Today I’ll share with you some tips about playing harmonica. Do you get full of air when playing or do you experience shortness of breath? It’s a common issue! One of the fundamental things you need to learn when you start playing harmonica is how to manage the amount of air you intake. As a harmonica teacher, along with the ability to play at the right tempo, I find this is something hard for beginners. Welcome to my teaching blog. My name is Steve and today, I’m going to share with you some suggestions on how to learn to balance the amount of air in your lungs when playing the harmonica.
Let’s start by saying that if you suffer from a lung disease, playing the harmonica can actually be of help. Moreover, there are also two models of harmonica specifically built for this type of medical problem that some may experience. However, today, our focus will be on the common case of any new student of harmonica.
When you tell someone about playing the harmonica, people often ask themselves, “I wonder how much breath you need!" In reality, it’s exactly the opposite. The most common thing to happen is that as we play, we fill ourselves with air, so we must learn to expel it properly and at the right time. It’s also a fact that if we play in the second position, there are many notes we emit using aspirated holes, meaning we actually spend more time putting out air than pulling it in.
So how do we learn how to manage this air? To start with, you need to train yourself to breathe correctly, taking in long breaths while remaining relaxed. Count up to 5-6 seconds while you inhale and at least 7-8 seconds when you exhale. Do this without using the harmonica, just like you might try to calm yourself down when you’re feeling nervous. Feel your belly swell when you pull air in and observe it moving inward when you breathe out. You don’t just have to breathe in your mouth and down to your throat and lungs, but you should imagine filling your entire chest, like there’s a big tube connecting your throat to your stomach. Then, you can perform this exercise with the harmonica, breathing through it as if it wasn’t there at all. Don’t try to blow out or suck in – just breathe.
Once you’ve learned to breathe properly, you then need to learn to use your nose as an outlet valve, training to open and close it without touching it and without creating any narrowing in the throat. Train yourself to inhale only with your mouth and to exhale with your mouth and nose together. Keep your nose closed when you’re playing aspirated notes and open it to expel more air while playing blown notes. The first few times you try this, you can use your fingers to verify that your nose really is closed when you inhale.
In order to help you learn to manage the nose activity, here’s a great exercise you can do to train yourself: play on the harmonica holes by drawing in on 2, 3, and 4, followed by blowing out on 5. Keep your nose closed during the draws and open it to help push out air when blowing hole 5.
I hope to have helped you with your harmonica learning today. See you here on my blog next time !