New to Harmonica. Any tips?

Fiesta Red

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Yea. My local shop had a few novelty quality harps. Or the special 20 or the Hohner Blues Harp. Buying blind just off the back description. The special 20 covered more ground (according to hohner). So I went with that. Cool thing is they are decently priced. So once I get it down I can play around with a couple. He has a used Hohner Super Chromonica he said he’d cut a deal on.

But 1. Idk how I feel about a used harp, ESPECIALLY someone I don’t know. Kinda like the idea of used underwear.

2. I can barely make a single note 6 out of 10 times. What the hell am I gonna do with a slide?

Buuutt that’s a $200 harp 🤣

But yea. Fender makes some harps that seem to be pretty well liked, a Marine Band is on my radar. Just gotta get to the point where I could use another sound haha.

Yea the draw versus exhale notes will be fun to learn and memorize
DO NOT buy a used harp.

That’s not like wearing used underwear…that’s like licking used underwear. 🤢
 

nvilletele

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The OP is asking for advice.

I have only this:

Based on my experience, one of the following two statements applies:
1. It’s harder than you think; or
2. I’m just incompetent.

I guess it also could be a combination of the two.
 

Toto'sDad

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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

The numbers are for your EYE teeth!
 

keithb7

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I have a few blues harps in a few keys. I also have a Hohner Chromonica 260. Its chromatic. I keep the Chromonica in the car. Waiting at a red light. Waiting for a train. Wife needs to run into a store for a sec. I’m happy waiting in the car. Wailing on a harp. I grab it. Its fun. I find diatonic blues harps easier to play than a Chromonica. I enjoy them all.
 

Jared Purdy

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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?
Practice along to records that have other harp players, at least that's what I did when I bought my first harp when I was 13. I was hooked on that riff in the song "If You Want to Get to Heaven..." by the Ozark Mountain Dare Devils. I simply had to know how to do that, and I did pretty quickly.

You should buy all twelve keys as well, otherwise you'll just be frustrated as your one key harp will not work for all tunes. I'm not sure what genre of music you listen to, but for good harp players, I tried my best to emulate players like Taj Mahal, Big Walter Horton, Paul Butterfield, Lee Oscar, Norton Buffalo, Stevie Wonder, Toots Thielman, Little Walter, Jimmy Fadden and a few others. Been at it for fifty years, though it tends to take a back seat to the guitar these days.
 

Midgetje94

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Practice along to records that have other harp players, at least that's what I did when I bought my first harp when I was 13. I was hooked on that riff in the song "If You Want to Get to Heaven..." by the Ozark Mountain Dare Devils. I simply had to know how to do that, and I did pretty quickly.

You should buy all twelve keys as well, otherwise you'll just be frustrated as your one key harp will not work for all tunes. I'm not sure what genre of music you listen to, but for good harp players, I tried my best to emulate players like Taj Mahal, Big Walter Horton, Paul Butterfield, Lee Oscar, Norton Buffalo, Stevie Wonder, Toots Thielman, Little Walter, Jimmy Fadden and a few others. Been at it for fifty years, though it tends to take a back seat to the guitar these days.
I was looking at The idea of getting a set of 5. Fender has some. Hohner has some.

I have some videos posted of the stylings we play. Not prime real estate for harmonica. But I feel it could be added here and there tastefully
 

Midgetje94

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Jared Purdy

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A few sets I was eyeballing.
I'd be inclined to avoid the Marine Band harps. They don't last as long due to the comb being wood. I doubt Fender makes those harps too. Special 20 are about the best deal going, and have been for over forty years. I have a number that I bought in 1980 that are still perfectly good.
 

MickM

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Since you already play guitar an easy way to remember which key harp to use for blues/cross harp is this. For simple rock/blues you want your harp to be in the key of the second chord in a I IV V or blues progression.
In other words if the song is in E you want an A harp. Song in G wants a C harp. In A you want a D harp. Key of B wants an E harp and so on. Good luck!
 

Stringbanger

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Some good advice here so far. I’ve been playing harmonica for almost 40 years.

My best advice is to play simple melodies that you know by heart. For me it was “Oh Susannah” and “Camptown Races”. Focus on playing the single notes. This will build your muscle memory which is super important!

Don’t choose a melody that has minor notes, because they don’t exist on a Special 20 C harp. Practice the heck out of these simple melodies.

Your next purchase should be a G harp, and I would spend the extra clams and get a Lee Oscar. The next step would be to listen to Neil Young and Bob Dylan harp songs. These guys were not great players, but they knew how to embellish their songs with their harps.

I recommend buying a harmonica rack so that you can accompany yourself on guitar.
Then learn Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold”. Also learn his song “Little Wing”, which is a super-easy two chord banger that sounds great with harp, but you will need that G.

As others have mentioned, once you become decently proficient on the diatonics, then you can expand your arsenal with a chromatic harp, melodic and harmonic minor harps.

Stick with it and you will be rewarded!
 

brookdalebill

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Though it’s already been suggested, consider getting a chromatic harmonica.
Maybe you could be the next Stevie Wonder!
Admittedly a gargantuan task!;)
Anyways, it’s an underexplored instrument lately, IMO.
 

Toto'sDad

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Though it’s already been suggested, consider getting a chromatic harmonica.
Maybe you could be the next Stevie Wonder!
Admittedly a gargantuan task!;)
Anyways, it’s an underexplored instrument lately, IMO.
I had a gargantuan slide chromatic harp for years it made an excellent paper weight for me. The only thing I remember about it, at the time back in the late 90s or early 2000s, I looked it up and they were going for about $250. I had come by it in an estate sale for maybe nothing, just given to me.

Anyway, my daughter-in-law who is an astounding musician playing the violin, guitar and the piano showed a slight interest in the instrument one day, so I gave it to her. Since this thread came up, I'm going to have to contact her and see if she still has it, or ever played it. I know if she tried it, she played it.

She had never heard a bluegrass band in her life, but one day I was trying to work out a little lick I had heard at a bluegrass festival. She said TD, let me see your guitar for a moment. Quick as a wink, she played it perfectly, and said I extrapolate from listening to your efforts that this is what you are trying to accomplish. She is capable of humbling without even trying.
 

uriah1

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Chromatic. Yike. That dude that does the runaround song has one.

My new ones are the rockets. They have the best of both worlds. Marine and blues and last twice as long.
 

danielreid27

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I started with simple oldies; mary had a little lamb, oh suzannah, etc.
Eventually you can sense when to suck/blow/move up or move down.🥳
 




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