A Harmonica blog by Luciano Guida – What to practice and how much practice would be sufficient when learning harmonica?

Do you want to schedule your sessions for studying harmonica? Are you trying to find the answers to your queries such as: What should be the intensity of your practice or ideally how much time daily should you spare for learning harmonica, and above all what should you be practising actually to master your skill? This is what our today’s article on harmonica teaching would be dealing with. As you’re already familiar, my name is Luciano Guida and It’s been several years since I devoted my life to music and started teaching diatonic harmonica.

The views and notions on playing harmonica that I’ll be sharing with you through these articles should be considered from an expert teacher’s perspective. I’m sure that my useful tips and intriguing ideas, shared via these pages, will certainly improve the quality of your study of harmonica and hence your learning.

Today’s topic is ‘The study routine’. What I’ll explain to you under this heading revolves around HOW and WHAT to study to learn efficiently as well as to gain in-depth knowledge.

The first thing I want you to comprehend is that there are things that require only a few hours for skilful learning and yet there are certain things that may take up to weeks or even months to get accomplished. For example, learning to play single notes with tongue blocking is possible after only a few hours of study, in contrast with learning the technique of ‘bending’ which can take up to months, and learning to improvise spontaneously can consume even years. This should be one of the basic aspects for you to understand. Why rush and dedicate hours of rigourous drill every day doing something that has to take its toll in the form of years of practice, say perhaps 3 years!

If it takes years to learn something, it means that the transformation in our brain needs to take place eventually not suddenly or by force, therefore, a 20 minute training daily would suffice. Overburdening yourself will only sabotage your charm for study making it boring and tiring altogether, as the brain likes it when you set it loose. You can choose varied study to avoid this from happening in the first place by distinguishing short-term objectives from your long-term goals.

When you devise your study program, you are actually deciding what and how much to study. In my opinion, you should study at least 30 minutes a day, better if it’s for 60 minutes or more. But be ware that you shouldn’t be studying for prolonged hours in a row; it’s recommended to study for 20 minutes in a sitting as this is the best scientifically proven practice, so if you plan to study for an hour, I would suggest you to divide it into three blocks of 20 minutes duration each, with at least 6-7 minute break in between these sessions.

Though this study regime needs longer period of time but its effective as you learn better. Potentially, your brain can concentrate for 20 minutes maximum. In my early years of studying harmonica, I used to follow this pattern myself; I would divide my daily two hour long session into six 20-minute time frames, and on the weekends I would dedicate extra 5 hours dividing them into 15 blocks in the same way. Do you want to know how long it took me to get an accreditation for teaching online on the bluesharmonica.com, after selecting this regimen for myself? Less than 3 years. I studied piano for 10 yrs before that, and practised three years for playing saxophone. Learning takes its course, there ain’t any shortcuts for it!

Splitting up your study time into smaller units gives you relaxation by not having to play for an hour straight, it also provides you the comfort to find 20 mins at your ease whether in the morning, during the lunch break or in the evening, as 20 mins are always easy to spare, right? In addition to this, you can utilize each time frame differently, for example one to practice long notes, one for bending and one to study a song may be. You just stay on that task and don’t get distracted; this is the core line of ‘practice’ as it needs focused attention and not that you keep oscillating from one thing to another by playing what you already know. Try to isolate practice from ‘playing for fun’: take out some time only for fun and don’t confuse one with the other.

You may find the following aspects helpful in deciding what to practice which chiefly depends upon your current study level:

• Play long notes on the whole available range of the harmonica.

• Practise for long and relaxed breathing.

• Improve your tone: apply dynamics (note change in volume & tremolo).

• Study ‘bending’ (only after a few months of practice).

• Execute technical exercises to enhance accuracy and speed.

• Study some tracks and carefully choose them so, they aren’t too difficult for your level.

• Indulge in listening to train your ear.

Here this article ends. I wish you a rewarding study. See you next time!

Share this page with your friends!