How to Hold a Harmonica

By JP Allen

Written by JP Allen on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles, Harmonica Lessons

I’m so stoked to teach you the best way to how to hold a harmonica because it’s not that hard to learn and it’s going to make you sound awesome. First check out this fun hand trick video, then read the rest of the page for more detailed technique info…

The Two Handed Grip

Now, I will teach you the two handed grip! In the two handed grip, you hold the harmonica with one hand, and use the other hand for hand effects (which we will discuss later in this lesson). This grip is kind of tricky at first, but I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it with some practice.

The grip I will teach in this lesson is considered a right-handed orientation. I generally recommend left-handed people to also use the right-handed grip because it makes it easier to get deeper “wah wah” sounds on the lower notes (more on this technique later). However, there are no set rules, and if you feel that you are more comfortable with a left-handed grip, go for it!

Right Handed Grip

  • Step 1: Make a “C” shape with your left hand, keeping your first finger and thumb parallel

  • Step 2: Hold the harmonica in your left hand, as far back as possible. Secure it between your thumb and forefinger as shown

  • Step 3: Align the tip of your left pinky with the top crease of your right pinky

  • Step 4: Cup your hands together while holding the harmonica, and try to create an airtight seal with your right hand. Make sure there are no gaps!

  • If you have large hands You can wrap your right thumb and fingers around the harmonica.

  • You can also use this to produce a muted tone

  • To produce bright tones, just open your hands

You will also notice in the last picture that I wrap my right thumb around the front of the harmonica. This allows me create a better seal, and gives me more control while doing hand techniques. I usually keep my thumb in that position in both open and closed hand positions. I can quickly move it out of the way when playing high notes.

A Simple Hand Technique in Action!

Here’s a simple exercise to practice opening and closing your hands:

Downward Arrow = Draw

Upward Arrow = Blow

(1,2) = Play holes 1 and 2 AT THE SAME TIME.

You should feel relaxed and comfortable while holding the harmonica with this grip. I would encourage you to use my suggestions as a starting point, and then feel free to experiment with this grip so that you feel comfortable.

JP Allen

JP Allen believes that anyone can learn to play harmonica. Are you a beginner or intermediate who is looking for an especially easy approach to getting good fast? Do you think it would be fun to play blues or some of your favorite songs with minimal practice? Then CLICK HERE for JP’s Beginners Harmonica Lessons, the world’s only 100% play-along harmonica video lessons.

Comments (16)

  • roberto villacruz

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    thank’s for the information that I was given a very usefull lesson for playing this Harmonica I love it…….

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      I’m glad it was helpful Roberto. jp

      Reply

  • Vanessa

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    JP!! Just got a simple Blues Band, and just discovered your videos. Very helpful and easy to understand. Thanks!

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Thanks Vanessa! I’m happy you are enjoying them. jp

      Reply

  • Deepak kumar

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    Hello sir ,
    I want to learn Harmonica.

    Reply

  • Al Stenberg

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    I watched hand techniques and my harmonica is much longer than yours. When I form a C with my left hand it only covers half of my harp.

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      It sounds like you have a chromatic Al…how many holes? jp

      Reply

  • Joe

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    should I have the high end on the left or the right

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      Ideally the right. jp

      Reply

  • Raphael

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    Hi Allen,
    thx for your nice website.
    I’ve started teaching me Harmonica myself about 10 years ago (but only a view lessons on VHS video). Playing was easy but never had time…

    Now i bought a new Suzuki Olive (C) and will try again.

    I have one, may be bad habit from my first approach. I hold the harp in my right hand. So the left hand have to do the vibrato…
    Do you think its a bad habit in reference of sound to do it this way? It appears to me that your way is more effective because your covering the lower registers better?!
    What do you think? Schould i change my hand position?

    Best regards from Germany,
    Raphael

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      I have many students who play with the opposite hand and find it works for them. It’s really up to you if you are comfortable or feel limited. 10 years is a long time to be playing a certain way and to switch it up might feel a bit stifling. I think you’re fine to stick with your technique. jp

      Reply

  • saurav kushwah

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    Hey i just want to start learning harmonica so which harmonica should i buy ??

    Reply

  • Olan

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    What if you have an over bite? Does that affect wether you jut the jaw or not?
    Should I angle down instead to compensate?

    Reply

    • JP Allen

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      You’ll have to feel it out and see where you need to make adjustments. Try both methods and see what sounds better for you. jp

      Reply

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