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Bending notes

One of the most captivating techniques that every harmonica player aspires to master is “bending” notes. Bending notes allows you to add emotion and character to your music, creating a unique and personal touch to your harmonica playing. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of bending harmonica notes, discussing its importance, the techniques involved, and tips to perfect your bending skills.

Understanding the Importance of Bending: Bending notes on the harmonica is akin to the subtle inflections in a singer’s voice, adding depth and emotion to the musical expression. When you bend a note, you alter its pitch, bending it downwards to achieve the desired tone. This technique is especially crucial for playing blues, jazz, and various traditional folk styles, as it brings a distinctive and soulful quality to your harmonica playing.

Mastering the Techniques of Bending:

  1. Lip Placement: The key to bending notes is correct lip placement on the harmonica. Focus on creating a tight seal around the hole you’re playing while maintaining relaxed facial muscles. Experiment with the position of your tongue, as it can significantly impact the bending process.
  2. Single Notes: Before attempting to bend, ensure you can play clean single notes. Practice drawing and blowing on each hole individually, adjusting your embouchure until you achieve a clear sound.
  3. Bending the Draw Notes: Start with the draw (inhale) notes as they are generally easier to bend. Gently draw in air while using your tongue and mouth position to lower the pitch of the note. Aim to bend the note down by a half step first, gradually increasing the bend until you reach the desired pitch.
  4. Bending the Blow Notes: Bending blow (exhale) notes is more challenging but equally essential. Focus on relaxing your embouchure while using the back of your tongue to lower the pitch. Practice bending both draw and blow notes until you feel confident and comfortable with the technique.
  5. Ear Training: Developing your ear is vital for precise bending. Listen carefully to experienced harmonica players and try to replicate the bends they produce. Use backing tracks or jam along with other musicians to refine your bending accuracy.

Tips to Perfect Your Bending Skills:

  1. Patience and Persistence: Bending notes is a skill that takes time to master. Be patient with yourself and practice regularly, even if it feels frustrating at times.
  2. Use a Metronome: Practice bending in rhythm with a metronome to improve your timing and control.
  3. Record Yourself: Recording your playing can help you identify areas that need improvement and track your progress over time.
  4. Experiment with Vibrato: Incorporate vibrato while bending notes to add even more expression and emotion to your playing.

Bending harmonica notes is a captivating skill that can elevate your harmonica playing to new heights. It requires dedication, practice, and a keen ear, but the results are undoubtedly worth the effort. As you continue to explore the world of bending, remember that every harmonica player’s journey is unique, and mastering this technique will undoubtedly set you apart as a truly expressive and soulful musician. So, embrace the challenge, let your emotions flow through your harmonica, and immerse yourself in the art of bending notes. Happy playing!

Ode to Joy harmonica Tab

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Ode to Joy Harmonica Tab

by Ian Boyle Harmonica

Green Bullet

Green Bullet – Blues Harmonica Microphone

As a seasoned harmonica player with a love for the blues, I have tried my fair share of harmonica microphones, but the Green Bullet Harmonica Microphone truly stands out as a game-changer. This iconic microphone has earned its place in history, and I can confidently say that it lives up to the hype.

First and foremost, the build quality of the Green Bullet microphone is outstanding. Its sturdy, all-metal construction exudes durability and a vintage charm that harkens back to the golden era of blues music. The compact size makes it easy to hold and play with, ensuring a comfortable grip throughout those soulful sessions.

When it comes to performance, the Green Bullet harmonica microphone shines brightly. Equipped with a high-quality moving coil element, it captures every nuance of the harmonica’s sound with unparalleled clarity. The microphone’s frequency response is tailored to accentuate the harmonica’s distinctive tones, resulting in a rich and warm sound that feels like a match made in blues heaven.

One of the standout features of the Green Bullet is its omnidirectional pickup pattern. This design choice is a blessing for harmonica players, as it allows for smooth and consistent sound pickup, regardless of the angle or position of the microphone. This means you can wail away on your harmonica without having to worry about maintaining a precise microphone placement.

In terms of practicality, the Green Bullet is a breeze to use. Its simple setup allows you to plug it directly into your amplifier or recording interface without the need for batteries or complicated configurations. As a harmonica player, this convenience is crucial, especially when performing live gigs or jamming sessions with friends.

