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Aquamarine

Harmonica tips

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How do you play the harmonica, then? I've tried since I was a teenager, but can't get a recognizable tune out of it, let alone bend a note. Plus *ahem* it causes me to spit a lot. Is there some trick I'm missing?

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I play harmonica. :D

What key harmonica do you have? The best key harmonica to start off with is C. You can get a few great recognisable tunes out of that one, and bend notes really easily with a C harmonica, and get the classic "train" type sound out of it.

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Hmm. I don't know if it's a C harmonica or not. Perhaps that's the problem? Like, maybe I should buy a better one that tells you this stuff?

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I have knowledge on the subject...just not much time at the moment. But yeah, you need a 10 hole blues harmonica or harp as they are commonly called. The key of the harp should be on it somewhere, generally on one of the ends.

I know Plant plays a C harp on Poor Tom. I am not sure about the other songs. I play the C harp as well as the G harp. Go and buy yourself a key of C blues harp (I recommend a Hohner Special 20).

I will post some techniques, good links etc later...when it is not 3:31am!! :o:lol:

:wave:

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I read somewhere that on When the Levee Breaks he uses a B flat harp.

And I wish I knew how or knew some one who could play harmonica...

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You mean I should be playing it with my ear? :unsure: No wonder I'm having trouble!

Seriously, thanks all. I'll be waiting when you're rested and ready with those tips, Richard. :)

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If the key of the song is "E", like "Bring It On Home" you would use an "A" harp. It's called cross harp. You play a 4th up from the Major key and it gets that "Blues Harp" sound. WTLB is in "F", so that's why a "B flat" harp works. A "C" harp works for "F major", but also has all of the "natural" notes (or the white keys) which works for A minor, most of E minor, obviously C major and G major. If trhe song is in "G major", though a "D" harp sounds a lot better. It has the f# in it.

I would recommend "Bring It On Home" with an "A" harp as a great starting out song!!

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How many differant kinds do the average music store sell? Do you think Jagger used the same thing on Midnight Rambler that lets say Plant used on When the Levee Breaks or Tyler used on Same old Story Same old song and Dance?? Or Daltrey of the Who? Or do you think it varied greatley from song to song?

Just get a Hohner "Blues harp", I recommend an "A" harp, so you can jam in E major. there are tons of good harp songs in the key of E.

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Just get a Hohner "Blues harp", I recommend an "A" harp, so you can jam in E major. there are tons of good harp songs in the key of E.

But I can't jam in anything, I'm still trying to figure out how to play the bloody thing. :( I can just about manage the theme tune to Z-Cars (for British viewers) (old ones), which isn't exactly bluesy, and you have to be told in advance what I'm supposed to be playing. I need basic help here!

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Don't worry Aqua...I will post some basic help for you a little later on when I have opportunity...its very easy for us to get swept along in technicalities. In the meantime, try and find out what key your harmonica is. Check the harmonica itself...check the box it is in if it is in one, check the shop reciept if you still have it.

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Don't worry Aqua...I will post some basic help for you a little later on when I have opportunity...its very easy for us to get swept along in technicalities. In the meantime, try and find out what key your harmonica is. Check the harmonica itself...check the box it is in if it is in one, check the shop reciept if you still have it.

Thanks, Richard.

I've had the harmonica for ages, and it doesn't seem to have any marking on it. :'(

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I can't really help on the harmonica playing front, but I did see Larry Adler in concert,met him and got autograph on a prog. He is considered to be the greatest ever player of this instrument . I loved Plants playing on When the Levee breaks and Custard pie to name but 2 !!

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I have two Hohner Blues Harps (MS), one C and one D. Richard is right, start with a C harp, I really dig the throaty, deep sound from the D though, I may be wrong, but I think Robert may have used a D on "Levee". Robert is the reason I picked up the harp .

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Are you trying to concentrate on one two notes at a time? That helps when you are trying out melodies. Purse your lips and try blowing through only a couple of notes as you slide the harmonica back and forth. Making some wow motions with your mouth gets you to bend the notes.

A big part of that rock harmonica sound is the amplification through an amp. that gives you distortion and compression.

Hohner has a pretty decent website by the way. Wow looks like there is a lot to learn there.

Thanks for bringing this up. I would have never looked.

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Are you trying to concentrate on one two notes at a time? That helps when you are trying out melodies. Purse your lips and try blowing through only a couple of notes as you slide the harmonica back and forth. Making some wow motions with your mouth gets you to bend the notes.

