How To: Play a harmonica

Play a harmonica

Learn to play the harmonica and jam with your friends.

Step 1: Hold the harmonica properly
Get ready to play by holding the harmonica in one hand, grid toward your face, clamped in the crook of your forefinger and thumb.

Step 2: Cup the other hand
Hold it so the numbers are over the holes as you face it, low notes on the left, high ones on the right. Cup the hand holding the harmonica with your other hand, creating a chamber to trap and release volume.

Slap the harmonica against your leg to knock out saliva.

Step 3: Loosen up
Slacken your shoulders and neck to get ready. Lick the mouthpiece to make sure you can slide it across your lips. Move the harmonica, not your head, when you play.

Step 4: Start playing
Move the harmonica further into your mouth. The sound comes from your breath going in and out at various angles. Use your diaphragm to breathe instead of merely blowing and sucking.

Step 5: Tongue-block
Block holes with your tongue to isolate individual notes.

Step 6: Read the tablature
If you have sheet music, read the tablature that identifies the numbers on the harmonica. When a number is circled, inhale.

Step 7: Open the cupped hand
Open the cupped hand intermittently to change the volume and effect. Slide the harmonica to create trills in the flow. Keep practicing, baby.

Fact: Harmonicas were first manufactured in Germany in the early 19th century.

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