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Harmonica

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(@deadat27)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 55
Topic starter  

I've been thinking about getting myself a harmonica. It seems pretty simple and easy to carry around.

If anybody in here has one and knows how to play it could you give me some advice. Is it like playing a guitar as far as the amount of practice you have to put in, how do you play it as far as chords on a guitar are laid out and such, would my experience on the guitar make it easier to play this other instrument and what type should I guess?


   
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(@mattguitar_1567859575)
Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 879
 

Funny, I have been thinking about the same thing.

A few things i know -

they come in various keys (not many people know that it seems!) so some harmonica players have several different instruments to select from.
You can get chromatic harmonicas ( chromatic harmonica has all 12 notes of the chromatic scale available enabling the user to play in any key. On a C chromatic harmonica the slide mechanism allows the player to alternate between the scales of C and C#-in effect like alternating between the white and black notes of the piano.) Diatonic harmonics (A diatonic harmonica only has reeds tuned to the notes of one key, which will be printed or stamped on the body of the instrument. A C diatonic harmonica only has the notes of the key of C, an A only the notes of the key of A etc.
you breathe, not blow (important to prevent damage to the internals). Or tremelo harmonicas (Tremolo harmonicas have two reeds for each note. One of these reeds is tuned slightly sharper than the other giving a waving, tremolo effect when they are played simultaneously. Octave-tuned harmonicas are similar in construction but the two reeds for each note are tuned an octave apart.)

you can get beginners tab book for harmonica

different tones are produced when breathing in compared to breathing out.

good makes, Hering, Hohner

Try harmonicalessons.com seems a good site to start!

Good luck
Matt


   
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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

I've done some harmonica. You've got a row of holes with two sets of reeds in each hole... when you blow out, one set sounds, when you s_ck in the other set sounds, so you get two different notes with each hole. You use your tongue to cover the holes you don't need - that takes a bit of practice.

If you want to do blues, the bending of notes is achieved by s_ucking harder. That makes the pitch drop. That takes a bit of practice too.

If you don't use your tongue to cover holes, you'll get chords. Since it's laid out diatonically, and every other note is produced by pushing air the opposite direction, blow at the 'home' position and you'll get the tonic chord (which chord that is depends on the key of the harmonica). The ii minor you get by reversing the air in the same position.... move one hole to the right and you get the iii and IV, and so on.

Chromatic harps are a much different animal - although I've fooled around with them, I couldn't really say I've played them. They feel very different - they're a lot heavier, and the part where you'll put your tongue is about twice as high. The reeds are set in a metal frame (harps like the Hohner Marine Band use a wood frame with metal covers), so it 'feels' different on your tongue. There's a slide at the right end of the harp that moves a metal plate which covers one set of holes, the upper or the lower, and each of those holes has two sets of reeds. So.... blow out for C, hit the slide for C sharp, release the slide and change air direction for D, hit the slide again for D#/Eb, release the slide, reverse the air, and move one hole to the right for E... it gets kinda complicated.

I picked up harps so I could better cover some of the folky stuff, like Dylan. Then I met a guy who owned a vintage guitar store, who happened to be in the Hohner harmonica hall of fame (Chicago Slim), and started really listening to great blues harp solos, like Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, J. Geils, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry, Charlie Musselwhite, Little Walter... what a great instrument!

In the end, I stuck with guitar and set the harps aside after a couple of years. If you bend a lot of notes, you wear them out... and chromatic ones need some care (otherwise the slide will get stuck, the plate will rust, etc), but they're pretty easy to care for.

Oh, and if you want some inspiration on what can be done with a chromatic harp, listen to the Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra by Howard Levy - I saw him perform that a couple years ago, and he blew me away with his tongue control... at one point he carries two melodic lines moving in opposite directions!

For ensemble stuff, my parents were really into the Harmonicats, a trio from the 40s who did classical, standards, show tunes, and bluegrass (!) on chromatic harmonicas.,

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@odiewon)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 31
 

WELL, I've had a couple harmonicas for a number of years, but they have laid in the cabinet.

About 2 weeks ago, I suddenly sparked an interest, when I realized I wasn't going to be able to afford another guitar, to keep in my office at work. I'm wanting to increase my musical ability in every way I can. And I believe that the more time you spend, listening to specific notes and chords, and mimicking or learning them just makes you better.

So I picked them up and started keeping them at work. I'll say this, once you get to where you can play a single note at a time, things start getting easier in a hurry. I go to http://www.harmonicacountry.com and there is tab there for a whole bunch of songs, with a very easy to read format. In the last few weeks, I've learned to play about 10 songs, and commited a couple to memory.

There is a learning gap here, between learning to play from the tab, and learning to wail like a proffessional that you would hear on a country or blues album. I've not been able to cross that bridge yet, but I hope to soon.