OK, thanks, I'm trying this--I think it's going to take a lot more practice, hope the neighbors won't mind. :huh: I do seem to be producing a more recognizable tune.

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Right I am here...so what do you want to know? You are an absolute beginner I take it. Right, then I shall start from absolute basics:

A blues harp has ten holes in it...each hole produces two notes, one on the inhale and one on the exhale. There are other notes than can be achieved through bending but that can be addressed later on.

As has already been said it would be advisable to start with a 10 hole harmonica in the key of C as C is one of the easiest major keys to play in.

The larger harmonica with the slide built into the side allowing chromatic play is known as a "Chromatica"...these types of harmonica are for classical or jazz music. You definitely need a ten hole harp.

Holding the harp

I searched the net for a suitable diagram to show you the grip of the harp:

music_harm_hold.gif

Make sure it is tucked nicely into the flesh inbetween your first finger and your thumb. Do not hold it like this:

25dec-harmonica.JPG:lol: :lol:

There is a technique you can learn later called "hand vibrato" technique, that is where you also use the other hand to cup the harmonica. But just focus on the one hand at the moment. :thumbsup:

Putting the harp in your mouth

Cover a few of the low end holes (try hole number 1, 2 and 3) with your mouth, and then gently exhale air through the harmonica. The harp should be well into your mouth, your upper lip must extend onto the top of the upper cover plate, and your lower lip under the bottom cover plate.

I suggest you get used to the amount of air you need to exhale or inhale to get a decent sound. Notice that with playing the harmonica it is all about inhaling and exhaling...NOT blowing and sucking. Being aggressive with your breathing technique will lessen the life span of your harp and it will damage the reeds.

Make sure you don't waste valuable air by breathing out of your nose as you play.

Just get used to the feel of the harp first. I will post more in a bit. It is really tough to actually explain techniques and exercises without actually being with you and showing you. :lol:

Hope this helps a little. We will get you playing something recognisable sooner or later.

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Richard, you're a star! :thanku: That inhaling/exhaling (as opposed to blowing/sucking) thing really makes a difference! Are you supposed to blow through 1, 2 and 3 separately or all together, because I can't do it separately? (Yes, I am a total beginner--like I said, I've had the thing for years, but never managed to learn to play it. I can't whistle, either, btw.)

OK, I'm getting used to the feel of it (I think), though it's a bit disappointing not to be able to use the cool two-handed pose yet. :'( Tomorrow when nobody's asleep I'll have another practice session.

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What key harp to use depends on the key of the song..they are NOT the same...playing a C harp for a song in C will not work

what you do is go up a 4th from the key of the song(if you are using a diatonic harp..chromatic harps work in all keys)

examples: song is in A Major...use a D harp, song is in G major, use a C harp

you rarely hear harmonicas on songs in minor keys, but if you want to try it first you have to determine the major key it relates to and then go up a 4th(note: I think there is a reason you never hear harps in minor keys..it sounds like shit to my ears, or maybe I've just been around bad harp players but it just seems to clash horribly...of course there are no rules when it comes to art so feel free to ignore this entire post and do whatever the hell you want)

edit...about the playing single notes thing...if you can curl your tounge(it's genetic some ppl can't do it) you can block the holes next to the one you are playing...if you can't you have to resign yourself to playing like neil young or bob dylan and playing a bunch of notes at a time

Edited by spatdrastik

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edit...about the playing single notes thing...if you can curl your tounge(it's genetic some ppl can't do it) you can block the holes next to the one you are playing...if you can't you have to resign yourself to playing like neil young or bob dylan and playing a bunch of notes at a time

Well I must say it's difficult, but I guess with more practice I might be able to do it--I have to concentrate really hard.

Still, there's worse things than sounding like Bob Dylan, I suppose. :D

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Richard, you're a star! :thanku: That inhaling/exhaling (as opposed to blowing/sucking) thing really makes a difference! Are you supposed to blow through 1, 2 and 3 separately or all together, because I can't do it separately? (Yes, I am a total beginner--like I said, I've had the thing for years, but never managed to learn to play it. I can't whistle, either, btw.)

OK, I'm getting used to the feel of it (I think), though it's a bit disappointing not to be able to use the cool two-handed pose yet. :'( Tomorrow when nobody's asleep I'll have another practice session.

You are quite welcome Aqua. :D Yeah, it is a common misconception that you blow and suck on a harmonica...it has to be gentle and controlled, but not too gentle so as to lack passion. Some of the bends require you to inhale stronger, but it is from the throat where you have to do that.

