Learning How to Play Harmonica

This beginner's guide to learning how to play harmonica will teach you about the instrument, how to hold your harmonica, playing tips, tunes to start out with, and more.



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Some of the many different types of harmonicas.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The Construction of a Harmonica
A harmonica is so easy to play, partly because its "innards" are more sophisticated than most people realize. One of the simplest of all mouth organ (the Hohner HH-1896 Marine Band), for instance, consists of a honeycombed resonating chamber sandwiched between two reed plates (one of which contains blow and one of which contains draw reeds) which, in turn, are sandwiched between nickeled steel top and bottom cover plates. Rivets and screws hold everything together... and a fairly complicated system of tuning the reeds makes it extrememly simple to coax 20 of "just the right" notes from the Marine Band's 10 air passages.
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This article teaches you how to play a harmonica.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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Hold your Marine Band in a 'ten-finger sandwhich', as shown, and you'll create a resonating air chamber that you can use to add a temolo or vibrato effect to your playing (pretend your hands are hinged together in the front and open and close them as rapidly as you like by moving onle the "outside" hand.)
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A professional plays a harmonica by letting his or her lips cover four holes on the instrument and then blocking out three of the openings with the tongue. This allows the artist to produce clear single notes and then add rhythm, harmony, and chords by "merely" lifting and replacing the tongue.
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The Hohner Marine Band harmonica.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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The "ten finger sandwhich" hand position for holding your harmonica.
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If you've never played a harmonice before and you don't know what a single, pure tone from the instrument sounds like : [1] place your index fingers over holes 3 and 5 on a mouth organ tuned to the key of C and [2] blow into hole 4 to [3] produce the clear sound of C, the first note on the scale.
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