If you play any blow hole on a standard key of “C” 10-hole diatonic harmonica will the pitch be higher or lower?

If you don’t know the answer to this trick question, you may have trouble playing songs forever.

Let’s figure it out together.

First, blow into hole number 1 and follow that by drawing into hole number 1. Which is higher? The draw note is higher. Right? Check for yourself and you’ll see this is correct.

Now blow into hole number two, then draw. Again the draw note is higher.

So from these two examples you might conclude that the draw notes are higher than the blow notes, but, if so, you would only be partly correct.

Now try blowing into 10 and then drawing into 10. Hopefully your ear can tell you this is different. Which note is higher in pitch?

The blow note is the higher pitch than the draw note. Somewhere on the harp, the pattern goes from the draw notes being higher to the blow notes being higher. Where does that happen?

Blow draw into 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7…! The switch happens between holes 6 and 7. From holes 1 through 6 the blow notes are lower than the draw notes. From holes 7 through 10, it reverses. The blow notes are higher than the draw notes.

Because of this, most harmonica players call holes 1 through 6 the low end of the harp and holes 7 through 10 the high end of the harp. Many players get confused when exploring the high notes.

They know something is different, but they cannot put it into words. Because of this, many harmonica players do not continue exploring the high notes (and they feel intimidated to play songs on the higher notes).

Have the courage to explore the high notes and, the more you do it, the easier it will be for you to include all the notes on the harmonica to play the songs you love.

Playing the major scale is a great way to feel the shift.

Play these notes to go up the major scale:
Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do
4 -4 5 -5 6 -6 -7 7
And play the same notes in reverse to go down the major scale.

Practice this a bit and this initially confusing aspect of harmonica will soon become second nature to you.

Keep Blowing!

Article by Michael Rubin


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