So you want to learn to play the harmonica? You have chosen wisely – the harmonica is one of the coolest (and most portable) instruments in the world! It can spread joy to you and to those around you for the rest of your life. I’m going to show you the #1 easiest secret for getting a rich bluesy tone and nailing that legit rhythmic playing, and that’s by learning the correct mouth position right from the start!
Learn the Deep Relaxed Mouth Position
The #1 mistake that beginning harmonica players make is playing with tense lips, and with the harmonica too shallow in the mouth. A lot of harmonica players and harmonica teachers use the word “pucker” to explain their technique for playing the harmonica. If you’re going to give someone a kiss, go ahead and pucker up, but if you want to play the harmonica like a boss, then add the word “pucker” to your list of bad words!
Mouth Position for Playing Harmonica
Many intermediate players, some who have even been playing for years, find themselves frustrated, unable to play single notes accurately with a nice rich tone, and become discouraged when they try to learn how to bend. (Bending is that wailing, crying, soul-stirring sound that has made the harmonica so famous.) The pucker might get you to play a single note quickly, but the tone is weak and airy, and it’s like shooting yourself in the foot later when you get ready to learn how to bend. Without the proper lip seal on the harmonica, trying to learn how to bend will be a futile effort.
You may also have heard teachers talk about “Tongue-Blocking.” This technique also has its merits, and farther down the road it’s worth exploring, but let’s learn the quickest and easiest way to sound great on the harmonica right NOW. I don’t want you to experience unnecessary pain and frustration that could make you give up before you realize how fun and easy it is to play the harmonica.
Here is the quickest, easiest, and most fun path to sounding great on the harmonica. First, master the Deep Relaxed Mouth Position (see video above). Once you have spent a lot of playing with this technique, and it’s a well-formed habit, then: Second, master the art of Playing Single Notes using lip blocking. Once you have spent a lot of time playing with the lip blocking technique, and it’s second nature, then: Third, you’re ready to Learn How to Bend. I promise you that this is the easiest and fastest way to have fun and to sound great on this wonderful little instrument.
I think of a good friend of mine, Dr. Eddie, who had been playing harmonica for a couple years, and even performing in front of people. He asked me for help with bending one day, and I quickly saw he was playing with tight lips and with the harmonica too shallow in his mouth. Because he’d been playing for a long time, I knew it was a deeply ingrained habit that wouldn’t change easily, so I advised him to try my course, Beginner to Boss. (I knew this could help him “un-learn” his bad habits, and develop new habits because I teach 27 lessons mastering just the Deep Relaxed Mouth Position before learning to isolate notes with lip blocking, and then 51 lessons isolating notes with lip blocking before learning how to bend.)
Sure enough, Dr. Eddie went through my course, and now he has a really beautiful, rich, and soulful tone. When I asked him about his experience going through the course he said, “Well, I can say this: now I really feel like a harmonica player, and I never did before.” The point of all this is not just to convince you to purchase my course, but to illustrate the power of developing great habits, right from the start. These great habits become the rock solid foundation upon which you can build when you’re ready to go to the next level.
The purpose of this lesson is to show you the #1 all-important foundation of the Deep Relaxed Mouth Position on the harmonica.
Make sure the numbers are facing up, so the lowest pitch is on the left. Hold the harmonica with either hand, on the side of the harmonica. This is not the advanced hand technique but will make things easier for now (first things first.)
Moisten and relax the lips.
Place the harmonica deep in the mouth, and rotate the back-side of it up toward the ceiling so that the part inside the mouth angles down into the moist inner-part of the lower lip.
Ensure that your upper lip is deep over the harmonica as demonstrated in this picture. You can use a mirror or a cell phone in selfie mode to double check this.…
This is the most important step that will guarantee that you are in the correct mouth position: unfold the bottom lip. Reach up with your index finger and pull down on your lower lip to ensure that it is untucked. It should loosely bounce against the bottom of the harmonica when you pull on it.
Congratulations! If you have only learned this one thing today, you have made your visit to our site worth your while and have created the foundation for learning harmonica the right way! Woo hoo!
Now if you’re wondering what to do next, click here to sign up to receive 3 free lessons from me that will help you to deeply reinforce this great habit while we play awesome songs together. Or, if you want to turbo-charge your path to harmonica mastery, check out my course Beginner to Boss.