How To Play Harmonica
AND SOUND GREAT
(Do Your Notes Ever Sound Bad?)
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A large family of harmonica instruments
There is a large family of harmonica instruments - you may want to take a look at all of these to see which kind of harmonica you want to learn how to play. The main ones in the family are:
Diatonic harmonicas (also known as blues harps, mouth organs, or just plain "harmonica")
Diatonic harmonicas are the best-known harmonicas in the West, including the U.S., Canada, and Europe. They are loved for their tone, their versatility and portability, and the fact that they can fit into harmonica holders so you can play other instruments with them at the same time. In recent years breakthroughs in diatonic harmonica playing technique have been made, such that they can be played chromatically (playing all the sharps and flats). This is done by a combination of bending, overblowing, and overdrawing, all playing techniques (virtually) unique to the diatonic harmonica.
There also are special-tuned diatonic harmonicas - here's a demo of the Hohner 365SBS
Chromatic harmonicas are set up so that the sharps and flats of a scale are acheived mechanically, through various combinations of button/slide-in and slide-out. Chromatic harmonicas are widely used for playing classical and jazz music, and also for pop, funk and blues. Famed musician Stevie Wonder created a wonderfully distinct style of chromatic harmonica playing.
Tremolo and Echo harmonicas (double reed instruments)
Tremolo and Echo harmonicas are the most popular harmonicas in the Orient. They have not just a single row of holes like the diatonic and chromatic harmonicas have, but instead have two rows of holes, one above the other. Octave harmonicas have the upper row of holes an octave higher than the lower holes. Tremolo harmonicas have the upper row of holes slightly detuned from the bottom row, producing a wavering, vibrato effect. The Tremolo and Echo harmonicas produce a thick and beautiful sound without the need for bending and single note techniques.
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