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How to play harmonica? - The most important notes to learn

How to play harmonica if you don’t know anything about music theory? How to start with your blues harp right after you get it in your hands? This is the lesson you need to begin your harmonica learning journey with the right foot.

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As a beginner player, you don’t really need to spend much time in acquiring theoretical knowledge, however, learning some fundamental and basic notions can really boost your study and make you a better harmonica player.

In today’s lesson, I will teach you something about the two most important harmonica chords, as well as about the 5 most important notes you should get to know. Following this video tutorial with tabs, you’ll understand the relationship between these chords and the notes, and you will be soon able to make a better use of these elements when you play your loved instrument.

For this lesson we are going to use a C harmonica and we’ll play in first position, on the same key, C major.

Let’s start from the two most important harmonica chords you should learn: The C major chord and the G major chord. The first is the 1st degree chord if you play in first position, the last is the 5th degree of the key.

The C major chord is the fundamental chord when playing in C major, the 5th degree chord is really important because resolves on the first degree. Saying it with other words, when you listen ton the G major chord, your brain expects to listen to a C major chord after it. Even better if the G would be a G seventh chord, but to keep it simple we are not going to talk about this kind of note stacks today.

We can play a C major chord blowing on holes 1, 2 and 3, while we obtain the G major chord just drawing on the same holes.

Concerning the notes, C major is formed of the notes C, E and G, whereas the G major chord is formed of the notes G, B and D. Can you tell which are the most 5 important notes on the harmonica when playing in first position? I think you would say C, D, E, G and B. Correct!

These five notes represent the ‘chord tones’, and owing the fact that we are playing in C major, the notes C, E and G are also three very important scale degrees; the 1st, the major 3rd and the 5th. Let’s practise making some music using these important elements!

Lesson analysis:

Playing difficulty level: Beginner harmonica players.

Note bending skills: No bending required for this lesson.

Lesson focus: Playing basic chords and chord tones.

How to read the video lesson tab:

How to read the video lesson tabs:

One plus symbol means to blow the harmonica hole.

An apostrophe means to bend the note of a half-tone.

A double apostrophe means to bend the note of a whole-tone.

A triple apostrophe means to bend the note of three steps.

A dot before the notes means to use tongue blocking articulations.

^ means playing the note with a ‘dip’ bending.

R before a note means reaching that note with a glissando effect.

Sh means ‘Shake playing’ or ‘Warble’.

Ft means ’Flutter tongue’ techinque.

P means ‘Pull technique’.

V means ‘Vibrato effect’

Tr means ‘Tremolo effect’.

Following, the exercise tabs:

1+ 123+ 2+ 123+ 3+ 123+ 2+ 123+

2+ 3+ 1+ 2+ 1 123 123 123

1 123 2+ 123 2 123 1 123

2+ 3+ 2+ 1 1+ 123+ 123+ 123+

6+ 456+ 5+ 345+ 4+ 234+ 3+ 123+

4+ 4 5+ 6 4 234 234 234

4 5+ 5 4 4+ 4 5+ 4+

3 4+ 4 5+ 4+ 3+ 2+ 1+


123+ 123+, 123+ 123+

123 123, 123 123

123+ 123+ 1+

123+ 123+ 2+

123+ 123+ 3+

123 123 1

123 123 2

123 123 3

In today’s lesson you learned some really basic music concepts about chords and chord tones. If you want to improve your playing skills, enroll for free in my online school and have a look at the harmonica courses here.

I hope to see you soon on these pages!

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