Harmonica Lessons

The harmonica is a great instrument to start out on, whether you’re 8 or 80.  I have taught both.  It’s immediately gratifying to be able to play “Camptown Ladies” or “Yankee Doodle” within a very short time.  Of course, that’s not why you’re interested in the harmonica, is it?  I consider harmonica a legitimate instrument and players like Sonny TerryJohn PopperAdam GussowJason RicciHoward Levy, and Jason Rosenblatt not only prove my point but demonstrate the great diversity and musicianship possible on this humble instrument.  Lessons on harmonica begin with block playing simple melodies (like Camptown Ladies…).  I work on proper embouchure (mouth posture) to get single notes which opens up another dimension of possibilities.  Bending notes is one of the most useful techniques, but unfortunately very difficult, to master on the harmonica.  It’s a bit like whistling because it’s all in your throat and mouth.  It takes some time to be able to do it but once you can it allows you to play almost all the notes in the chromatic scale.  From there, anything is possible.  I have helped my students who want to play like Bob Dylan, Sonny Terry (one of my personal favorites), Jason Ricci (a sheer challenge!) and I have had former students leading their own bands (you go Jacqui!).

Chromatic harmonica

Although I started playing diatonic (10-hole) harmonica back in high school, I became enamored with the chromatic harmonica when a student of mine brought one in.  It’s similar to the diatonic but has a plunger on the side that you push in.  The plunger opens up another set of reeds and gives you all the notes that are unavailable on the diatonic (without bending or over-blowing).  This instrument is completely different because of this.  I think the chromatic is actually easier to play because the notes are all right there.  The embouchure is pretty much the same but you don’t need to bend to get the other notes.  For blues, rock, country, and folk, I think the diatonic is better.  For music that changes keys frequently or use exotic scales (jazz, Brazilian, classical, pop, theatre) my first thought is that the chromatic is better.  Plenty of exceptions though.

If you are interested in harmonica lessons, either diatonic or chromatic, please contact me.