Getting started

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  • #2763
    AvatarAnonymous
    Inactive

    Hi,

    I started playing Harmonica a week ago and soon found Mitchs YT tutorials. It has been a long time since I really learned to play an instrument not by myself, so I’m eager to follow all the instructions that I can get this time. But I have some questions left.
    How do I clean my harmonica properly (and how often should I do so)? I read/viewed some instructions, but it seems there are many opinions…
    Are there more easy tunes to start of with (or is this bad in the beginning)? I started with a few german folk tunes (wich are basicly the c-maj scale with nearly no 2-hole jumps)
    And finally I suppose there are many people out there getting here via the youtube tutorials or other videos and would enjoy some of the basic questions are answered.

    See you soon, i’ve got to practice c-maj scale…

    #2767
    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger
    Keymaster

    Hi Felix!

    Good questions. The first, about cleaning the harmonica. After a quick YT search myself I see there is a need for a video on this that is clear. All the videos I found either missed out parts of vital information or were going into talking about taking the reed plates off. Which is not a good idea for your first time opening a harmonica up! So, note to self.. do a video for you on this.

    In the meantime, saliva is the main culprit, so:

    1. Play the harmonica without titling your head toward the ground. This will reduce the amount of saliva going in the harmonica.
    2. After playing, tap the holes of the harmonica firmly on a hankerchief (or your jeans :)) to knock out any loose saliva.
    3. Store the harmonica in it’s case.

    Doing those three things will keep your harp playing smoothly and greatly lessen the need to take the harmonica apart.

    As for more beginners tunes to play, you are doing exactly what I had hoped. Starting to play by ear! Keep playing those german folk songs and any other tune that is in your head! You’ll find many, many tunes, can be picked out using the major scale alone. Just make sure to keep a good pucker in place and stop to practice the pucker if needs be. If you keep playing tunes, while ignoring a messy single hole technique you could introduce a bad habit, that is hard to break.

    I hope that helps Felix, and If anyone else wants to jump in here with comments, be my guest!

    🙂

    #2981
    Greg MaxwellGreg Maxwell
    Participant

    I’ve been working on learning some old “Country” songs, and found out that I will have to be able to do some serious bending in order to get all the notes sometimes. But my Hohner Marine Band doesn’t seem capable of most of the bends. Maybe it’s just me but, if I try to open this harp up to inspect the reeds – are those screws or brads holding the covers in place? I seem to remember them as being brads on the Blues harps I tried back in the 70s. Don’t want to bend the covers if these are screws.

    #2999
    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger
    Keymaster

    Hey Greg!

    I’ve not opened up a marine band harmonica in a long time, as I use mainly Special 20’s. However, i know they used to use brads, which make it near impossible to get your reed plates back on in an airtight fashion. That is without replacing the brads with screws, which involves drilling and tapping new holes..

    If you want to attach (upload) a photo or two, we’ll be able to tell you what they are, hopefully screws! or maybe someone else knows?

    Having said that, I only recommend opening up your harmonica as a last resort, and in general just following the tips in my above post.

    Cheers,
    Mg

    #4034

    Mitch,

    I am thinking about taking up the harmonica and I ran across your YouTube videos and site. Before I dive in, I had a couple of questions that I was hoping you’d be able to answer.

    1.) Will I be able to learn how to play from your lessons even though I do not know how to read music and I’ve never played a musical instrument?

    2.) How much practice time is needed to learn how to play?

    3.) If I subscribe, will I be able to print off your lesson sheets so that I can put them in a binder where I can make notations?

    4.) The harmonica is one of the few things that settle down my 1-year-old daughter. I am not sure if you’ve ever watched the 90s sitcom “Roseanne” but my daughter stops in her tracks whenever the harmonica intro music to the show starts. I’ve been messing around with one I found in my basement. It has the word “Victory” on the top and then “made in China” on the bottom. I was looking online and saw one called Hohner Special 20 Harmonica, Major C. Would you recommend I buy one like that before I learn how to play? Will it make much of a difference?

    5.) Lastly, I’m an attorney by trade, so I like reading up on topics in order to learn them. Would you suggest any books about the harmonica?

    I’d appreciate your honest input. I know that it’s in your best interest to push me to subscribe, but at the same time I have been looking for some time for a hobby that is fun and would be something I could introduce to my daughter when she’s older. I just don’t want to start trying to play if it’s going to be a futile exercise given my lack of formal music education.

    Sincerely,

    Matt

    #4046
    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger
    Keymaster

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for leaving the post here. They’re all really great questions for everyone that is checking out the site (and harmonica) to know. It’ll be my pleasure to answer them.

    1. Yes, you certainly will, I started my music career on harmonica without any prior experience and as for reading music, it’s not needed. In my 20 year plus career I have come to the conclusion that it is best to learn the harmonica by ear, especially if you are interested in playing blues, rock, folk and most of the styles the harmonica is known for. The two exceptions where reading music would be very helpful are classical, and Jazz, but I would not suggest covering those styles until you had completed the advanced course, as that is where I introduce some music theory that is applicable to all instruments.

    2. Regular practice time at the beginning is key. It’s kinda like going to the gym (for your lips) at first. You need to build up the muscles in your face to be able to pucker, while staying relaxed, and I suggest a minimum of 10 minutes a day. Most people have that time and it is actually better then say 2 hours once a week.. Hopefully you enjoy it so much you loose track of time, but if you can do 10 mins a day your golden, and the 2 week interval will be perfect between lessons.

