Covering the basics (how to hold the instrument and getting single notes for melody playing). Will be giving my opinion on where to go for information/teaching on more advanced playing techniques too. Hope you find informative and enjoy...Billy



It's been my experience that there is no one way to do it when it comes to playing harp. For every definite there are many exceptions and variations. That is one of the things I enjoy so much about the instrument, you find the right way for yourself. There is starting points that most of the elders of the instrument suggest. I recommend holding the harp in your left hand with the thumb underneath and the first two (or just the pointing finger) on top. Have the harp snug against the palm where the forefinger and thumb meet. I keep the low notes (hole #1) on the left next to the hand and the high notes (hole #10) to the right side. The whole idea just to have control of the instrument so it doesn't slip out or move around unwanted while playing. The other hand is used for additional support or to create vibrato (like a vocalist does) or other tonal effects too.

This is just a starting point. Like I said there are many variations that can work too. 

Check out the picture below from a method book: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About The Blues Harp & Marine Band But Didn't Know Who To Ask! by the late Maestro Alan "Blackie" Schackner. His books, records and transcriptions are real treasures for any aspiring player and can be found searching the internet. Highly Recommended, this excerpt is presented for educational purposes only.

He covers most everything you need to get started here:


I hold the Chromatic Harmonica basically the same way. Low notes to the left and high notes to the right (like a piano). Here is a great illustration from a late 70's method called "Meet The Chromatic Harmonica And Make Music" by Berran Music Co. Boston, Mass. Shown here for educational purposes only.


There are two main ways to achieve a single note on the harp. The first I've always called the Pucker Method or Whistle Method. The Maestro Alan Schackner calls it the Lipping Method (see photo below). The idea is simple, change the shape of your mouth to cover (isolate) one single hole. Just like when you pucker (purse) your lips to whistle. Then breath gently through the instrument to get the reeds to sing. I read one time where Maestro Cham-Huang said basically the idea is to get a clean pure single note. Once you can do this melody playing will open up for you. Take your time and practice the technique of getting a single sound from each hole on the harmonica (inhale and exhale). Picture here shown for educational purposes only.


The next method for achieving a single note is Tongue Blocking.

Go to the low end of your harp and place your open mouth on the instrument. Gently breath through it to activate the reeds. Now place your tongue on the left side and cover the first two or three holes, leaving on opening on the right side for air to flow. You can also do this the opposite way and get air flow on the left side if you chose. The idea is the same, to get a clean sounding single note. I recommend learning both methods for getting a single note (pucker and tongue block). Each has its advantages and although the greatest players have their favorite way, almost all of them use both single note methods to achieve various playing techniques. A discussion of more advanced playing is beyond this post of the basics. I hope to eventually include of video covering these two methods and make some suggestions of where to look for further study.


The methods for achieving a single note on the Chromatic Harmonica are the same for the Diatonic Harmonica. "Meet The Chromatic Harmonica And Make Music" by Berran Music Co. Boston, Mass. Shown here for educational purposes only.



The elders of the instrument in all genres have set the bar for excellence extremely high. I encourage you to enjoy the modern players for inspiration, as well as, the original Maestros on who's sholders we all stand.