Quite often you’ll see people playing their guitar and harmonica together (see video below!) where their harmonica playing sounds very hesitant, playing guitar-harmonica and breathing like they are afraid of it. This is ok for a beginner, but it is a very limited way of playing. This is almost always done in First Position harmonica playing, which is playing a harmonica in the same key as the guitar.
With first position playing, the harmonica playing is weighted toward the EXHALE notes, which is what beginners usually think is supposed to be done with the harmonica.
What can improve your playing tremendously and almost be a revolution in your playing is to realize that the harmonica is an INHALE and exhale instrument – it is the only instrument that is played in both inhale and exhale. So this is where you can really take advantage of your natural breathing instead of just playing like a school-marm librarian, just pecking away on the instrument.
Here’s some tips for you:
- 1. First thing to do is remember when you blew out all the candles on a birthday cake: how did you do it? You took a big breath first, didn’t you!
- Good – now lets’ do the same thing, except in the opposite way:
- 2. Exhale all your air, just as far as you can go, now inhale through holes 1,2,3,4 on the harmonica. Do this a couple of times.
- 3. Next, do the same thing except blow through holes 1,2,3,4 on the harmonica for your exhale – blow ’til you run out of air, and then inhale again through your harmonica.
You’ll notice a lot more volume – of course you can do this anywhere on the harmonica that you want, but it will automatically sound best at the 1,2,3,4 chord on the harmonica because those are built-in chords there.
So think of your harmonica as an inhale/exhale instrument and really step up your breathing through the instrument and you’ll be able to express a lot more emotion with it. Whenever we get emotional at all, whether it is anger, joy or excitement, our breathing gets faster and deeper, doesn’t it?
Your audiences will notice this change in your breathing and will react to it on a subconscious level: “This performer is excited!”
So most likely you’ll have to increase the volume of your guitar playing to match that of your harmonica, but that’s ok, too. Just try to keep a balance of volume between your guitar and harmonica.
- Do that guitar-harmonica breathing thing and notice the difference in your playing!