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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Single Hole Help...
Single Hole Help...
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8 posts
Jul 03, 2019
10:24 AM
So I got my first 'real' harmonica, the Hohner Special 20, and absolutely love it! The harmonica seems to be solid with consistent air needed throughout the entire harmonica (except the 2 hole draw that seems to take a bit more air).

I spent about an hour and forty-five minutes practicing on it yesterday using the 'Harmonica for Dummies' book (including the videos/audio) and two videos from Adam Gussow. So much fun it makes me wonder why it took me 52 years to find the joy in the the harmonica.

I know it's only been a couple days, but I seem to be struggling with getting a single note sound. Some times I can get the single not but most of the times it seems I'm getting a little bit of sound from adjacent holes.

When I do get a solid single note I don't think my lips are in the proper position...they feel too far off the top of the harp, almost like I'm trying to whistle into the harmonica instead of playing it. It's not quite that drastic but compared to where they should be that's what it feels like.

What advice can you give, or videos you recommend me to watch, in order to learn to get a consistently solid one note sound from the various holes on the harmonica?

Thank you for any and all help!!!

253 posts
Jul 03, 2019
11:54 AM

Congrats to you and your new Special 20!

You are in good company because every beginner harmonica player struggles to hit clean single notes. I also suspect the problem with draw 2 is most likely your fault. I could be wrong about that. The best way to find out is by playing 2 draw on another harp of the same key. Or, have an experience harmonica player test it for you. But I understand you may not be able to do either.

If it was my harp I would not hesitate to take it apart to look at the reed gaps. If it's the harp's problem you should be able to see that the gap of that reed is clearly larger than the gaps of #1 and #3 reed. If the gap looks similar to these neighboring reeds I recommend leaving it as is.

Otherwise you could very gently press down near the middle of the reed with something pointy. Do this several times while increasing pressure until the resulting gap is slightly reduced. Hold the sandwich together to test the reed. Be careful, if you reduce the gap to much the reed will not play at all, and you will have to reverse the process.

If you still have a cheap harp practice the work on it.

I gather you are lip pursing. It's a long-shot but you may want to try tongue blocking. You might find that technique easier for you. Otherwise try putting the harp a little deeper in your mouth and tip the front up. That will often put the single hole into a crevice form by the bottom lip.

It's generally considered a very bad habit to play with the harp at the tip of your lips because tone suffers.

Some folks can roll each side of the tongue slightly to create a V or U shape. This form of tongue blocking is not something that comes naturally for a lot of folks, but many players have/do use it.

I suspect puckering is working for you with just the typical struggle of hitting clean singe note. To be honest you will get the hang of it after the first month of playing 30 minutes a day. There is no substitute for practice.

Here's one instructor explaining a single note pucker technique.

It's about time I got around to this.

Last Edited by dchurch on Jul 03, 2019 11:59 AM
38 posts
Jul 04, 2019
8:24 AM

I know what your talking about. I've been learning the harp for a couple of months now and will tell you the single notes will get better. I still need work on getting clean single note consistently. Harp is my second instrument and only get 20-30 minutes most days for harp practice. I started harp at 69 so I figure your never to old. Consistent practice and enjoying the learning are the keys. Keep at it.

You chose well with getting a SP 20. I've got one in C and a MB in G. I like both, but, prefer this SP 20.
Jeff B

Just enjoying the music journey.

Last Edited by Pickn5 on Jul 04, 2019 8:33 AM
6049 posts
Jul 04, 2019
3:01 PM
Great advice here already.
What can I add? Only encouragement, really. It definitely takes a little while to get single notes clean, puckering/lipping or tongue blocking, but you will get it.
It just takes a little while for your brain to work out how to move certain little muscles you don’t usually use that way.
When it starts working for you, pretty soon after that you won’t even think about it.
A lot of playing the harmonica is analogous to learning to speak, but it’s a different language with different sounds. What I mean though is that you can find analogues in the way you produce speech. When you think about how you produce certain words and sounds, it’s quite complex, yet we do it without any thought at all other than the overarching idea of the thought we are trying to express.
Playing the harp uses all the same equipment to make sounds, just projecting through an attachment. The goal is the same though.
841 posts
Jul 06, 2019
11:51 AM
if you got a Special twenty, odds on it came with a single sheet of instructions teaching you how to blow a single note using your tongue.

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