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Tip of the Day: Mastering the Harmonica is a Journey - by Jon Harl

David Barrett Admin's picture

"For those of us who want to become masters at playing the harmonica, practice will probably take the majority of the time you spend working to get better. As you have, or will come to realize, mastering the harmonica is a journey that will take quite a long time. Of course, everyone of you will have your own goals and ideas about the type of music you want to play and how good you want to get. However, the key to all this practice and playing is to have fun. You’re in charge of how much you practice and what you practice and most importantly, your attitude during practice. Practicing can be really fun. In fact it can become addicting. Being able to play specific techniques on the harmonica can be so engaging that you can’t stop trying. You may even drive some of those you love crazy with your efforts and constant conversations about what you’re working on. For me, that first clear 2 draw was magic and the first time I bent a note I was besides myself and had to show and tell everyone I could do it.

With all that said, let me give you one thing to focus on every time you practice playing—movement.

Some of the movements are quite obvious. Tapping your foot in time, what you’re doing with your hands, posture, etc… these are all stuff you can watch. However, what’s going on inside your mouth… your embouchure, where your tongue is, how much you move your tongue and how you move it are all something you need to become aware of. The better you’re at doing this, your technique (especially bending) will improve and the more satisfying playing music becomes.

To accomplish some techniques can be very challenging. But, like I said before, it’s exciting. Of course it may be frustrating and a total mystery. Please don’t stress over it. It’s okay to obsess over it... this is our passion, and obsessing over something just shows you how passionate you are. By all means put a harp in your pocket and play whenever you have a chance!

Remember, you’re in control of how much you practice, when and what you practice and you’re attitude. Be sure to listen to your favorite songs, laugh at your mistakes and don’t stress over not getting “it” right away or what amp or microphone is going to sound the best. There’s not a specific answer to how long it’s going to take, what harp is the best or whatever. Ask David and he’ll have his usual “spot on” advise. He knows where you’re at and what you’re feeling… he’s been there and thousands of students before you have been there. Pay attention to the movements in your mouth—it will pay big dividends when it comes to learning new techniques and refining old ones. Have a blast. You can do it… just get to work!"

Thank you Jon for sharing!