One Liner Tips: Starting Out

Art- One Liner Tips


General Tips
Technique Tips
Becoming More Musical

Here is a collection of instructional one liners. They include rules of thumb, playing tips, and common sense rules of physics and nature that apply to harmonica playing (and many other activities for that matter). The rotating "Tip of the Day" on the homepage is taken from this collection of tips.
    Starting Out

  • Breathing tip- The further you can put the harmonica into your mouth without losing the single note, the better.

  • "Playing music"- If you are just starting out on harmonica, don't try to "play music" right away. Spend a couple of weeks just concentrating on the basic techniques; establishing good habits with single notes, holding the harmonica, etc. The "music" will come soon enough.

  • Stay relaxed- Stay as relaxed as you can when you play and practice. You will use your energy much more efficiently and ultimately be able to play faster and last longer. The trouble areas for tension are usually: the shoulders, the neck, and the whole face in general, but especially the eyes and mouth area. Watch yourself in the mirror.

  • No such thing as cheating in music- There is no such thing as cheating in music. Do the best you can to follow the rules and steps in learning the basics, but foremost, try to make things work. Bending is a great example. Do whatever it takes to make the note bend; you can clean up the technique later.

  • Moisten your lips- If you find your lips sticking to the harmonica when you slide or move from hole to hole, lick your lips and the mouthpiece part of the harmonica before playing. Do this whenever necessary.

  • Improve even when you're not playing- Listen to as much harmonica as you can. Make a CD or tape of your favorite players and songs and listen to it over and over again. Drive time is ideal for this. Try to copy the riffs, techniques, and ideas on CDs with harmonica playing on them. Use the "Keyed" CDs without harmonica on them to practice your execution without being influenced or distracted by the harmonica already there.

  • Not as easy as it looks- Bottom line: The harmonica is not always as easy as most people would like to believe. Stick with it and you'll get good as you want to be. Depending upon how high you set your sights, this could be days, weeks, months, or years.

  • Have fun and stick with it- Learn to enjoy the process: All musical instruments, sports, miscellaneous activities like karate and yoga, take a ton of time and commitment to achieve abilities beyond beginner status. The people that love harmonica, love golf, love piano, will get good. This means that they don't mind all the time and practice that must go into harmonica playing and practice (in fact, they love every minute of it). Enjoy yourself. We all want to be good, but only those that persevere through the good, bad, and boring times of learning and practicing will become better players. Relax, have fun, and try to enjoy the ride.

  • Some harmonica styles are easy, others aren't- Don't be intimidated by your favorite harmonica playing. Some recorded harmonica is difficult and complex; it could be years before you can approach this kind of playing. But much of recorded harmonica isn't. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, etc., are great musicians but are not expert harmonica players (techniques-wise, they are at a beginner to intermediate level). You do not have to be a technical expert on harmonica to make good music.

  • How to figure out harmonica parts by your favorite players- The above mentioned musicians (Dylan, Neil Young, etc.) predominately blow and draw in the middle of the harmonica and "fake" a little bending (no new notes obtained -- just a slight bending effect), nothing fancy. It's not tough, you can do it too. Use the CDs Keyed section to determine the key of harmonica that is played on a favorite song of yours. Play along to the song with the same key harmonica that was originally used. Through trial and error, you can play what they played, really. By doing this you will: become more familiar with the harmonica, be able to create your own "tabs", make your ear better for learning music, and demonstrate that not everything ever recorded is difficult to play. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

  • Brand and model of favorite player's harmonica- Using the exact brand and model of diatonic harmonica that your favorite player(s) uses because you would like to sound like them when you play, won't get you very far. Learning to play the way they play is what will make you sound like them. As long as you have a reasonably good quality, airtight harmonica, you are in good shape. The brand and model are unimportant.

  • Making music- Remember, there is no prize at the end except that you're making music, making friends, and that you've accomplished something of worth that you did by yourself for yourself (and for all the lucky people that get to hear you play).

More "One Liner Tips" pages include: General Tips, Technique, and Becoming More Musical. You may also want to take a look at the Beginner's Shortcuts and "When In Doubt..." pages.

Sample Video
"Beginner Harmonica Lessons"
"Advanced Harmonica Tips"

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