Yes, play holes one two and three together...this produces a nice chord sound. Then inhale on the same holes. Then move up to four five and six, again exhale and the inhale. Get a really nice feel for the harp in your hands and the feel of it on your lips, and become conscious of how much air you are sending or drawing through the holes. This is just to get you to be comfortable with it.

With single notes I don't often use what's called the "tongue block" (mentioned in the post above this one) where you use the tongue to block the holes you aren't playing. I use the "pucker technique" where you pucker your lips and blow on the single hole. A good way to see how this sounds is to block say the 4th hole and the 6th hole with your first finger on each hand. Then put your mouth to those fingers and play that note. Get used to how it sounds. Then pucker your lips and try and play that same note without your fingers there, you know what it sounds like, so just keep slightly changing your mouth position until you get that single note. Once you do, then its just a case of practicing and training your muscles to remember the shape of your mouth over those holes.

:thumbsup:

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What key harp to use depends on the key of the song..they are NOT the same...playing a C harp for a song in C will not work

what you do is go up a 4th from the key of the song(if you are using a diatonic harp..chromatic harps work in all keys)

examples: song is in A Major...use a D harp, song is in G major, use a C harp

you rarely hear harmonicas on songs in minor keys, but if you want to try it first you have to determine the major key it relates to and then go up a 4th(note: I think there is a reason you never hear harps in minor keys..it sounds like shit to my ears, or maybe I've just been around bad harp players but it just seems to clash horribly...of course there are no rules when it comes to art so feel free to ignore this entire post and do whatever the hell you want)

edit...about the playing single notes thing...if you can curl your tounge(it's genetic some ppl can't do it) you can block the holes next to the one you are playing...if you can't you have to resign yourself to playing like neil young or bob dylan and playing a bunch of notes at a time

Yeah!! You are right! Except, Songs like "Stormy Monday", which is in A minor. The relative major is "C", so you use an "F" harp. I think it sounds pretty cool. A "C" harp does work in "C major", but it doesn't have that blues feeling. Blues harp is called "cross harp" and like Spatdrastic said, up a 4th. A chromatic harp is not for beginners.

Listen to "When The Levee Breaks" use a C harp. The notes are easy to pick out. Same with "Bring It On Home", use an "A" harp. It's just not that tough. Breathe in, Breathe out! :D

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Thanks much for the help, Richard and JP77! I've been practicing (when I can) and I'm still having trouble getting those individual notes without using my fingers, but I get the idea about figuring out the shape of your mouth when you do it, etc. Trouble with playing a tune is I have to stop, figure out which the next note would be, apply lips to the appropriate hole, try to block off surrounding holes, etc.--somehow that doesn't seem to be how Little Walter did it! :lol: However I know it's just practice, so I shall soldier on. I think I'll also get a better harmonica, as I'm not even sure what key this one's in. You reckon a C harmonica is what I need (as a beginner), then?

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Thanks much for the help, Richard and JP77! I've been practicing (when I can) and I'm still having trouble getting those individual notes without using my fingers, but I get the idea about figuring out the shape of your mouth when you do it, etc. Trouble with playing a tune is I have to stop, figure out which the next note would be, apply lips to the appropriate hole, try to block off surrounding holes, etc.--somehow that doesn't seem to be how Little Walter did it! :lol: However I know it's just practice, so I shall soldier on. I think I'll also get a better harmonica, as I'm not even sure what key this one's in. You reckon a C harmonica is what I need (as a beginner), then?

Don't worry about having to stop to find the new hole. When starting out everyone has to do that. Just try and get your puckered lips close enough together to cover just the one hole. Try not to get frustrated with yourself, it will happen soon.

I reccommend you buy a Hohner Special 20 blues harp in the key of C to start out with. :thumbsup:

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Don't worry about having to stop to find the new hole. When starting out everyone has to do that. Just try and get your puckered lips close enough together to cover just the one hole. Try not to get frustrated with yourself, it will happen soon.

I reccommend you buy a Hohner Special 20 blues harp in the key of C to start out with. :thumbsup:

OK, thanks--I'll get down to the music store down the street at the weekend, and see if they have one. In the meantime I'll keep trying. I think it might be getting a bit easier, but getting just the one hole isolated seems to be the tough part.

You're a great teacher! :thumbsup:

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I shall expect a performance in May Aqua :D:thumbsup:

I've always wanted to learn harmonica but I think I had the same concerns you did in not understanding the technique and when I would try, I'd just get about 5 sounds simultaneously :blink:

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