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Why Your Harmonica Notes Sound Wrong | Beginner Harmonica Lesson

Does your harmonica sound wrong? Are the notes not playing properly! There is a simple solution to this, and I'm going to tell you what it is in this lesson.

Harmonica notes - the secret to success

If your notes don't sound right, you might guess that your harmonica is tuned wrongly, or that there's a problem with the reeds. It's true that the problem might be dow to the type of harmonica you are using, and very rarely there is a fault with the harmonica you've bought. However if you are using the correct harmonica and it isn't broken, but every note still sounds wrong, then I am almost certain I have the solution. The secret is to close your eyes.

Yep, that's right. It's that simple. Let me explain...

It's (sort of) not your fault

It never ceases to amaze me how many beginners will play an entire song one hole away from where they should be. There is only one reason for this: they are using their eyes rather than their ears.

Almost all harmonicas come with the hole numbers printed on the top. This is useful for getting your bearings right at the start. However, it's a pretty stupid feature. The fact is that the hole numbers only serve to distract you from using your ears. (It also has the tragic effect of adding to the perception of the harmonica as a toy rather than a musical instrument, but that's another story.)

So, in a way, it's the manufacturer's fault that you're playing the wrong notes. If you try to find a hole by looking down at the harp as you put it to your lips, you're far more likely to play the wrong hole than if you just try to hear the note. By looking at the hole numbers, you are shifting your focus away from training your ears and towards looking with your eyes.

The other big problem with looking at the hole numbers is that it just doesn't work. By the time the harmonica passes beneath your nose (even if your nose is small!) then you won't be able to see the holes any more. This is why so many beginners end up playing one hole away from where they should be. This throws off the entire song and, to be honest, sounds pretty awful.

So don't make the same mistake. Close your eyes, or at least train yourself to not look at the harmonica as you play. Keep it in your mouth for the whole song so you're not tempted to sneak a look. Most of all, focus on hearing the music. You can't see the notes, so stop trying to!

Practising playing blind

It can really help to play songs you already know, so you don't have to look at the tabs as you play. That way you can close your eyes.

Tablature (tab) is the most popular way of learning to play harmonica. It is easy because it shows you the hole number of the harmonica to find, and the air flow (inhale or exhale).

Positive numbers are blow notes (outward breath)

Negative/minus numbers are draw notes (inward breath)

For example:

4 = hole four blow

-4 = hole four draw

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I hope you enjoyed this lesson. Good luck and see you again soon!

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