If you have a balloon handy, give it a try. You nasal passages will automatically close so that you can direct all your breath through your mouth.
Now, keeping your lips closed, try to exhale air. Cupping the harp in your hands In Chapter 2, I show you briefly how to hold the harmonica in one hand and play chords. Here, however, I show you the standard harmonica hand cup. This cup helps you to hold the harp securely, and it improves the sound of the harmonica. In Chapter 6, I show you how to use your hand cup to shape and amplify your sound. Similarly, in Chapter 17, I show you how to cup the harp and a microphone together. When attempting to make a basic harmonica hand cup, follow these steps: 1.
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Stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Bring your hands together at chest level and cup them together, as shown in Figure a. You should be able to hold water in the cup your hands have formed. Bring your thumbs together, as shown in Figure b. You should be able to see where the harmonica goes — between your thumb and forefinger.
Make a slight opening in the back of your hands, just below your little fingers, as shown in Figure c. You can see the opening through the space between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. This opening is the edge opening, which lets you focus the sound coming out. This cup gives you a lot of power over the tone of the harmonica.
You still need to add the harmonica. Pick up a harmonica and hold it between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Remember, the name and hole numbers should be on top. Let it poke out a little, as shown in Figure Doing this helps prevent joint pain and deformity from pressure, and it also helps you cup the harp if you have small hands or when you play a big harp.
Place your fingers as close to the back edge of the covers as possible. Wrap your right and left hands together so that your hand encloses the harp, and then make an edge opening below the little fingers. When you level the harmonica into playing position, your hands will look like Figure Both the blow chord and the draw chord in Holes 1, 2, 3, and 4 sound big and powerful. In this section, I show you how to play those chords and get a big, relaxed sound with them.
Preparing your breathing Before you begin, flip to Chapter 2 for pointers on putting the harp in your mouth and forming an airtight seal.
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Raise your hands to your mouth, and put the harp between your lips until the front edge of the harp makes full contact with the corners of your lips. Let your lips drop onto the harp so that the moist inner part of your lips is touching the harp to form a seal around the covers and front of the harp. Are your lips touching the edges of your fingers?
They probably are. Exhale your breath gently into the harp, and then inhale a breath gently through the harp. As you breathe, the only body part that should move is your abdomen, which will be moving the breath in and out. Everything stays relaxed and motionless while you simply breathe in and out with the harp in your mouth.
Making a big sound with the smooth swimming exercise You can use some of the easy, relaxed breathing from the previous section to play some big, lazy chords in a long, simple rhythm. The exercise I introduce here, called the smooth swimming exercise, gets you breathing evenly and lets you feel your breathing and hear the harp.
It also helps you develop a big, rich sound simply by listening for it. Look at the harp and find Holes 1, 2, 3, and 4 at the left side of the harp. These are the holes you want to put in your mouth. As you raise the harp to your mouth, Holes 2 and 3 should pass under your nose. Follow these steps: 1. Prepare to start playing by counting off. You always count off to set the tempo the speed of the beat and to get ready to play.
Avoid tapping your foot when you do this exercise. You want to breathe at a regular, steady rate, but breathing should be your only physical activity. Inhale gently and steadily through the harp through a count of four. When you reach the next one, switch breath direction and exhale for a full count of four. Your breath is always in motion and the harmonica is always making a sound.
Keep alternating between inhaled and exhaled breaths, always breathing for the full count of four and switching breaths on the one without a pause. No air should be escaping through your nose or at the corners of your lips. Tip: If you hear a telltale hiss or breathy sound, keep playing but try to determine where the sound is coming from, and then either close your nose or get your lips and the harp into a snug but gentle seal. As you keep alternating between inhaled and exhaled breaths, concentrate on steady, even breathing. You never dive down and you never jump up; you just glide smoothly and evenly from one end of the pool to the other, breathing in and out evenly.
As you breathe, listen to the sound that the harp makes, and relax your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, lips, jaw, tongue, and throat. Do this for at least five minutes. And always count to four for each breath. As you listen to the sound of the harp responding to your breath, allow the sound to enlarge. Just listen, open your mouth and throat, breathe deeply, relax, and let the sound reach deep and expand. Listen to the sound of the smooth swimming exercise on Track 5 of the CD.
Discovering Rhythm One note or chord follows another. Each one has its own duration. For instance, one note could be long, while the next one is the same length or longer or shorter. As you sound a series of notes, their durations form a pattern called rhythm. I guide you through an exploration of some simple rhythms in the following sections.
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Breathing in rhythmic patterns In this section, I show you three simple rhythmic patterns. Then you combine the patterns to create a sort of rhythm tune. All three patterns use the same rhythm — you just play one chord on each beat. But for each pattern, you use a different sequence of blow and draw chords.
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At the end of each pattern, you hold a chord for four beats. In all three patterns you play two consecutive chords on the same breath, either two blow chords in a row or two draw chords in a row. How do you make two chords on the same breath sound distinct from each other? The tab for these patterns only shows the arrows for breath direction up for blow and down for draw. Each of the notes above the arrows is one beat, which is represented by a quarter note.
The big hollow note at the end of the tab is a whole note, which lasts for four beats. For more on reading rhythms, have a look at Chapter 3. When you first try playing these patterns, start out with a slow tempo of 60 beats per minute. Always learn music at a slow tempo that allows you to make all the moves in synchronization with the beat. Note: For now, just ignore the Xs and Os above some of the notes in the tab.
Rhythm pattern 1 The first chord pattern is shown in Tab It alternates two draws and two blows. Count these mentally as they go by. This gives you a resting point. This helps you develop a feel for the rhythmic pattern. O Tab Rhythm pattern 1 Track 6. When you first try speeding this rhythm up, you may want to try something between 60 and Rhythm pattern 2 The second breathing rhythm, shown in Tab , reverses the breathing pattern so you start and end on blow chords.
As with the first pattern, you play the initial four-note sequence three times, and then you end on a blow chord that lasts four full beats. You can hear this pattern on Track 6 of the CD. Tab Rhythm pattern 2 Track 6, In this pattern, I ask you to play the first breathing rhythm again but to do it one hole to the right. You do this by moving the harp slightly to the left and playing the rhythm shown in Tab When you move to a different hole on the harp, you move the harp, not your head.
In other words, to move to the right on the harp, you keep your head in the same place and move the harp to the left. I explain more on moving the harp in Chapter 5. You can hear this rhythm pattern on Track 6 of the CD, played at 60, , and beats per minute. Tab Rhythm pattern 3 Track 6, Each rhythm forms a phrase in the tune, and by connecting phrases you create a complete sentence, or verse. Then you shift back and play the first rhythm once. You can hear how this verse sounds on Track 6 Sounding like a train Tab shows two chord rhythms that are often used to imitate the sound of a train.