One minor downside worth mentioning is that, like many vintage-style microphones, the Green Bullet is a bit susceptible to handling noise. However, this is easily mitigated with proper microphone technique and holding the microphone firmly while playing.

Do I need to tongue block on harmonica

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Harmonica Techniques: Tongue Block

Tongue blocking is one of the playing techniques used on the harmonica, but it is not the only option. Whether you need to tongue block depends on your playing style and the type of music you want to play.

Tongue blocking involves using your tongue to block off certain holes on the harmonica while allowing air to pass through other holes. This technique enables you to isolate specific notes, create chordal sounds, and perform various articulations, such as bends and vibratos.

On the other hand, another common technique is called “puckering” or “lip pursing.” This involves using your lips to cover multiple holes and controlling the airflow to produce different notes.

The choice between tongue blocking and lip pursing often comes down to personal preference and the type of sound you want to achieve. Some players prefer tongue blocking because of the versatility it offers, especially in blues and traditional styles. Others find lip pursing more comfortable and suitable for playing melodies in certain genres like folk and pop music.

Ultimately, it’s beneficial to learn both techniques, as they each have their advantages, and being proficient in both will give you more flexibility as a harmonica player. Experiment with both tongue blocking and lip pursing, and see which one feels more natural and allows you to achieve the sound you desire. Practice and patience are key to mastering either technique.


Mastering the Harmonica: Essential Practice Techniques for Beginners

The harmonica, often known as the harp, is a charming and versatile musical instrument that has captured the hearts of music enthusiasts worldwide. Its portable size and soulful sound make it a favorite among musicians of various genres, from blues and folk to rock and pop. If you’re a beginner looking to embark on a harmonica journey or someone already familiar with the instrument seeking to enhance your skills, this blog is for you! We’ll explore essential practice techniques to help you unlock the harmonica’s full potential and become a proficient player.

  1. Mastering Breath Control

Breath control is the foundation of playing the harmonica effectively. Practice controlling your airflow to produce clear and consistent notes. Start by drawing a single note from each hole, ensuring the sound is steady and without unwanted squeaks or pauses. As you progress, practice moving between notes smoothly, working on your inhales and exhales to create seamless transitions.

  1. Understanding Bending and Vibrato

Bending is a technique that allows you to alter the pitch of a note by slightly altering the shape of your oral cavity. This skill is crucial for playing blues and many other genres. Begin with bending the draw notes (holes 1 to 6) slightly, and then progress to the blow notes and overblows (holes 7 to 10). Vibrato, on the other hand, adds emotion and character to your playing. Practice incorporating a gentle vibrato into sustained notes for expressive playing.

  1. Practicing Scales and Melodies

To build a strong foundation, practice playing scales on the harmonica. Start with the major scale and work your way to other scales, such as the minor and blues scales. This exercise will enhance your familiarity with the instrument and train your ear to recognize different notes and intervals. Once comfortable with scales, try playing simple melodies from your favorite songs. It’s a great way to apply what you’ve learned and keep your practice sessions enjoyable.

  1. Working on Tongue Blocking and Puckering

Tongue blocking and puckering are two common playing techniques on the harmonica. Tongue blocking involves placing your tongue to block specific holes while allowing others to sound freely, creating chords and tongue-slaps for percussive effects. Puckering, on the other hand, involves shaping your lips to cover one or two adjacent holes, allowing precise single notes. Both techniques have their advantages, so practice and experiment with both to determine which suits your style best.

  1. Improvising and Jamming

Once you’ve gained a solid grasp of the fundamentals, it’s time to improvise and jam along with backing tracks or other musicians. Improvisation allows you to explore your creativity, develop your musical intuition, and adapt to different musical contexts. Remember that making mistakes is part of the learning process, so embrace them and learn from them.

  1. Listening to Harmonica Players

Listening to experienced harmonica players is an invaluable practice technique. Pay attention to their style, techniques, and use of phrasing. Try to replicate their playing to enhance your understanding of the instrument’s versatility. There are many talented harmonica players across different genres like Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Stevie Wonder, and Toots Thielemans, among others.


