The harmonica, also called harp, French harp, blues harp, and mouth organ, is a free reed wind instrument used primarily in blues and American folk music, jazz, country, and rock and roll. It is played by blowing air into it or drawing air out by placing lips over individual holes (reed chambers) or multiple holes.
Simple blues harmonica riffs are perhaps the most common way for one to begin improvising on the harmonica. Use repetition of a single blues riff and pauses between these riffs to create a more melodic feeling to your playing. Sound files examples, explanations, and instruction are directly below the blues riffs.
The harmonica came to America during the American Civil War. And after the war many of the former slaves searched for an inexpensive and portable instrument to let out their rich musical heritage. But the kind of music that African-Americans played was very different to the European folk and classical music that the harmonica had been designed for: Their music was a very rhythmic and vocal sort with strong emotion and runs of improvization. Plus the notes they prefered to sing were in between the Major and Minor Scales; notes that could be easily sung but were impossible to play on the piano without special tuning (you could almost say that they were in the cracks between the keys!). The notes sung also tended to be warbled and slurred, which was definitely impossible on the piano - what was needed was an instrument that could be controlled by the same muscles that controlled the voice.
The easiest way to breathe correctly with the harmonica is to play your single notes with the harmonica as far into your mouth as possible. The further you put the harmonica into your mouth without losing the single note, the better.
When it comes to the harmonica, some people may think of honky-tonks, country music and the blues. But Frédéric Yonnet is giving it an urban jazz feel. The French-born musician is known for his dynamic and energetic performances, and has collaborated with the likes of Prince, Stevie Wonder and John Legend.
The harmonica is deceptively simple. Any idiot who can exhale can coax from it a mellifluous or you might say harmonious sound. The trick is getting it to play specific notes or chords. Many a would-be harps man has found himself squinting at a slightly moist nemesis saying I will master you, but first I must know all about you, where you came from, who your friends are. And now, you can know all that, because the German Harmonica Museum is on tour in the United States.
Beginning players are often struck by the effort needed to play. With more experience this effort decreases, as hand movements, head movements lips and breath focus better on sound production. Another puzzle for harmonica students is how to play fast. It seems that skilled players have a different set of lungs, hands and lips for fast passages.
When Baron Toots Thielemans, the Belgian harmonica legend, guested on Gregoire Maret's self-titled debut, the sense was that Maret himself had been knighted. He'd already proven himself worthy on recordings with Pat Metheny and Jacky Terrasson, but until recently, the 37-year-old didn't have his own singular statement to drive the point home.
Different playing positions allow us to play in different keys on a single diatonic harmonica. Since there are 12 keys (G, A, Bb, B, C, etc), there are (in theory) 12 different positions on a harmonica. If you play in the key of C on a C harmonica (called straight harp) you play in first position. Second Position is called cross harp, in this position, the song is in C, then your harmonica-key is a F.
There are two main types of harmonicas (sometimes called "harps"), the chromatic harmonica and diatonic harmonica. Although the chromatic is extremely versatile, the harmonica which is mostly used in blues, rock, country and folk is called the diatonic harmonica (“blues-harp”).
The Little Lady Harmonica by Hohner is not only the world's smallest playable harmonica, but it also holds the distinction of being the first musical instrument played in space!