by: Kyle Vallone
1. Keep your harmonica clean: I am always reminded of the line from the song “Me and Bobby Magee” when he pulled that harpoon (harmonica) from a dirty red bandana. Romantic? Yes it is. I have pulled many a harmonica from a jacket or pair of jeans pocket to blow a tune. But, you know what? The only harmonicas I carry with me are old veterans and always in a plastic case. That way no lint or debris gets stuck in a reed. If I have to play a gig or I am jamming with a friend I have a separate case for what I call my gig harmonicas.
2. Tap out your harmonica when finished: When I first started to play the harmonica I used to salivate into the instrument and play with a lot more breath than I do today. Therefore it’s important that when you finish playing the instrument that you tap it out into the palm of your hand to clear any moisture or debris that is there from playing.
3. Exercise: To play the harmonica you need wind, so maintaining good cardiovascular health is very important. The better your cardio fitness, the longer you can play without running out of breath.
4. Take your sweet time: This is an instrument that you can enjoy for your entire life. Your lips don’t get arthritis so if you take care of yourself you can play this instrument for your entire life.
5. Don’t share your harmonica with others: I don’t let people play my harmonicas. If ever I do, I give it to them as a gift. For health reasons and general hygiene it is just a good rule of thumb.
6. If a reed sticks: If a reed sticks on your harmonica don’t be afraid to open up your harmonica and look under the hood. Just give the reed in question a little nudge and clear any debris and is should be back in business.
7. Soaking harmonicas: Don’t do it. It might make for a tighter seal on the harmonica for a very short period of time but it will vastly shorten the life of your harmonica.
8. Don’t be afraid to try something different: Listen to all kinds of music using the harmonica and don’t be afraid to give it a try. For years I played just blues and rock and roll. Then one day I discovered bluegrass, country and folk music for the harmonica and my blues and rock playing just got a lot better. But I had to be willing to give it a shot.
9. Listen, listen, and listen before you play: Listen to the piece of music that you want to play several times before you try to play it. That will help you a lot.
10. Have fun: Isn’t that the most important thing about playing the harmonica? You need to feel good about what you are doing. This is a very expressive personal instrument. It is a powerful instrument. When you play it for yourself you feel the joy. When you play it for others, people will say “Yeah! That’s cool.”
So go do it!!