How to Play the Harmonica for Beginners

The harmonica, aka the “blues harp”, is a great instrument to learn how to play, and it’s especially good for those who would like to

have a an instrument that doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time to become decent at playing, plus it has the added benefit of portability–you can literally take your harmonica with you everywhere you go. The harmonica also has a great deal of history behind it, plus the sheer character

of the instrument itself will make you quite the character when you whip it out 😀 . Contrary to common belief, the harmonica is not an American invention, it actually originated in Vienna, Austria and soon made its way to Germany where the Hohner company began manufacturing them–the company founder sent a few harmonicas to relatives in the United States around 1857 and their popularity rapidly spread around this time: President Abraham Lincoln was known to always have a harmonica in his pocket, harmonicas became popular with soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, as well as with both sides of the law with lawman Wyatt Earp and wanted murderer Billy the Kid playing the instrument.

How to start playing the harmonica today: 6 short lessons for beginners

I’ve got a short instructional video series here by a professional musician who has been playing the harmonica for well over a decade and performing professionally for 8 years now and he’s going to teach by showing you (demonstrating so you know what it looks and sounds like) how to play the harmonica. Let’s get started.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: What kind of harmonica to get (if you haven’t got one already–if so, skip to the next video)

The two harmonicas that he recommends can be bought right here on Amazon (plus you can see reviews, etc.): the Hohner Special 20 and the Hohner Blues Band.

Part 3: Basic breathing techniques

Part 4: How to read harmonica sheet music (tablature)

Part 5: How to bend harmonica notes

Part 6: Additional basic techniques: the train whistle and the 4-to-5 trill

Part 7: How to properly clean and care for your harmonica

Additional Resources and Further Reading

This might seem a bit silly, but seriously, the best book out there on the subject, bar none, is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing the Harmonica, I’d highly recommend that if you’re interested in really learning how to play well.

Here’s an excellent site by Dave Gage with piles of free tips, lessons, and songs, definitely worth a look.