It's really great to be able to carry a little music in your pocket where ever you go. Especially if you dig playing music period.

I use a standard Hohner Marine Band diatonic harmonica in the key of C. The only real reason that I can tell, to get the different keys, would be so you could accompany other music, like guitar or vocals, in which case you'd need to figure out what key of harmonica would match the key you are accompanying. (they wouldn't be the same)
:o

"Never holster an unloaded weapon, it's just poor form." - Col. Jeff Cooper


   
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(@jimdunk)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 24
 

I can totally relate. As a die-hard guitar player, I always liked the idea of having something "little" to carry around to augment the guitar. I got a harmonica with the intent of learning blues-style playing. I love blues harp music. But, it never quite stuck. Then I got a mandolin, which was OK, I was able to pack it on my bike and do some picking in the great outdoors. But that, too, fell by the wayside.

But, several years ago, I had my daughter bring me back a cheapie -- but totally playable -- ukulele from her trip to Hawaii which I've since upgraded to a little-less-cheapie uke (made by Ovation's Applause it looks like an Adamas guitar). The uke has definitely stuck with me. I've now finally settled on my permanent "little" secondary instrument.

It's different enough from a guitar that you know you're playing a different instrument. Yet you're still using the basic fretting, strumming, fingerpicking skills. I've also found it a big help in my ear training. FWIW, if you capo your guitar at the fifth fret, and only play the four highest strings (DGBE) -- you've got a simulated ukulele in a standard tuning of GCEA.

Apologies if you find this a bit off topic, but you're original post reminded me how -- over the years -- my initial impulse to get a harmonica eventually evolved into a ukulele.

One thing about my harmonica playing attempt -- it made my face hurt. :)

Jim

Make Guitar Music


   
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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

Coast to Coast Music is primarily a harmonica dealer with lots of educationl resources and links online, along with books and such for sale.

I just bought a melodica from him. I'm having a ton of fun with it!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@mulletgut)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 23
 

I was a harp player first, then got interested in guitar. you can learn plenty from the sites listed above. Here are some more great harp sites for beginners.

http://www.harmonicaclub.com/ plenty of tab/songs here.

http://www.planetharmonica.com/contents.htm

And here is my harmonica mic http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/~davecastle/HarpIndex.htm which kicks the proverbial, I made it using the info I got from planet harmoninca. It cost me lest than $10 australian for the parts and no time to put together. It looks a bit agricultural I know but it really rocks.

I can highly recommend Lee Oskar Harmonicas. They have a great feel, lovely tone, they're inexpensive, and if you blow a reed you can purchase replacement reed-plates for them, unlike some others.

Oh, and NoteBoat, harp players DRAW............. we never SUCK. :wink:

If it's free its for me........... and I'll take three!


   
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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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I've seen a similar mic made using a metal tea strainer shaped like a perforated egg. It was pretty cool.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@deadat27)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 55
Topic starter  

My dad's got one that says "M. Honer" 1810-1910 centenary edition, the inside where you bIow in looks to be made of wood or something like that. Ever heard of those, he bought it in Mexico.

MY interest in the harmonica is exactly for what most of you said, just to carry a musical instrument with me for extra practice. So what price is good for a beginner harmonica, or too low?


   
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(@odiewon)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 31
 

You can buy a decent harmonica for $20 - $25. However my wife picked up a Hohner, Old Stand by, as a stand by, lol. She paid under $10 for it. Sounds fine.

"Never holster an unloaded weapon, it's just poor form." - Col. Jeff Cooper


   
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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Do you want a 6-string or 12-string harmonica?

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

Though purely as an amateur, I'll second the rec to try a Lee Oskar -- about the same price as a good Hohner. Not necessarily better, just different sound and feel. The Oskars also come in very handy cases, which conveniently interlock with each other.

I used to learn and practice harp while driving to/from the office. The one thing that seems to be a must is smacking the spit out of the harmonica when done. Leaving in moisture hastens reed corrosion and kills quickly. Took me about three harmonicas and an autopsy on the third to figure out that.

-Greg

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

There's a harmonica forum on the board at Big Road Blues. I'm not a real harpist myself, but I read what they say. There was a big discussion of harmonica care a while back. Some of 'em say you should rinse them out with clean water and dry them.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1066
 

I used to learn and practice harp while driving to/from the office.
Doesn't one usually use two hands for playing the harp? That doesn't leave much to drive with. :wink:


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

Doesn't one usually use two hands for playing the harp? That doesn't leave much to drive with. :wink:

You are correct; plus I drove a stick. I don't really advocate it. I did about two hours per day of stop-and-go driving at the time. Lot's of sitting around and waiting for NJ traffic to move. Perfect atmosphere for blues harp.

-=tension & release=-


   
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