charlie Musselwhite, Kim Wilson and country and western musicians such as Charlie McCoy. For chromatic harmonica, watch clips of Larry Adler, Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder.
Tips and warnings
- For more background information, tips, opinions, suggestions and discussions, visit Harp-L, particularly the archives.
- For information and discussion on the chromatic harmonica, click on the Slidemeister website, particularly the forums.
- A good way to improve your skills is by playing along with recordings--either on CD or online.
- Never soak your harmonica in any liquids.
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