Hello! In today's harmonica lesson we're talking about tongue blocking. I'll give you my top five tips for learning tongue blocking if you're a lip purser. I hope you find the video useful!
You might also want to try my full step-by-step tongue blocking course.
Tip #1: Re-learn simple songs
You've no doubt learned some melodies as a lip purser in the past. One great way to get started with tongue blocking is to play songs you already know, but this time play them using a tongue block. The great thing about this process is that you won't be wasting energy on learning the tabs; you're simply giving yourself a great context in which to practise the new mouthshape. In addition, you already know the song so you will be a good judge of when you're getting it right or wrong. Make sure to play the song slowly and only move on to the next note when you have played the last note cleanly. This way you'll get a good grounding across all the notes on the instrument.
Tip #2: Get a 'Tongue Block Trainer'
The Tongue Block Trainer is a tool developed by teacher Joe Filisko. It's a simple piece of kit - like a flat plastic harmonica - allowing you to check in the mirror if you're getting the right shape to play single notes, octaves, flutters etc. You can find out more about the Tongue Block Trainer here. You could also make your own if you're that way inclined, although I'm pretty lazy so I bought one!
Tip #3: Work on being mindful
One of the challenges when playing the harmonica is that you can't see what's happening internally. Even with the Tongue Block Trainer, at some point you're going to have to pick up the harp and focus on the real deal. This means you'll have to develop your listening: really pay attention to what you're hearing, don't sugar coat it. Is that single note right? Is the tone good? If it's not, why not? This process is easier when you turn off any loud or distracting devices, go somewhere quiet and give your time fully to the activity. Five minutes a day of mindful practice is better than five hours of scatty playing.
Tip #4: Record your practice
Being mindful is made a lot less taxing and a lot more fruitful if you record yourself. This means you can go back and really zoom in on what you played, since it's very difficult to remember the subtleties of what you're playing in the moment. These days you'll probably have a simple voice memo app on your phone, so use it... that's if you can resist checking your emails mid-practice!
Tip #5: Think as a beginner again
The biggest obstacle for lip pursers who want to tongue block is simply a lack of humility and patience. You have to be willing to take it slow. You will need to accept that you're a total newbie when it comes to tongue blocking, even if you're an awesome lip pursers. Paradoxically, it's the students who are willing who focus on the simple things who actually progress quicker than the impatient ones. If you can accept that you're a tongue block rookie, that's half the battle won already!
Thanks for studying with me today. I hope you enjoyed the lesson!
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