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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > It is so hard to learn.
It is so hard to learn.
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3 posts
Jan 03, 2019
1:20 PM
As mention Ib another tread i am a complete beginner an in trying to make single notes but i feel like i have tried everything and nothing seems to work for me. Puck, lip block. Nothing works for me. Am i doing something wrong? Or should i just keep trying? It is so fustrating :D
223 posts
Jan 03, 2019
4:50 PM
Dennis, Sorry to read the frustration in your post. Now I understand your question about hole sizes.

Honestly switching to a different harmonica will not help. You really do have to just stick with it and try to appreciate what ever progress you are making, possibly in other areas like your breathing, holding the harmonica, playing chords… You are right; learning how to play clean single holes is not easy. It’s every beginner’s first hurdle.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it should be easy, like you should be able to just blow into the thing. It may look simple but the harmonica is no different than a flute, trumpet, or clarinet… you need to develop your embouchure and learn the technique.

To know if you are on the right track it would help to know:

How many days or weeks have you been playing?

How often do you practice and for how long?

How much of your practice focuses specifically on playing single holes?

Have you ever played a single hole? If so using which method(s)?

Can you consistently play single holes with just some leakage into a neighboring hole? If so using which method(s)?

I recommend watching several different reputable instructors explain “how to play single notes” (youtube.com). I have learned that a different explanation often makes things click.

I know it can be a little confusing because there are a few different methods and slight variations for playing single notes. This can make it hard to pick one and then stick with it. But honestly that’s what you need to do. If all of the methods are working equally bad then I would recommend sticking with the tongue block method. It’s not “easier” than any other method but it is the most versatile. If you aspire to play traditional blues with a wide range of techniques you will eventually need some tongue blocking skills.

It's about time I got around to this.
Glass Harp Full
192 posts
Jan 03, 2019
9:53 PM
It does take some time. As dchurch says, it's the first big challenge of learning the harp.

One of the most helpful videos I found was this one from Liam Ward:


(can't embed on my phone sorry)

Another thing I did out of desperation was to block holes with my fingers so I could hear what a single note was supposed to sound like. I remembered the sound it made then adjusted my lips and/or the position of the harp until I got that sound.

Stick with it and you'll get it.

Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning: The Confucius Institute Project

Last Edited by Glass Harp Full on Jan 03, 2019 10:02 PM
34 posts
Jan 04, 2019
4:05 AM
JP Allen,s lessons are real good for if you are starting at zero. Good place to start.Goes into a lot of detail.
5732 posts
Jan 04, 2019
4:54 AM
I think I may have resorted to using sticky tape to cover unwanted holes to get the sound, much as GlassHarpFull said about blocking with fingers. I probably did that too.
I just thought about this: you could start at the end and just try to get the 1 hole by itself and then the challenge would be moving to the 2 and playing only the 2 hole. That might be the easiest progression to get the brain/mouth/(and maybe tongue if you decide to go with TB) coordinations started.
It is the first hurdle and we have all been there and the ones who didn’t quit are still playing harp. You absolutely undoubtedly will get it, unless you quit. If you quit, yeah it won’t happen but if you stick with it you’ll definitely crack it. Once you do, you’ll probably wonder how you ever found it difficult.
I get a little taste of it still, if I try to play without using my tongue. Just at first I’ll be struggling to play single notes cleanly without my tongue on the harp.
4 posts
Jan 04, 2019
8:47 AM
Have already watched JP Allens video on youtube but i don’t like to have the harp so deep in my mouth.
225 posts
Jan 04, 2019
10:48 PM
A deeper position is favored but don't feel bad about using a shallow pucker to get the hang of it. You can strive for a better embouchure as you progress. Just don't blow it off to long and form bad habits.

Here's Adam Gussow's single note advise. The subject starts about 3 minutes in.

It's about time I got around to this.

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