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Harmonica

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Pthump, Jun 10, 2005.


  1. Pthump

    Pthump

    Nov 18, 2004
    So I want to learn how to play harmonica. I know virtually nothing about it, but I got a new job and am making lots of dough so need something to blow the cash on. Any suggestions what all I should buy (IE - harmonicas, lesson videos, books) and whatnot to get started? Also, any tips about playing the instrument?
     
  2. If you have any experience on a wind instrument it will come easier, but overall , if you practice, its not hard to learn. Get a Basics book , then maybe a song book or two of your favorite players.
     
  3. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    You know, funny you should mention that. I've been trying to blow the mouth harp for many years now, and I still can't figure out how to get that "bending" thing going with my tongue. I suppose it's one of those "special talents", if you get it, you get it, and if you don't, you don't. I even took up the sax at one point, with the express purpose of getting the tongue to work correctly. Oh well, I guess I'll stick to the bass... :)
     
  4. Pthump

    Pthump

    Nov 18, 2004
    yea, I've sax and bass clarinet for 8 years, think that will help? Anybody who can advise what I should get to start?
     
  5. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    I've played crossharp (which is the country/blues style that utilizes the note bending) for over 10 years. I play casually, I don't really work hard at it but I sound OK. Harmonica is one of those things that once you get the basics down really well can sound good in just about anything.

    I recommend the book "Harmonica for the Musically Hopeless" from Klutz Press. When I bought it over ten years ago it came with a tape and a Hohner Pocket Pal in C. It's a great, easy system. Hopefully it comes with a DVD now instead of a CD if they still make it.

    brad cook
     
  6. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Moved to misc. for obvious reasons.
     
  7. Pthump

    Pthump

    Nov 18, 2004
    alright, thanks
     
  8. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    bump

    So, my brother is getting into harmonica nowadays, but can anyone here explain how to bend? Seriously, I've been trying it too, and it's very hard. The only decent instructionsite out there is members only (which requires 36$), so if anyone can explain how to do it, my brother would be most grateful.
     
  9. Bard2dbone

    Bard2dbone

    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    Hard enough air flow, or misdirected airflow should usually detune a note.

    I inhale just-really-f***ing-hard to bend inhaled notes, and tip the harp up(It's pointing up but my head is still pointing forward or even a little down-ish, get it?) so I'm blowing upward to bend exhaled notes.
     
  10. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Alright, he's getting it down I think. Well, I think he does, because I've been hearing ******* harmonica all day long!
     
  11. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Just bumping this thread. I'm studying for my exams now, and I picked up the harmonica to noodle a bit from time to time. It's much harder than I thought it was, but I can already do a nice halfnote bend on the lower notes, the higher notes are a bit harder. I've been playing the melodies of Amazing Grace, Oh when the saints and some cheesy christmas carrol mainly, and something by Woody Guthrie. I like the fact that it's so small, you can play it everywhere..
     
  12. You can bend a note flat or sharp. It's all in how you 'shape or contour' your tongue. Unfortunately I have no way to describe it other than from a side view. The tongue would be in sort of an 'S' shape. Different variations of this shape are used to bend flat or sharp.

    If you can find a good book on Harps particularly Blues, I think would be the way to go. Blues players use a lot of bending.
     
  13. AND if you want a link to a Monster harp player here it is: http://www.levyland.com/schedule.php

    I saw this guy playing jazz on Studio Jams and doing outrageous, complex solos. I was absolutely convinced that he was playing a chromatic harp, although I could not see him pumping the chromatic button/slide. I then discovered that he plays Standard Harps. Absof***inglutely amazing.
     
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not only does Howard Levy play standard harps, but he only uses 5 harps for general usage. I saw and met Howard a few times when he played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and not only can that play some mean harp, but he plays genius level piano at the same time! Jon Popper is a very talented harp player, but Howard is THE MAN!
     
  15. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I signed up for a harmonica class offered by the evening classes department of a local high school. Well, the class was scrapped because hurricane Wilma caused so many cancelations due to no electricity and building damage.

    But anyway, to decide what harp to buy for the class, I did a search on Google about harmonicas and was amazed to learn that you shouldn't buy a cheap harmonica because you will never be able to make it sound right. What the various web sites said that I read, was that you should pay at least $35 or $45 for your harmonica or otherwise you are just wasting your time trying to get the harp to sound the way it should.

    They also said that a higher quality harp has better reeds that will last longer.

    I just got a notice that the harmonica class is being offered this semester. I may sign up again. The idea of having a small instrument you can just pull out of your jacket pocket (or handbag in my case) and play without any cables or amps or electricty really appeals to me. My inspiration is the late, great Junior Wells.
     
  16. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    The way I do it is by making the hole a little smaller with my upper lip and angling the harmonica almost 90° while inhaling.

    Some people can make a little gutter in their tongue, I can't..
     
  17. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    I play blues harp and actually played it as my main instrument for a few years when I wasn't feeling like playing bass. I got over that...

    But there are some excellent tutorial books and book/tape combos out there. The Ken Baker book is excellent. It really depends on the style that you want to play.

    Bending shouldn't require a lot of extra, actually any extra, airflow. The best way I can describe it is a clucking motion, slightly dropping the jaw. If you can whistle while inhaling, try doing it and dropping the pitch. That is the basic idea. That is just draw (inhaling) bends. There are blow bends available on the upper register. Don't worry about that right off.

    For harps, I really like the Hohner Big River for an easy-playing budget harp. They are durable, sound good, and are comfortable. The parts are interchangeable with the rest of the MS line (Blues Harp, Cross Harp, ...) I feel that the Lee Oskar harps are the best, but they are about $25 a shot.

    just my $0.02