Why Play The Harmonica?

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Harmonica By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Harmonica
Last updated: 14/04/2018
Tags: blues harp, harmonica, harmonica lessons, harmonica lessons london, harmonica teacher

The harmonica is quite possibly the world's most underrated musical instrument. Many people will associate it with the image of a folk troubadour wearing a harmonica on a rack around their neck, blowing randomly while strumming a few chords on the guitar — or Bob Dylan in fact. Whilst this image is perfectly understandable, bearing in mind Dylan helped to make the 1960s the biggest decade ever for harmonica sales, there's a lot more to this little instrument than this image portrays. 

The diatonic harmonica, French harp, or Mississippi sax, as you may hear it called, is in many ways as powerful and expressive as the human voice. A harmonica player can bend the pitch of the notes down just by using tension in their throat. This is what creates that unique bluesy sound which many instantly love when they hear the harmonica. Yet the harp is much more than just a blues instrument — maybe surprisingly to some, you can play classical, jazz, Middle Eastern, African, Irish folk, and many more styles of music, on the humble 10-hole harmonica.  

The harmonica is the only wind instrument that you can play chords on, so rhythms can be created to dramatic effect and played alongside melodies. The tongue can be used for all kinds of techniques too, including blocking holes to play two notes at once, or rapidly switching between two holes. The hands can be used to mould and shape the sound by cupping around the harp and making a chamber. The range of sounds, timbres and effects is enormous. As virtuoso harp player, maker and developer Brendan Power said: "There's so much music in this tiny instrument."

But where does the harmonica fit into today's music scene? It certainly has some distance to go before it can shed its image as a novelty instrument, but this is happening with the help of a new generation of Youtube players, harmonica beatboxers and pedal-loopers (recording layers of harmonica parts over each other).

With many new brands of harmonica now available from 150 dollar custom harps to 10 dollar Chinese-made instruments, there's a harp out there for everyone.


The Harmonica Barge Drum Kit Teacher (Twickenham)

About The Author

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