The harmonica is a magnificently adaptable instrument, it's adaptability lends itself to just about any style of music you could desire to play. It may not require the intricate hand movements of some woodwind or stringed instruments but you are no less a part of the instrument. In the case of the harmonica there is so much we can change merely in the way we blow or draw air through the instrument. We also may use simple hand movements to position the harmonica to advantage for the style or song we are playing. There are some fairly easily mastered techniques that can make even the beginner sound like an old hand.
As you read, this think back to the first time you ever heard the harmonica played, there is just something in the sound that draws people to it. Maybe it was someone pouring their heart out playing the blues. It may have been an old folk song. Maybe you remember a snappy upbeat jazzy sounding way of playing. However you first were exposed to the sound, there is only one sure cure and that is to pick up this instrument, and start making your own music.
Whether you want to play the blues, country, bluegrass, traditional or some other type of music a quality instrument from a good manufacturer is the place to start. Instruments by Lee Oskar, Hohner, Suzuki and Hering are all good choices and excellent quality modestly priced models suitable for any style of music can be easily found.
Harmonica note bending is one technique used especially in playing the blues. In simplest terms it is a way of lowering the pitch of a note and changing the sound. Notes played in some holes will change by a half step, some by a whole step and some by a step and a half. This is done by the player changing the direction and and volume of air flow through a reed. The air flow direction can be changed by tilting the back of the harmonica up causing the air blown against the top reed to increase changing the pitch of the note.
There are several important keys to learning to bend notes. Practicing good breathing techniques, breathing in and out through your mouth as you play using your lungs and diaphragm. Work on your playing by using long tones rather than short puffs. Listen to recorded examples of bent notes and watch videos until you can hear them in your sleep. Practice, practice, practice and then, practice some more. Note bending performed properly adds flair to the playing of the blues.
The collection of parts that make up the harmonica is only part of the instrument, you are the rest. You will use your whole mouth and your hands too in the playing of this instrument. Everything from the position of the lips to the way the tongue is held or manipulated during the playing will dictate what kind of sound you play. Tongue blocking is a simple technique using the tongue to block some of the holes in the harmonica while playing and allowing air to flow through only one hole left open. To accomplish this, seat the harmonica in your lips so you are able to blow air through at least three holes. Now use your tongue to block off all but one hole. Alternately covering and uncovering the holes in rhythm with the song creates chords and single notes.
These and many other techniques are waiting for you as you progress in learning this instrument. Along with the joy of making music there is the challenge available to go as far as you want to.
About the Author
Alan Thompson is a writer and amateur musician who loves to share the harmonica with others who love its sound and simplicity. You can check out his latest website at Harmonica Notes, where he shares advice and tips on harmonicas, how to choose the one for you at Harmonica Note Chart and much more