    3. Yes. That’s possible now with a free or paid account by taking the pdf full screen and printing it from your browser. If you join the site, then a download button appears also, allowing downloads of the documents for convenience.

    4. Yes getting a Hohner Special 20 would be much better and make a big difference. A Seydel Session is also a good choice. The Victory will make learning harder. As with any musical instrument you learn, it is essential to have a good quality instrument, otherwise you start to think you are no good, but it really is your tools!

    5. That’s a great question, someone should start a thread on that! Favorite harp books! I think you should check out Harmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers, by Ken Field. It’s a great book that covers it all.

    There you go mate, I hope that answers your questions? and helps many other members too.

    Mg

    P.s Roseanne made it down to Australia too. I know that bluesy theme. 🙂

    #12406

    Hey Greg, Mitch,

    I’m sitting here with three marine bands right now and they all have screws – but they’re crossovers.
    Don’t know it that makes a difference or not.

    JP

    #12755
    TwigsletTwigslet
    Participant

    Hey, Mitch I am really struggling with this!! I am sure you’ve gathered after all this time.

    0n one hand, i’m making very little head way and I’m cheesed off about that as I hate to be beaten.

    On the other hand – I have been getting some rather unusual notes out of my Hohner Special 20 but not sure what they are. As they don’t sound anything like yours. . i can do the A-tic-A HA no problem. Interestingly, I played Coming round the mountain reading the chords but I kept losing my place and became very frustrated. However when I stopped reading the chords and started playing on my own along the harmonica I did begin to pick out some notes on my own-which I suppose is a little bit head way.Is it not?

    Tried the Clown but I don’t know the tune to it so not sure if I’m playing it properly or not. Same goes for Stargazer not sure of it either.
    Can you give me some tunes I know then perhaps I could make sense of what I am playing.

    Thanks

    Twigslet

    #12756
    UdoUdo
    Participant

    Twigslet,

    Although I am not Mitch – look at https://www.harptabs.com/ where you can find tons of tons of tunes that should sound familiar to you. Please look for tunes in 1st position for C major diatonic harp.
    The tab notation is different from the one Mitch uses. All you need to know for a start is the number stands for the hole you should play. – means draw. Without an additional symbol the number say blow into this hole.
    There are books with tabs as well. I found some free ones on the web – will post them later this week if you are interested. Please let me know.

    Keep on harping

    #12758
    TwigsletTwigslet
    Participant

    Hi Udo,

    Thanks for coming back with those links. Much appreciated. I did try ” Imagine’ and I was most surprised to find it did sound like the tune, much to my amazement. I keep trying to bend the notes but although tone changes slightly I just aint got it. So many different suggestions on the web, but always end up coming back to the drawing board. I will just have to keep trying.

    I have been experimenting with some of the licks Mitch has on the site which look like fun but for all I’m generally good at listening to notes I don’t seem to be able to hear them on the harmonica.
    i’m interested in anything that will help me move on. It is very good of you to help me. So, many thanks..

    Twigslet

    #12761
    UdoUdo
    Participant

    Hello Twigslet,

    To get used to bends and answer the question of progress it helped me to have a little companion. It’s an app that’s available for Android and iOS which is called Bendometer. It was way cheaper than it is today (ca. 11€ this side of the Atlantic). But there are other apps either cheaper or for free which you can turn to. There is one called Harmonica tuner. While you play it shows you the pitch of the notes you are playing.

    As a starter you can play all holes unbend and look at the display if the notes are identified correctly. Then you could turn to holes 1 or 4 which have only one half step bend, but are easier to attack than holes 2 and 3. This visual feedback helped me to get more confidence in the technique if found over time.

    Remember that you have to train the muscles in your throat as this is a complete new movement you are learning here. And although remember that it took some time when you built up muscles while learning some new sport. So don’t rush it and please don’t stress yourself.

    Getting used to a new instrument with a different note layout for every of the three octaves you can play is taking time as well.

    Udo

    #12785
    TwigsletTwigslet
    Participant

    Hii, Mitch, I’m pleased we had the chance to chat this evening, it helped me to iron out a few things. Since chatting I have been practising my single notes and now about to retire convinced I have sorted it. Having said that, I’ll check in again tomorrow. Will also check out the train track also. Thanks again. Twigslet

    #12786
    TwigsletTwigslet
    Participant

    Hi Udo, Thanks you for the information you sent me last week. I will look into them in due course once I have my single notes worked out..

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by TwigsletTwigslet.
    #13105
    Billi HalversonBilli Halverson
    Participant

    So…is it normal to want to say bad words and throw your harmonica against the wall when first starting out? Seriously though, every time I try to “draw” -8 or -9, it’s just air no matter how hard I inhale. Probably about 80% of the time, other times no problem. Can’t figure out why I can do it sometimes and sometimes I can’t. It’s super easy on the low notes but not on the high notes.

    #13124
    Mitch GraingerMitch Grainger
    Keymaster

    Hey Billi!

    Those high notes can be a little harder to get sound out of on a new harmonica. The trick, believe it or not, is to play softer, and then gradually increase your breath flow until you start to hear the note. After a while this sweet spot becomes second nature. The only caveat is if you have a cheaper harmonica, it may have some faulty reeds up there… 🙂

    Keep on harpin,’ and don’t damage the paint on your lounge room walls too much!! 🙂

    Enjoy!

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