The 8 Best Sites for Learning How to Play the Harmonica
The harmonica is an uncomplicated musical instrument—but hear Ennio Morricone’s haunting tune in “Once Upon A Time in the West” and you will see how soulful it can be. It’s deceptively easy to learn the mouth organ but there are enough instructors online to help you start.
Search for “mouth organ lessons for beginners” and Google will throw up a lot of hits. So will YouTube. But if you are serious about the harmonica, then you will want structured tutorials.
Here are some of the top websites and apps that should help make your first tune sound sweet.
Looking at pages and pages of mouth organ tutorials can be daunting. And sometimes you just want to start without too much of a fuss when you have the shiny instrument in your hands. Try this one-page introduction to the harmonica on Instructables.
The “How to Play the Harmonica” page will quickly take you through the two main types of the harp, the different brands, how it works, and the basic techniques for playing it.
Most of the lessons online are for the C-Major scale on a diatonic harmonica. It’s the same here. Save the page as a PDF and use it as an introductory reference.
Tomlin Leckie is one of the most popular harmonica instructors on YouTube. He also runs a well-structured course on Teachable. The full course isn’t free. But if you are a beginner, you can take an introductory 4-week course without paying a dime.
The foundational course will walk you through proper breathing techniques, how to play single clean notes, along with a few basic licks that are short sequences of notes.
Yes, the free course won’t take you all the way thanks to Tomlin’s easy style you might feel confident to carry on.
Udemy has quite a few harmonica courses to offer from some great instructors like Ben Hewlett. They are economical too. But if you just want to try out the instrument and not pay anything, then there’s only one course in English.
Harp & Soul by Marcus Coll is well-rated and takes about 2 hours with 47 video lessons. You will learn a little theory behind the instrument even as you put in the practice to learn the three main positions on the harmonica, the 12 bar blues, and different styles of playing it among other things.
The important skill of overblowing is also covered. The course ends with tips and recommendations from Marcos’ own career as a professional musician.
Udemy also has a good online course for learning music theory in case you are interested.
This is a clean and simple site for free harmonica tutorials. Ronnie Shellist is a popular teacher of blues harmonica and the site is an organized collection of his YouTube uploads.
The videos are organized into levels for every type of harmonica player. Follow the sequence of the video lessons or jump in at any point as the topics are clearly mentioned in the compiled list.
Some videos are short while some go on up to 20min depending on the subject matter. Use the weekly practice routines and checklists to make what you learn stick.
5. Harp Surgery
Harp Surgery is running free workshops right now. The Good Doctor is a self-taught harmonica player and he is passing on all that knowledge through his site.
The site is in the blog format. You get to learn all the basic harp skills like blow bends, draw bends, tongue effects, and vibratos. Harp theory is thrown in with harp trivia to keep things interesting. All this is available in the free part of the site.
The Good Doctor also runs paid tuitions along with virtual classes on Zoom and Skype.
6. Harp Tabs
If you have reached here, then you have come far. Tabs are easier text notation for learners who cannot read sheet music. It shows the notes for a song with numbers representing each hole on the harmonica.
The database of harmonica tabs still exists and lists nearly 25000 songs, each indicated by symbols for chromatic, diatonic, tremolo, and tuned octave. Each tab also displays the key and the difficulty level, so you know which one to pick according to your playing level.
The great thing about Reddit are the communities that welcome both beginners and experts alike. The Harmonica subreddit is 14000 members strong and has existed for a decade.
So, expect to find newbies who ask about the best way to learn the harmonica and devotees showing off their vintage harps. In short, you will have to filter and search through the discussions to find the advice you want.
But hey, this is Reddit. So, jump in and fire your questions at the community, and help will come running.
YouTube can be your harmonica school if you pick the right channels. The choice is extensive but there’s always the danger of starting and stopping because not all channels are organized.
So, we went ahead and did the hard work for you. Here are some of the most frequented channels on YouTube.
- Tomlin Leckie
- Jake Knows Harmonica
- Gussow’s Classic Blues Harmonica Videos
- Hakan Ehn
- Paul Lassey
Also, search for individual videos that focus on specific skills like “how to bend notes” or “how to play clean notes”. Sometimes one video won’t work for you and hearing more than one video will help you grasp a specific technique.
Play the Harmonica Every Day
A search for the best sites to learn how to play the harmonica will unearth many excellent courses. Not all of them are free like the ones on this list.
On the design side of things, these sites and many others out there won’t walk away with Brownie points, but rest assured they will help you begin well. Start with the diatonic harmonica on the scale of C and let it rip.
Don’t stop there. After all, there are other musical skills you can learn online for free.
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