The harmonica is a beautiful instrument that rewards dedication and practice with a unique and soulful sound. As you progress on your harmonica journey, remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Consistent practice, coupled with a passion for the instrument, will lead to significant progress over time. So, keep playing, experimenting, and exploring the harmonica’s vast potential. Happy harping!

Why learn Blues Harmonica

Why should you learn to play blues harmonica? There are many reasons to consider this musical instrument as a rewarding and enjoyable hobby. First of all, blues harmonica is a versatile and expressive instrument that can produce a wide range of sounds and styles. You can play solo or with a band, improvise or follow a structure, and create your own voice and personality through your playing. Second, blues harmonica is relatively easy to learn and does not require expensive or complicated equipment. You can start with a simple diatonic harmonica and a few basic techniques, and progress at your own pace. You can also find many online resources and tutorials to help you improve your skills and knowledge. Third, blues harmonica is a great way to connect with the rich history and culture of blues music. Blues harmonica originated in the African American communities of the southern United States in the early 20th century, and has influenced many genres of music such as rock, jazz, country, and soul. By learning to play blues harmonica, you can explore the roots of this musical tradition and appreciate the stories and emotions behind the songs.

Its always good to start learning with a couple of one to one lessons. Check out my Skype lessons page.

My Influential Harp players

The harmonica is a versatile and expressive instrument that has been used by many blues musicians to create some of the most memorable and influential songs in the genre. Some of the classic blues harmonica players that have shaped the history and style of blues harmonica are:

Little Walter: He is widely regarded as the godfather of blues harmonica and one of the greatest harmonica players of all time. He pioneered the use of amplification and distortion to create a powerful and distinctive sound that influenced just about everyone who came after him. He played with Muddy Waters and recorded many solo hits, such as “Juke”and”My Babe” I recommend the book Blues with a Feeling, The little Walter Story by Tony Glover, Scot Dirks and Ward Gains. Check it out here on Amazon.

Sonny Boy Williamson II: He was also known as Rice Miller, and he was one of the most prolific and influential blues harmonica players and singers. He had a unique style that combined smooth and rounded notes with sudden attacks and bends. He recorded many classic songs, such as “Help Me” and “Bring It On Home”.

The best of Sonny Boy Williamson is an album I played to death when I began playing. It totally inspired me and Help me was one of the first songs I learnt to play. It uses a Bb harmonica

Best Harmonica for beginners

If you are a fan of blues music, you might want to learn how to play the blues harmonica. The blues harmonica, also known as the blues harp or diatonic harmonica, is a type of diatonic harmonica that can produce expressive and soulful sounds. But how do you choose the best blues harmonica for your needs? Here are some tips and recommendations to help you out.

The most common key for beginners a harmonica in the key of C. This is because most beginner harmonica tutorials use this The pitch is in the middle, not too high and not to low,

Consider the quality and durability of the harmonica. You want a harmonica that has a good tone, volume, and responsiveness. You also want a harmonica that can withstand moisture and corrosion, since you will be blowing air into it.


 This is a brilliant harmonica for a beginner as Seydel have managed to keep the price reasonable. Not only does it look great, it has a big sound and is quite resistant to moisture. It is suitable for beginners and more advanced players. What i particularly like is that it can be easily upgraded to steel reed plates further down the line and you then have a top notch professional harmonica.


The Hohner Special 20 is the harmonica that people recommend more than any other harmonica for a beginner.

It looks and feels great and is easy to get started with bending notes. 


Lee Oskar diatonic harmonica is another great harmonica for beginners. Some say it has a slightly brighter sound, and unique feel to it. Users can also replace the reed plates a little cheaper than other brands if they need to.  


Pleasant sounding harmonica from Suzuki. Nice look and feel in the mouth. Plastic comb with Phosphor Bronze laser tuned reeds. Easy to play and another great harp for beginners.



‘Ok so some will disagree on this being a beginner harmonica. But what exactly is a beginner harmonica? Affordable and quality is the key. This harmonica for me is the best value harmonica on the market. It has steel reeds that last much longer than other metals, and when I say longer I mean up to five times longer! So if you can afford a little more, I would recommend this bad boy. Used by Pros and novice players alike, this is my number one choice when starting out.

There are many brands and models of blues harmonica out there, but you wont go far wrong with any of the above if your just starting out.

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