|Harmonica * French Harp- Music-Instruments of the World|
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
The harmonica, also known as the French harp, is a small wind instrument held in hand while playing. It can be played by inhaling and exhaling through several air slots. Kids love playing these because they're easy to learn and provide fun entertainment and lively music. Also, harmonicas are small so they can easily be carried in a shirt pocket or pants pocket. Many adults love them for these same reasons!
|Photo by Jay Phagan|
Harmonica Construction and Sound
In the past, harmonicas were usually made of wood. Today, many harmonicas are constructed from injection-molded plastic. There are also high-end harmonicas that are built from metal alloys, silver, or Lucite. The harmonica's sound is often based on the materials it is made of, with each material giving its own unique sound. For example, blues harps or marine band harps are made of soft wood that resists moisture and create a rich, unique sound.
Types of Harmonicas
Harmonicas come in many different types and styles. These are often chosen by players according to the type of music they would like to play. Some harmonica players enjoy performing at events as soloists or with a group or band. The cross harp is often used in blues music, but can also be used in many types of music. It is a diatonic harmonica that is played in a key that is actually seven half-steps up from the harmonica's main key. For example, if the harmonica were tuned in C, it would actually be played in G.
A diatonic major harp is the most common type of harmonica. It has all the "Major Scale" notes such as C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The chromatic harmonica has the same notes as the diatonic major harp, but with a half-step between each major note.
Common brand names of harmonicas include Hohner, Hering, Suzuki, Bushman, Lee Oskar, and BTI. Tremolo and octave harmonicas are offered by Hohner. Different styles of orchestral harmonicas are also available for those who perform with orchestras.
Find Harmonicas and Accessories Online
There are many harmonica resources online today that sell harmonicas and accessories. There is free tablature (with tabs and symbols) to help beginners and experienced harmonica players learn new songs. Accessories such as amplifiers, cases, sheet music, microphones, CDs, and more are available online at reasonable prices. Beginners can research online to find out how to care for their harmonica. From tuning to cleaning, there are a few definite "dos and don'ts" to follow.
The beautiful music that flows from the harmonica can never be matched. Harmonicas are so diverse that they can be played alone while sitting on a porch swing, at a family gathering for singing and fun, or in a professional concert. They can be played around the world no matter what the country. These hand-held instruments bring joy to any setting!
Sunday, October 30, 2016
The harmonica is a very common element in blues music. It has the depth to go with the rhythm and for many people it is what makes it what it has become. Learning to play the blues on the harmonica is much harder than one might think. Yet once you do so you will be very happy with yourself.
|American blues harmonica player George "Harmonica" Smith|
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One significant difference between blues harmonicas and others is the fact that the blues features twelve holes instead of the traditional ten that is found on others. This can take some getting used to when you pick up a blues harmonica if this isn’t the style that you first learned to play on. It is important to have the right type of harmonica in order to play the blues.
When it comes to playing the blues on the harmonica you have to be able to feel the music. You also need to know the basic notes on the instrument so you can apply them. This can be frustrating but make it a routine to practice at least 15 minutes each day. Try to play listening to a blues song you are attempting to copy. This will guide you to show you where you need to continue working as well as were you have certain parts of the song down correctly.
Many individuals who own blues harmonicas are more than willing to help others learn too. You can find them hanging out on the porch on warm afternoons working with each other. Many younger generations have learned the value of patience and bonded with older family members during the process of learning to play a blues harmonica. In fact it is also common for these older musicians to buy young children a blues harmonica so they can start picking it up from a very young age.
You will discover in your quest to buy a blues harmonica that there is no shortage of them out there to choose from. Take your time to try out several models that you can find at local music stores. You want to be comfortable with what you are going to be playing. Plan on spending at least $200 or more for a very good blues harmonica that you will love playing every chance you get.
Monday, April 25, 2016
A harmonica is a type of musical instrument that seems to have found its way into various types of music. It is most commonly used in jazz and the blues. You will often here it make an appearance in rock and roll songs as well as many of the older country tunes. Learning to play the harmonica does take time but it can be done. It involves knowing how to play the instrument by learning the notes, practicing, and making sure you are holding it correctly.
a) lower: blues harp (C) "Victory" :
b) upper: Tremolo Harmonica "Unsere Lieblinge" (Hohner)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you are looking for a top quality harmonica there are plenty out there to choose from. The leader in the market is Hohner who has made them for over 150 years. Some other famous makers of harmonicas include Lee Oscar, Suzuki, and Bushman. You may want to try out several brands as well as several models to find the one that you are really happy with. Harmonicas can be expensive but if you want a quality sound you need to make a good investment in one that will last.
Most harmonicas are very durable and they will last you for a very long time. However, you need to do your part to take care of them. When not in use the harmonica needs to be in a carrying pouch. This will prevent it from getting damaged and the sound changing. You also need to clean it out on a regular basis.
Some professionals clean their harmonica by dipping it into a cup of water mixed with denture tablets that dissolve. They believe it takes away the stale taste that can build up in the harmonica after you play it a great deal. This process is very simple and it doesn’t seem to have resulted in any harmonicas being ruined or altered the sound of them.
Over a period of time, all harmonicas will need to be tuned again. You may end up doing permanent damage to it if you don’t keep it clean. In most cases when your harmonica is out of tune you will need to replace it. Repairs can be time consuming and expensive yet they don’t really seem to work for long before it is out of tune again.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
First of all it's important to know that there is not a separate, "blues" harmonica instrument - "blues harmonica" is instead a style of playing the harmonica. Blues harmonica is played most often on the major diatonic 10 hole harmonica.
|Photo by le-topographe|
Harmonicas were invented in Germany in the 1800s and were at the time were basically used to play the "oom-pa-pa" or classical music or folk tunes of the time and of that area. The major diatonic harmonicas really haven't changed their tuning very much since that time.
