New to Harmonica. Any tips?

Midgetje94

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I bought my first (real) harmonica yesterday. A Hohner Special 20. I’ve had a few of those little $12 stocking stuffer ones as a kid.

I’ve played around with it for a bit. I guess best place to start is just playing around. Getting used to the tiny holes. Getting good at single notes (NOT EASY! 🤣).

I’m sure there’s a few of y’all who play. Any tips to a day 2 guy?
 

Midgetje94

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I’m starting to actually look and listen to players. It was kind of a “hey that sounds fun!” Idea. I’ve heard bands with harmonicas. But can’t say I’ve ever really listened. Besides Piano Man. For a song about the piano, that damn harmonica won’t shut up lol
 

schmee

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Not as easy as it seems sometimes for sure. I think getting to where you can play single notes is important. You may play more than one note together after you learn to control the singles, but otherwise, you're just thrashing at it.
 

Midgetje94

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Not as easy as it seems sometimes for sure. I think getting to where you can play single notes is important. You may play more than one note together after you learn to control the singles, but otherwise, you're just thrashing at it.
Seen a lot of guys get by with semi single notes (may have a little overhang from the neighboring notes) but trying to spend time just noodling now. Getting the mouthing closer to single. I guess muscle memory if you will. Being SUPER careful to actually be on the right number. Having 1-10 stamped is nice… but why? What’s the point? You can’t see it once you pull it up to your mouth. Not like you can count frets lol
 

Midgetje94

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quit.

barring that.

Don't be like every other harmonica player ever, and feel you must fill up every little bit of space with your wanking
I don’t intend to do it for band purposes. Kinda like mandolin. May be cool to utilize it here and there. Just not quite the style I like. More so just to learn and play around with.

I work outside in and out of trailers all day. A lot of down time. I don’t have a nice office with space for a guitar like some haha. But I got a pocket and backpack.
 

schmee

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Seen a lot of guys get by with semi single notes (may have a little overhang from the neighboring notes) but trying to spend time just noodling now. Getting the mouthing closer to single. I guess muscle memory if you will. Being SUPER careful to actually be on the right number. Having 1-10 stamped is nice… but why? What’s the point? You can’t see it once you pull it up to your mouth. Not like you can count frets lol
Yeah, I have to go entirely by ear and feel with the harp. In or out? up or down? muscle memory.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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There are two ways to play 'em: folk-style, a.k.a. straight harp (Dylan, Young) and blues-style, a.k.a. cross harp (James Cotton, Sonny Terry).

For folk, you get the main chord (the tonic) by blowing. For blues, by sucking. That means that folk is the key stamped on the harp — if it says G, it's for songs in G — and blues is the forth, so if it says G, it's for playing in D.

It pays to get used to both, because at jams you never know whether someone's going to pull out "Sugar Mountain" or "Little Red Rooster." (I know you're not thinking of jams now, but you might think differently once you're happy with your playing.)

That's all you need to know to get going. And Uriah is right, not many players play single notes. There are a few people, like Stevie Wonder, who do, but they're playing chromatic harmonicas, those expensive things with a lever for sharps and flats.

------------------------

Pop quiz: Why is a blues harp like no-cal quinine water?

They're both diatonic.
 
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jvin248

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Find the juzzy smith YouTube channel. He has a couple of videos he shows how he plays his. There is an old live show he introduces his band members (he's a one man band) that he reveals a few techniques. Then I think he has a few other deeper ones.

.
 

Midgetje94

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Haven’t even looked into bends yet. Wanna get the basics and get comfortable enough to play before I try to do that. I have a book with some simple stuff. (Shop owner gave it to me for free) figure once I get to the point I can just pop a page open and play a random song without having to read it. Then I’ll be comfortable enough to step up
 

Charlie Bernstein

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. . . I think getting to where you can play single notes is important. You may play more than one note together after you learn to control the singles, but otherwise, you're just thrashing at it.
I haven't found that. Single notes can sound fine once in a while, but learning the chord positions on cross- and straight-harp is what matters. If you don't follow the song's chords, you are thrashing at it.
 

schmee

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I haven't found that. Single notes can sound fine once in a while, but learning the chord positions on cross- and straight-harp is what matters. If you don't follow the song's chords, you are thrashing at it.
Yeah, guitar is the same, just hit any 2 or 3 notes in close proximity to each other and call it "playing". :lol:
It's an actual musical instrument. You need to know how to play notes. Just sayin...
 

StoneH

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Harmonica . . . an instrument that actually requires you to both suck and blow when playing. I was a pretty good harmonica holder.

Corral Harmonica.jpg
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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Haven’t even looked into bends yet. Wanna get the basics and get comfortable enough to play before I try to do that. I have a book with some simple stuff. (Shop owner gave it to me for free) figure once I get to the point I can just pop a page open and play a random song without having to read it. Then I’ll be comfortable enough to step up
No problem there, bends are basic.

Bends aren't a big part of straight-harp, but they come naturally when you're playing cross-harp. You won't have to think about it. With blues harp, you form sounds with your lips and tongue. If you mouth "Wah wah wah," the harp will do it. That's why it's so soulful.

And a Special 20 will make bends jump out. (Good choice, by the way, ideal for cutting through. For future reference, when you go to buy your second harp, get a different key and a different model. Learning about what different models sound like is interesting. What's brash? What's mellow? What's seductive? What's sentimental?)

I'd set the book aside and just play. A harp's mojo isn't the notes, it's the chord relationships. Straight-harp I/IV/V is different than cross-harp's I/IV/V. Whether you're trying to get good on one or both, it's finding the chords that'll make it sound like music.

Once I was at a bluegrass jam, and there were already too many guitars. So instead of opening my guitar case, I pulled out my harps. Folks gave me the hairy eyeball bigtime, but when I jumped in they all started grinning.

And like Blowtorch said, the secret to harp is to shut up a lot and let other folks get a note in.
 
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Midgetje94

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Kind of the stylings I like







Kind of a grab bag of Texas sounds. Each artist has a range kinda bluesy rock, southern rock, and a bit more country “ballads” kinda vibe.

I feel harmonica COULD possibly be fun on some songs or tastefully thrown in. But definitely not front and center

Austin is definitely more bluesy rock driven,

Koe is more country rock driven, like Cody Canada in a foul mood.

Gio is definitely more alternative rock. But has some underlining country roots in some songs.
 




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