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The Harp Reference: Embouchure

The embouchure (ahm’ ba sure) is the method of applying the lips and tongue to the mouthpiece of a wind instrument, like the harmonica! If you are just learning to play I recommend you start with the Lip Block. 1) Lip Block – A variant of the pucker (see below), it’s also called lipping. Tilt the harp up at the back about 30 […]

The Diatonic Harp Reference: Improvising Using Rhythm
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Which Harp Should I Get?

There are a zillion different diatonic harp models to choose from, some of which are shown above.  So how do you decide which to get?  There are two basic classes of diatonic harmonica: ones that basically work okay, and ones that don’t.  Here’s the main thing–look for harp models that come in all keys, and […]

harmonica tone
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The Diatonic Harp Reference: Getting Good Tone

Tone is a frequent topic among harp players, but it is not a simple concept that is well defined.  Tone is the Holy Grail of harmonica.  It is related to the musical timbre of the instrument, but most often encompasses other playing elements as well. Tone is about Notes That sound: good. Notes That sound: Clean and full and […]

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The Harp Reference: Definitions

In order to learn about the harp, you have to know the language–harp specific terms and their meanings.  The following pictures show a disassembled diatonic harmonica with various parts indicated.  The bottom picture shows a reedplate with the reed side up. Diatonic Harmonica Parts  The following table presents some basic definitions used when discussing the harmonica […]

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The Harp Reference: Throat Vibrato

Vibrato Vibrato and Tremolo Vibrato and tremolo and two terms that are often used, misused, and interchanged, and different people have different ideas about the distinctions and similarities between the two terms, techniques, and effects.  I have decided to take the essence of my definitions from the “Schaum Dictionary of Musical Terms”.  These are my definitions: Tremolo is pulsations […]

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The Harp Reference: Overblows

Overbends: Overblows and Overdraws A so-called overbend is a type of bend where the pitch that results is higher in pitch than the natural note of either reed in the hole, rather than lowering the pitch as with ordinary bends.  This is because the overbend technique actually causes the normally-sounding reed to choke while you’re playing so it doesn’t […]