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The Harmonica


Why Learn to play the Harmonica?

The harmonica is a great and fun instrument to learn to play. The harmonica's small size makes it easy to carry around in your backpack, purse, or even pocket. So you can bring it with you just about anywhere and practice or play along with others. Harmonicas are popular instruments in blues, folk, country, and jazz music. They are also used in rock and pop music.

How much does a Harmonica cost?

Harmonicas are also pretty inexpensive. For around $25-30 you can get a pretty decent harmonica (don't get a cheap one) that you can use for years.

What is a Harmonica?

The harmonica that most beginners get, as well as many experienced players, is called a Diatonic Harmonica. The diatonic harmonica comes in different keys (like C, A, B, F#, etc.). Most beginners start with a harmonica in the key of C. You can also get sets of harmonicas that cover a wide range of keys.

How does a Harmonica work?

A harmonica is a wind blown instrument. When you blow or draw air through the harmonica, the reeds inside the harmonica vibrate to produce sound. These reeds are tuned to vibrate a certain frequency to product specific notes. Blowing into the harmonica can produce one note and drawing (or sucking air) from the harmonica will produce another note. By doing this you can play 19 different notes on a diatonic harmonica. Advanced players can "bend" notes, changing the pitch of the note and allowing them to play any note on the chromatic scale with a single harmonica.

Two common ways or styles used when playing the harmonica are called "straight harp", or first position, and "cross harp", or second position.

Straight harp

When playing the harmonica as a straight harp in the first position, you are playing it in its intended key. So a key of C diatonic harmonica would play in the key of C in the first position. All the blow notes on a key C diatonic are in the key of C. So if you only blow all that you play will be in the key of C.

Cross harp

Cross harp is what a lot of blues player use. In Cross harp you play the harmonic a fifth above its key. So for your key of C harmonica, you would be playing it in the key of G. Second position is a little more difficult, but allows for some easier draws and bending of notes. Most of the notes in second position are draw notes at the bottom of the harmonica.

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