Lesson 1


I taught myself to play the harmonica. I began by learning the songs that I already knew. The ones I could hum or whistle. The first song I learned was Mary Had a Little Lamb. Other songs included: Home Home On The Range, Camptown Races, Way Down Upon The Swanee River, OH! Suzzanah, The Irish Washerwoman, Three Blind Mice, Popeye the Sailor and others. I tried to concentrate on getting single notes (one of the most difficult things for a beginner) and learned to play the songs very slowly at first. Gradually, I would focus on playing the songs more rapidly and fluidly. I also used the eight note scale, up and down, as an exercise.

If you've never heard the eight note major scale, which I find hard to imagine, it goes like this:

      do    re     mi     fa     so     la     ti     do
note: C     D      E      F      G      A      B      C
hole: 4     4      5      5      6      6      7      7
      B     D      B      D      B      D      D      B
B=blow D=draw

(these are the notes are on a C harp but the holes played are the same on any key harp)

Click here to download an audio file of the major scale above played on a C harmonica:

C scale in .au format

There are several physical approaches to the method of playing harmonica. Hohner and many players recommend holding the harmonica with the highest numbered holes to your right and using a method called tongue-blocking to direct air into the holes of the harmonica. With this method, you place your tongue on the holes of the harmonica and leave a space for air to flow between your tongue and the corner of your mouth.

This is the method described in the instructions that come with a Hohner harmonica.

I learned to play by just picking the thing up, puckering up and blowing into the holes. I hold the harmonica with the low notes to the right. Many other harp players have learned in a similar fashion.

So that's my first lesson: learn to play what you already know and learn to play it well.

Then, you will have the proper foundation of skills that will allow you to approach more difficult things, like bending notes and learning to play "blues harmonica".

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