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What would newer (and not newer) players like to know?

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Apr 14, 2010 6:29 AM GMT

I've seen a bit less of this sort of thing here lately, so I just wanted to invite anyone, new or not new to harmonica, to ask any question about harmonica here. I'd like to add that no question is too simple or stupid, and although I don't think I need to do this, I'd ask for no one to make fun of any question on here.

I'm certainly not saying that I know the answers! I've been playing for many years, but I know very little about the technical issues of harmonicas and their playing. I play intuitively.

To start things, I'm going to ask a question, and then answer it for me.

What single act or item helped your playing the most?

For me, it was relaxation! When I try harder, or think too much, I play worse. If I relax, I get into a groove and better things happen.

I leave it up to you whether you want questions to be in this topic thread, or whether you want to start a new one.


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Comments (13)

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Apr 14, 2010 5:36 PM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

Play from below your diaphragm. Instant power and control of your bends.

ain't busted but I'm badly bent

Apr 15, 2010 2:54 AM GMT
sgsax Replied:

Listen to lots and lots of music. Don't just listen to one player or band or one genre. The more you listen to, the more musical ideas you will pick up. When you play, don't think about making "blues" or "country" or "rock", but making music.

Apr 15, 2010 4:11 AM GMT
Devil R Replied:

I am very new to the harp. I've messed around with them some over the years. Have some Marine Bands in a few keys and just bought a Golden Melody in 'A'. I can do a fair approximation of a Dylan/Neil Young thing with my guitar and a neck rack, but I would really like to get serious now and learn the harmonica as its own instrument...give it the respect it deserves. (I do at least have the "which key harp for which key song" thing handled with regards to cross harp playing.)

So far, my main problem concerns mouth technique...playing clean single notes. Need more practice for sure.

I guessfor now my main question is--is there an instructional book or book/DVD or CD set that the good folks here recommend?

Apr 15, 2010 5:05 AM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

youtube...Adam Gussow. Work through the first 10 or so instructon videos.

ain't busted but I'm badly bent

Apr 15, 2010 5:28 AM GMT
Tony W Replied:

Devil R, There are several ways to get clean single hole notes. One of the ways should work for you. First look at the instructions that come with Hohner harps and that is one way (tongue to the left and hole or space on the right of your mouth. Hold that position as you slide up and down the harp and achieve single notes. Does not work for everyone. Another way is to blow or draw a chord (mouth over 4 holes) then slap the tongue down on the left 3 holes. One more way is to lip purse. With the harp in your mouth, tilt the back of harp up and make a U with your bottom lip to isolate the single hole. Get good on one hole and then do it on other holes. Good luck with your journey.

keep it in your mouth

Apr 15, 2010 5:42 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

Q. What single act or item helped your playing the most?

A. Starting to sing. When you sing, you can lead the band and you get to pick the tunes. I wish I had started singing sooner.

Apr 15, 2010 5:58 AM GMT
Tony W Replied:

OrthodoxBlues, The thing that really helped my playing was figuring out how to tip my hat to the chord changes. In other words knowing what note to play on what chord. That single act will get you instant respect with knowledgeable guitar and bass players. Also makes you sound good. You can also use the root notes if you are not in the zone yet and instead of sounding like heck, you will always sound good because you are matching the band. You can stay on the root note of a chord for a long time and it won't hurt. Just listen to the old guys, they did it a lot. A lot of harp players think they have to play all over the place on their harp but it is not necessary especially if you don't know where the root, 3rd and 5th are. And just a side note here, I find (at jams) that most harp players think only in cross harp (2nd position) and think that no matter what they do that they will be in the right key and sound good. OMG that just aint true at all. :-) Sorry for the rambling.

keep it in your mouth

Apr 15, 2010 6:00 AM GMT
Tony W Replied:

Hi Joe L, You are a bad ass harp player and singer. All harp players should sing. IMO

keep it in your mouth

Apr 15, 2010 6:06 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

Great stuff!

Devil R, many people like Winslow Yerxa's book, Harmonica For Dummies. Despite the title, it is amazingly comprehensive and a good reference. I don't know if it is a good book through which to begin, because I read it years after starting!

For single notes, I don't tilt the harp as much as I purse my lips and only let air out through the center. I think that some players do better with specific techniques and instructions, but I just tried to keep it musical all along and let it flow. I progressed from the more "folk" sounds of Neil Young and Bob Dylan by getting an easy to bend harp, like a Hohner Special 20, and adding bends to my repertoire. I think that single notes came to me because I had played the trumpet (badly) before.

Please let us know more about your progress, what works and what doesn't ...

Apr 15, 2010 6:07 AM GMT
OrthodoxBlues Replied:

I've been playing harp for years, and I'm getting some great reminders from this thread!

May 10, 2010 10:55 PM GMT
Marcos C Replied:

BlueMoose whats the secretof playing withyour diaphragm, I mean, how doU get it?

May 11, 2010 6:50 PM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

Marcos, stand straight, neutral stance, shoulders square and relaxed, arms, neck, hands relaxed. (No death grip on harp or mic).

Do a 2 hole draw and bend it down the two steps. Let it slide back up.

Do it again but focus on you stomach. Tense your stomach muscles under your rib cage and push them out as you draw in.

Does your bend feel different? Does it sound different?

Mine feel a lot more fluid, effortless and rounder.

ain't busted but I'm badly bent

May 14, 2010 5:05 AM GMT
ron a Replied:

For me, it's playing to a live audience. I need that instant feedback. What works, what doesn' know. I have been singing and playing in front of people for so many years on other instruments, it just helps me more than anything else. Once I learn the scales and jam to some tracks for a couple of months, I want out! Onto the stage for me! Always been that way, on everything new I learn to play.

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