That doesn't mean that you have to play folk, classical, or oom-pa-pa music on the diatonic harmonica, it just means that you have to play in a different style, and with a few different techniques, in order to get the blues harmonica sound.
The first that has to be done in order to be able to play in the blues harmonica style and get the blues harmonica sound is to no longer play using the built-in blow-oriented tuning of the diatonic harmonica.
Instead, what you do is play in what's called second position or "crossharp".
In second position playing, your root note for the harmonica is the #2 draw on the harmonica ("draw" means inhale in harmonica language), NOT the #1 blow (which is the standard folk, classical, oom-pa-pa position).
The second position takes advantage of the DRAW CHORD which is built into the first four holes of the diatonic harmonica, which is a seventh chord - seventh chords are extremely important for blues music.
So now you have a new orientation for your harmonica playing: away from the BLOW-oriented style of the first position, to the DRAW-oriented of the 2nd position which uses the root note #2 draw, or the root chord you could also say, on the diatonic harmonica.
By starting on the #2 draw - what you have is a different scale that you are taking advantage of on the harmonica - technically it is a minor pentatonic scale.
However, this particular pentatonic scale has flatted notes or "blue" notes in it in order to get that "bluesy" sound, and is a specialized scale often called the blues scale. To get the flatted "blue" notes in the blues harmonica style it is necessary to become proficient at a technique called "bending notes" on the harmonica.
Bending a note on the harmonica is actually creating a note that wasn't built into the harmonica - it's almost a magical thing. The harmonica works by air flowing a brass reed that is riveted in a slot. The harmonica has one blow reed and one draw reed right above it in each slot. When the harmonica is assembled, you don't see the slots, but just know that these reeds, 1 blow and 1 draw, are in the same hole, one above the other.
You have 10 holes in the typical major diatonic harmonica, and 10 blow and 10 draw notes, so you have twenty built-in notes.
By bending notes, you can get considerably more notes, and more often than not it is these bent notes that gives the harmonica its' "soul" and its' very "vocal" sound.
How to bend a note is quite a study unto itself, but the main thing you are doing while bending a note is changing the air pressure while the air is flowing over the reed, and in almost all cases this will be on a draw note.
To get started bending notes, choose one of the harmonica holes that usually is one of the easier notes to bend, the #2 draw.
First you must have a good single note technique. That is, you must be good at playing only one hole at a time without other holes leaking in their sound.
Next - you draw in the #2 draw with that clear relaxed single note style so you can hear what that single note is supposed to sound like, and imagine that you are articulating the vowel "E" while drawing in on the #2 draw.
Three: Exhale so that you have a lot of air to work with on the #2 draw, and while drawing in saying "E", without changing anything else inside your mouth, change the vowel articulation to "OOO" or "AAAH".
What this ultimately will do will be to change the air pressure inside that slot and will cause the brass reed to vibrate at a different rate, and the reed will be "bent" down.This gives you your bent note or "blue" note.
Harmonicas come in many different keys: the higher the pitch of harmonica, the shorter the reed. The shorter the reed, the harder it is to bend the note, at least until you get used to it. So start with at least a midrange harmonica such as the key of C, or go to a lower pitch harmonica key such as an A or even lower, a G harmonica, to practice bending notes.
The actual bending technique will be the same for all keys, but you will find it easier to learn the bending technique initially on the lower pitch harmonicas.
So those are the main elements of how to play blues harmonica:
1. Playing in the 2nd position or "crossharp" style
2. Playing in a pentatonic blues scale
3. Getting the "missing" blue notes of the scale by using the bending technique.
Blues harmonica is the root technique of almost all other harmonica styles, so whether you are a blues fan or not, it is a great place to start learning more fun techniques on the harmonica.
You can go to harmonicasuperstart.com to get more help on how to play blues harmonica, especially the bending technique.
Friday, March 25, 2016
|Bluesman Mark Wenner of The Nighthawks plays amplified harmonica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I love playing music for people to hear. Ever since I was little I had a knack for performance. My parents have endless hours of home videos of me and my sisters performing in all kinds of made-up bands. Rarely did a month go by when we were not practicing for some kind of performance and making posters so that are parents would know to come to the show.
My mom always popped popcorn and brought snacks and they enjoyed our live shows just as they would a movie at the local theatre. As a child, I had no idea how much the support of my parents was instilling in me such a deep belief in my own abilities. I loved playing my harmonica most of all.
Looking back, I'm quite sure that I never had a harmonica lesson in all of my years of music playing. My father bought me a harmonica for my seventh birthday after I had been begging for one for nearly a year. When I wasn't busy with my guitar or piano lessons, you could fin me on our front porch struggling to learn the harmonica on my own. It must have come somewhat naturally to me because I was playing it in a folk band by the time I entered high school.
My sisters and I became known in our town as budding musicians. This was a title we loved and desperately wanted to live up to. We would rush home from school each day and spend hours playing songs in our makeshift garage studio that my parents had so graciously turned over to us. I played my harmonica and sometimes played the guitar. My older sister was the lead singer of our little band and she played the violin sometimes too. The two youngest sisters worked hard to become proficient at the piano and the guitar. We had quite the little set up going on. I loved nothing more than the songs that I didn't have to do anything other than stand and play my harmonica.
I have loved the harmonica I think because it is so simple and small. I've always been a simple person and I have strived to live simply in every way. So I guess my love for the tiny harmonica came to me honestly. I never owned more than one harmonica at once, though, because that would be excessive. So every year or so I'd sell my harmonica and buy an updated one that fit my mouth just right.
Playing the harmonica has been one of the smallest things yet one of the biggest blessings of my life.