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Here are some great clips that respected harmonica player Adam Gussow has produced aimed at helping you get better results from your harmonica playing. The harmonica company would like to thank Adam and You Tube for the use of this material and we are sure that like us, you are going to learn a great deal from this talented musician. Enjoy.


This article has been reproduced with kind permission of http://www.harmonicalessons.com/

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Hand holding and effects

Properly holding the harmonica is an important part of getting a full sound and creating hand effects. If you are new and still getting acquaited with the harmonica, you may want to hold the harmonica by it's end a while longer before concerning yourself with hand effects.


    General Information

  • A large airtight cup - The secret to good hand effects is understanding what makes them, and when to use them. Your goal in properly holding the harmonica, is to hold it in such a way, that you can create the largest and most airtight cup possible based on the size of your hands and then trap the sound within them. The "larger and more airtight you can make this cup surrounding the back of the harmonica, the better the hand effects will be".

  • The volume of your sound changes - With your hands closed and sealed, you diminish the volume of your sound. When you open them, the volume increases. If you keep this in mind, you will find the following steps to properly holding the harmonica and creating hand effects make perfect sense.

  • The "tremolo" effect is a change of volume - We specifically hold the harmonica in a way so that we can change the sound of a note or chord by opening and closing our hands. The technique is commonly referred to as "Hand Tremelo" or "Hand Tremolo" (tremelo and tremolo are used synonymously, but the correct term is "tremolo").
  • Used on long held notes - A tremolo effect creates a wavering sound that is usually applied to long held notes or long held chords (that usually occur at the ends of phrases). The perceived change that occurs is not a change of pitch (this is usually referred to as vibrato) but instead, it is a change of volume.

  • Trap the sound in your hands - You literally trap your loud note in the airtight cup you have created, and when you open your hands, you let the sound out. The sound is muted or softer when your hands are closed, and much louder when you open them.

Breathing

  • Correct breathing is an important part of the tremolo effect -Part of the secret to making the hand tremelo effective is not only creating and maintaining a large airtight cup, but also playing the single note or chord loudly enough so that you can hear a change from loud to soft. If you play your notes too softly to begin with, you will hear little or no change when you open and close your right hand. The better your volume and breathing technique is, the better the tremolo sound.

Proper breathing technique corrects the problems of a 'thin' weak sound and also fixes trouble draw notes like holes 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, that don't seem to play well, play in tune, or at all (nope, it's not a bad harmonica). Be sure you are fairly comfortable with the more basic techniques of Single Notes and Holding/Hand Effects before spending too much time on this more advanced approach to breathing.

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    General Information

  • Correct breathing for the harmonica means N O T sucking and N O T blowing into the harmonica - Sucking and blowing occurs with your lips and at the front of the mouth. This is the most instinctive method of getting air through the harmonica, but it is not correct.

  • Put the harmonica as far into your mouth while maintaining single notes - The easiest way to breath correctly with the harmonica is to play your single notes with the harmonica as far into your mouth as possible. The further you put the harmonica into your mouth without losing the single note, the better. This will allow you to bypass the "sucking mechanism", the front of your mouth and lips, and force you to breath correctly from your diaphragm. Try making a "ha" sound for every exhale (blow note) and every inhale (draw note) that you play. This applies to the 'whistle' and the 'tongue blocking' methods of playing single notes.

    Airflow should always be parallel to the harmonica, reed plate, and reed itself.

  • Good tone, volume, and power - The best tone, volume, and power are derived almost exclusively from correct breathing technique on the harmonica.

  • "Survival breathing" (for beginners) - It should be noted that the correct breathing on harmonica is not to be confused with what we might refer to as "survival breathing". "Survival breathing" on harmonica will develop naturally the more you play the harmonica. All beginning harmonica players get very winded and tired when they play for more than just a few minutes. Time, and conditioning through repetition will solve this problem. Remember to stay relaxed and try to breathe with, through, and around the harmonica. Don't force it.

  • Your stomach always moves first - When breathing correctly on the harmonica, the first thing, physically, that should happen when you play a note, is that your stomach (diaphragm) moves. This movement creates the airflow that ultimately makes the sound come out the harmonica.

