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Subject: "Toungue Blocking vs. Pucker Method" Archived thread - Read only
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Charter Member
Nov-22-05, 09:17 PM (PST)
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"Toungue Blocking vs. Pucker Method"
   Hey everyone, Nick here.

I've been playing harp since school got out last june. Since then I have played a gig and practice pretty regularly with an amatuer band, and my high school blues band. I'm very comfortable in jams and would consider myself an intermediate player.

I learned the basics through Jon Gindick's Klutz book and tape which teaches the "pucker" method, meaning no tongue blocking. Through playing and listening to alot of harp playing on CD/Computer, I can tell that most professional harp players tongue block? Is this true? Should I be learning to do this or can I stick with the pucker method. What are the advantages of either method. I've already read the information on the member section about tongue blocking and am looking for further information.

I know Butterfield used the pucker method... who else?

-Nick W.

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Member since Aug-1-06
2 posts
Aug-01-06, 03:19 PM (PST)
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1. "RE: Toungue Blocking vs. Pucker Method"
In response to message #0
   I am a somewhat of a beginner too. My instructor says that tongue blocking give a lot better tonal quality and that it is the best method to get clear tones and for bending notes. That is all that I have tried, but if puckering was good enough for Paul Butterfield, then it seems that you should use what works best for you. However, you should probably learn tongue blocking also, as it will give you a much broader range of play.


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Member since Jan-20-03
2078 posts
Aug-02-06, 12:17 PM (PST)
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2. "RE: Toungue Blocking vs. Pucker Method"
In response to message #1

Do a search at the Beginning and General Topics forums. This has been discussed numerous times here.

In a nutshell, Butterfield, Sonny Terry, Toots Thielemans (chromatic), Stevie Wonder (chromatic), and myself, are predominantly or exclusively NOT Tongue Blockers are all have excellent tone. Most modern pros use both.

Tongue Blocking will NOT give you a better tone if you are doing the Whistle Method (Pucker, Vertical Slot, Corner Blocking, etc.) properly. Most players do not by default drop their jaw low enough to create a "Vertical Slot" for single notes. It is the expansion of the oral cavity that creates a fuller tone and not the fact that your tongue is or isn't on the harmonica. The harmonica does not know the difference.

Tongue Blocking, by the nature of the technique, helps to open your oral cavity to create a better tone. But, when done correctly, the Whistle Method wil create the same or better tone when you focus on the "Vertical Slot" and expand your oral cavity.

It's much, much easier for the average person to learn to bend and bend in general, with the Whistle Method vs. Tongue Blocking.

Remember, it's all about opening up the oral cavity as much as you can to create the biggest tone possible. Dropping your jaw and getting he harmonica further into your mouth also forces you to use correct breathing vs. merely sucking and blowing with your mouth.

More Posts-


Play on,
Dave Gage

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Marcus Milius
Member since Oct-1-06
2 posts
Oct-01-06, 04:04 PM (PST)
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3. "RE: Toungue Blocking vs. Pucker Method"
In response to message #0
   If done properly there is no difference in tonal quality between Toungue Blocking and Pucker Method.

Because your tongue is not on the harmonica for Pucker Method it is free to create articulations like: ta, ka, da, du, tut, and dut or or double and triple tonguing: ti-ka-tuh, duh-di-luh, etc. These are usefull on repeated chords or single notes. Ta attacks the front of the note and leaves it open. Tut attatacks the front and end of the note and makes for a very short stacatto.

Toungue Blocking alows you to play tongue switching, delayed tongue blocking and unison octaves which is not possible with Pucker Method. Also your tongue is on the harmonica so you can not make articulations with your tongue.

Hope it helps.



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