Hey guys, I wanted to share an exercise (or perhaps "idea" is the more fitting word) that I got from one of David Barret's videos. It may be trivial for many of you, but I thought some newer players might find it as helpful as I did. So here it is, nothing spectacular: Practice your bends, e.g. slowly going in and ouf of the bend and pay attention to all the muscles you are using. If you are like me, you might find that you are actually using way too many (on some of the bends), maybe you even make grimaces and cramp up - check for that in the mirror. The goal is to keep your mouth and jaw completely relaxed and have your tongue do the work. I feel this does not only allow me to play longer without cramping up; it also helps with bending, embouchure and tone in general - especially for tone, I feel tension is a killer. Hope this will be of interest to some of you!
I definitely had to practice this. One of the first lessons I took, the tutor jumped right out of my screen and stopped me. Stop! The harmonica is the blank face instrument; something like that is what he said. All the eyebrow movement does nothing to help, it just distracts your attention from what you really need to be giving attention. It was not easy really. I was so used to pulling faces when I tried to play that I had a habit. And of course this was not the helpful habit, it was a habit that made me associate with emotion but did not contribute to the sound. So I needed to form a new association of movement with the sound and drop the facial cues.
Tension in neck and shoulders is also a thing to watch for I believe.
Great points, Bee I agree, tension in the neck and shoulders creep in easily and should be noticed and avoided. I also like your observation of having (to have) associations with the sound!
Regarding tension, I think you can find a similar idea in martial arts, where being tense all the time hinders your movement, while staying calm and fluid improves your controll and speed - or to quote Bruce Lee: "Be water, my friend."
Last Edited by SkullKid on Mar 27, 2018 1:00 AM
For me tension in the neck and shoulders is a big problem and I get it nearly every time I play.I have had neck problems for about forty years so it's not too surprising. It does tend to creep up on me and I wonder why things start going wrong then the pain in the neck starts. Some times rolling the shoulders and breathing in and out slowly and gently can help, other times it's a case of taking a break.
Great POST! Thank you all. Looked in the mirror while bending on a D Blues Harp. It was like I was doing an impression of Lon Chaney Sr. as Quasimodo. Skullkid said it was no huge revelation, well it sure was to me. Playing shakuhachi one has to be quite relaxed, I should have taken that mind set to practicing harp. I feel out of place posting on this 'Beginners forum' because everyone seem far more advanced than I. But hey, everybody's got to be someplace.
Last Edited by Pablo42 on Apr 20, 2018 9:15 PM
I think the best thing to do when you see spam is to report it to the admin. I believe the beginner forum is rather less visible to the management than the main forum so it's necessary to specifically draw attention to this stuff with direct contact.
I write to:
And send the details of member name and thread title. Nate usually cleans them up within a day or so.
Same deal with probably any instrument. I play guitar and I sometimes help friends pickup the instrument and I see TENSION. Crippling tension. You need to be aware of your body - make a habit of self-check every few minutes - stop and let your hands relax. Only then continue. I did notice that when working on bending I have frustrating session - perhaps trying too hard. Then next day I am cooking something on a stove that needs that needs mixing so I grab the harp and just try few notes without really paying to much attention - and BINGO! there is a bend I could not do a day before. Zen and The Art of Harmonica Playing....
Last Edited by Woland on Feb 06, 2021 1:33 PM
I think the physical tension is an aspect of the mental condition. What I mean is that it's not just the tense muscles getting in the way of effective playing, it's also a mental state of non-flow. This gets me down a lot.