  • Different names for breathing technique - Correct breathing is sometimes referred to as "diaphragmatic breathing", "deep breathing", "Zen breathing", "stomach breathing", "3-step breathing", or "yoga breathing".

  • Breathing taught in other disciplines - You may already be familar with correct breathing techniques from another discipline (i.e. martial arts, weight lifting, running, or some other sport), and in that case, you might save a bit time compared to someone who has not consciously worked with this technique before.

  • Harmonica breathing is similar, yet different - The correct breathing for harmonica is similar to the breathing taught for singing or playing virtually any horn or wind instrument, yet slightly more complex. Most sports, martial arts, singing, and horn playing involve only control of your breath for the exhale portion of your breathing.

  • Breathing for harmonica can be more difficult - Harmonica not only involves the exhale and the inhale aspects of breathing, but harmonica playing emphasizes the inhale portion (for 2nd position) which is much less natural for most of us. We always talk and sing when we are in the exhale mode of breathing. We don't use the inhale mode of breathing for much of anything except for the breathing itself. Because of this, most people find that the correct breathing for harmonica is more difficult and complex then they might have expected. Don't let this scare you off, it may take some time to get the full, rich, loud sound that pro players get, but with the following steps and some practice, you will be able to do it.

Single notes

Playing only one note at a time is referred to as a "single note". Two or more notes played simultaneously are called a chord. The two most common ways to achieve a single note is by either the "whistle method" or "tongue blocking".


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"Hear what a clean, clear single note should sound like"-- To get the sound of a clean single note in your mind, pick a hole to play a clean single note on. . . let's use 4 blow. Place your index fingers tightly over holes 3 and 5 and cram the whole thing into your mouth. If your fingers are still tightly covering holes 3 and 5 then you should be hearing a nice clean single note out of hole 4. Do this over and over and over again until you've memorized the sound. If the fingers just aren't working for you, try putting tape over the holes surrounding hole 4. When in doubt, come back to this drill.

    General Information

  • Three ways to play a single note - There are three different ways to produce one note, that is, a single note, on the harmonica. These are: the whistle method (sometimes called pucker or lipping method), tongue blocking (putting your mouth over 3 or 4 holes and covering all but one hole with your tongue), and the U-block or tube tongue method (curling your tongue to make a tube out of it and placing it directly over the hole you want to play).

  • We don't recommend the 'U-block' method for beginners - We don't recommend the U-block method at all for beginners. First, it can only be done by people that were born with a certain set of genes (about 50-70% of the population). The rest of the world cannot physically put their tongue into a tube to produce a single note no matter how hard they try. Second, the U-block (tube tongue) and tongue blocking methods both utilize the tongue to achieve a single note, and although it is possible, it is much more difficult for a beginner to learn full complete bent notes with either of these methods.

  • More points on the 'U-block' and 'Tongue Blocking' methods - These methods also don't easily allow for the tonguing (articulation) technique that gives you different rhythms, sounds, and easy repetition of notes. Also with practice, both the 'whistle method' and the 'tongue blocking' will ultimately give you a full bodied tone on chords and single notes which is created by dropping your jaw and expanding your oral cavity for optimum resonance. It is very hard to get this full bodied tone with the 'U-block' method because the technique tends to limit the airflow and resonance in your mouth. If the U-block is the only way you can achieve a single note and you don't plan to advance your playing beyond simple songs and melodies, you may find this technique acceptable.

  • Use your fingers to hear a clear single note (Beginners' Shortcut) - To get the sound of a clean single note in your mind, pick a hole to play a clean single note on, let's say 4 blow. Place your index fingers tightly over holes 3 and 5 and cram the whole thing into your mouth. If your fingers are still tightly covering holes 3 and 5 then you should be hearing a nice clean single note out of hole 4. Do this over and over and over again until you've memorized the sound. If the fingers just aren't working for you, try putting tape over the holes surrounding hole 4. When in doubt, come back to this drill.

Instruction Content: Copyright 1999-2008 AYM Music. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.harmonicalessons.com/is a trademark of AYM Music.


This article has been reproduced with kind permission of http://www.harmonicalessons.com/

Full Membership: Access to over 525 pages of
articles, tutorials, photos, and VIDEO instruction.
Free Samples: Instruction, Songs, Newsletter, and Forums.