Harmonica Breathing Techniques

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 77,123
    Harmonica player Matt Bradshaw demonstrates how to play the harmonica and shares harmonica breathing techniques.

    Matt Bradshaw: Hi, my name is Matt Bradshaw and I am a musician in the Washington DC area, and right now I'm talking about breathing techniques for the harmonica.

    The harmonica is an instrument because it's essentially the only wind instrument that you can make music by breathing both in and out and whereas like in trumpet or clarinet you're just breathing out the whole time. The harmonica has two sets of breaths, one so when you breathe in, you make pitches, and when you breathe out, the same thing.

    The easiest thing to do on harmonica is to play more than one note at a time, which is another cool thing about it, and that's just by simply bringing up to your mouth. So I'm breathing out, breathing in, getting different pitches and that's where you basically start and just start to get familiar with where the harmonica is? Where your lips are on the harmonica and just relax your lips and just breath in and out freely, and once you're comfortable with that, then you can move on to trying to play one note at a time.

    That's a little more complicated because you're going to need some embrasure technique, and basically what I've learned is that, to play one note at a time, because the notes are really small, you basically need to tighten your embrasure as much as possible, and the best way to do that is just to think about the corners of your mouth and sort of drawing them inward as much as you can, and at the same time you need to pucker your lips and it looks kind of dumb but that's why we keep our hands up in front of our face, so no one sees that, but it looks kind of this, you are like, like that, so puck your lips like you're kissing and try that on the harmonica. I'm going to just go from playing a couple of notes and then I'm going to draw my corners of my mouth in and bring it down to one note, so like that.

    Once you are able to make this sound, there is just one pitch, then you can try moving around the harmonica just by playing one note at a time, and that's all breathing out, you can also breath in. So it takes a little while to get that down but just keep that embrasure idea in mind and practice and take it slowly and just get as comfortable as you can playing single notes.

    Next, I'm going to talk about Harmonica Tablature, how to read it and how to use it.