Harmonica Techniques

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 57,755
    Harmonica player Matt Bradshaw demonstrates harmonica 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 different techniques for playing Blues harmonica.

    Earlier I talked about Bending which is one of them, now I'm going to talk about a couple of others, and you can also incorporate what you've learned from bending, into these techniques.

    If you've ever heard a harmonica blues record or recording or CD or seen a harmonica player at a concert you're probably familiar with these techniques and effects almost. The first one I'd like to talk about is the Train Whistle Simulation, as I like to call it, it's a -- and that's what it is. Like in a lot of blue music they refer to train is _ by something like that and the harmonica player will make a train sound, and that's why holding it like this, like we talked about earlier is effective because what you've done through hands is you've created this chamber that you can open and close, revealing the back of the harmonica, and opening up the way for sound to get out and that changes the sound of the harmonica and you can incorporate that for this effect I'm going to talk about. What you're going to do is you're going to breathe in on holes four and five together and that's in the key of C, that's the fifth and the seventh and when you breathe in with them together you get sort of the sound of the train whistle like this. What you can do is you can open and close your hand while doing that, and it's pretty effective when trying to sound like a train whistle and you can experiment with it, maybe like if the train is going by, you can, kind of, decrease your volume a bit, just experiment with that. There is not much more I can explain about it, if you just listen and just come up with different ways to present that.

    Another effect that I would like to talk about is very popular, pretty much every blues harmonica player knows how to do this and loves to do it, because you hear it a lot, and that's the four or five trill while breathing in and that trill is just going from one note to another note and back rapidly, and I'm sure you've heard it before, this is what it sounds like and it's a pretty easy effect to do, you're breathing in the entire time and using the same single note embrasure the entire time and what you're doing is you're moving the harmonica back and forth so you are playing notes four and five, so you're going four-five, four-five, four-five, four in that pattern, and you basically -- the way to do it, if you haven't done before is, to start out slowly and pick up speed when you can. So I will just try it slowly for you, just like this, and as you get more comfortable, like that.

    Like I said before, you can incorporate bending techniques into this and make it sound a little more fluid, so I'm going to bend up into this four note and then do the trill so it sounds like this, like that.

    So those are two pretty common blues techniques, and there are many others that you can pick up just from listening and trying them on your own, that's what I've done over the years.

    Next, I'm going to talk about how to keep your harmonica clean, and when to replace them or get harmonicas fixed.