How to Learn to Play Harmonica by Yourself
Knowing how to play an instrument is a gift able to give on forever, offering you the feat of producing your own musical tunes if you are skilled enough. While the price and space an instrument needs cause hesitation from some people, harmonicas bring their A-game to eliminate those issues for anyone looking for the gift of sound.
Which learning method you choose will ultimately be based on the personal factors of your life. Each of these options entails something a little different than the others, so it is good to know what differences are in these methods of learning how to play the harmonica by yourself. We’ll cover all of this, and even more, so read on!
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How to Teach Yourself Harmonica
When it comes to learning an instrument alone, the most important thing is practice.
Second only to that, however, is the method you choose to learn by. Since everyone is different, there is no single right way to teach yourself harmonica.
You should choose what works best for you based on factors like:
- Your schedule: Can you commit 60 minutes to practice every day, or do you only have time for 10? How much free time you can commit will impact how effective each type of learning can be.
- Your budget: Are you willing to purchase lessons and materials, or do you want to work only from free learning materials?
- Your own personal goals: If you want to become a harmonica wizard, you’re going to approach this much differently than someone who just wants to play some trail songs around a campfire for friends.
To help you decide, we’ve outlined 3 of the best options for you below.
Learn from YouTube
While it may be scoffed at by some, learning from YouTube is a valuable option for those who don’t have much time in their schedules. While it would be great to have a structured setting for our learning, not everyone has a schedule that allows it. YouTube is home to endless content available at your fingertips, offering what you need from various sources.
There are plenty of videos you can find if you want to learn how to play the harmonica, with some being more detailed than others. Each of these videos are free to view, and after the initial play will be available for infinite replays. The accessibility YouTube provides allows for anyone to have an opportunity to play this classic instrument.
A downfall associated with YouTube being your method of choice for learning is you may not have your questions answered, or a preferred guide may only have a video or two to offer. It only takes one quick search to find many of the videos for this topic were published nearly a decade ago or more! Your instructor may not be available to answer questions.
If you can look over those issues, this is a great and valid choice of learning. New videos get published daily in masses, so there is always the chance of a new guide being found! Plus, they are easily accessible on your phone no matter where you are—perfectly portable, just like the harmonica.
Pay for Online Harmonica Courses
For some, they may feel they never really tried at a skill if they do not invest a bit of money into it. If you would rather pay for harmonica courses, you can find many online from various producers.
With an online paid course, you will learn about all the essential elements of harmonica at your own pace. You also will learn how to play the instruments by someone who is efficient and knowledgeable in the skill and if you like the guide, they surely have more content.
Of course, not all lessons are easily portable, meaning you may only have the time to study your craft when you are in the comfort of your home. While this may be disappointing for some students, you should also know that some courses offer you a forum or community for you to refer to. This allows you to ask questions and talk to other people just like you: people learning to play the harmonica.
It is your choice which course or teacher you choose to learn through, this decision being primarily about personal preferences. Find a course that you are comfortable with and a guide you enjoy learning from to establish it in a positive light. Once you’ve selected and have your method secured, it’s up to you!
One-on-one Harmonica Tutoring
For the people who learn better with an actual teacher but don’t want to purchase prerecorded content, you may have an option in tutors. Granted, this is not technically learning alone but it is much more insular than a larger class. Tutoring can also be on a need-to basis and you don’t have to attend or pay for classes every week.
The cost of private tutoring is bound to be higher than the cost of prerecorded content you could purchase unless you are already familiar with the instrument. Each private tutor may set their own prices or have prices set through the company they operate through. These costs are known to vary based on the teacher and topics, so it will take some research to know exactly how much it will cost.
The cost, however, is irrelevant if you believe you will struggle otherwise. If the harmonica is something that you want to learn, you may have to make the sacrifice. It is okay to need someone while you work to understand the basics and complexities of a harmonica.
Personalized lessons should also be an option, offering you a teacher who is focusing solely on you. Because of this, it isn’t required to follow an exact agenda, and if you need to dedicate more attention to a particular part of the learning process, all you would need to do is discuss it with your tutor.
Do Your Best to Teach Yourself
If your intentions are to learn harmonica truly by yourself, it will be much more difficult but not impossible. This method involves a lot of time just playing on your instrument and noting the differences. You’ll slowly begin to pick up hand positions produce which note and how to create the notes you desire on purpose.
This is a self-sufficient learning method to play the harmonica, the most so on the list, but it will also be the most time-consuming. While you may refer to a few different options to get some information, you may not get too far on your own. After all, if you are unsure which direction, you should be traveling in, you will spend a chunk of time lost.
This is not a method recommended for anyone who may struggle with self-motivation, however. If you learn more consistently with someone else delegating the work, take this into account. There’s no need to waste time if you don’t think you can keep yourself motivated. This will trigger a cycle of being disappointed in yourself and should be stopped in its early stages.
If playing the harmonica is something you want to do for fun and don’t mind a long journey, this method may be the most rewarding. It allows you to have fun and find your inner child as you navigate your new skill. Be patient with yourself; enjoy your learning experience!
Additional Information to Know
While you will learn most of what you need to know as you go through your courses or whatever method you have chosen to learn, it’s still important to have some of the more specific information. This will help you to make correct decisions while you are still in your just starting phase.
Types of Harmonicas
If you are amongst the percentage of the population that doesn’t consider a harmonica an actual instrument, you will have your eyes opened by the end of your experience! Despite their affordable cost, the harmonic brings a lot to the musical table and is not just meant to entertain people with no real musical skill.
There are actually over a half dozen types of harmonicas, including but not limited to:
With this being the beginning of your journey, we’ll only discuss the primary two: chromatic and diatonic.
A chromatic harmonica is a common choice for beginners due to the range of tones they offer. They are larger in size than their diatonic counterparts and can be produced with either 12, 14, or 16 holes. The difference in the number of holes gives you a more extensive range of tones from a singular instrument, with 16 possessing the most and 12 the least.
Chromatic harmonicas also are built with a slide button that, when pressed, helps to expand the tone possibilities. Once the slide has been opened, you will be able to play sharps and flats as well. If you are familiar with pianos, you can equate these sharp and flat harmonica notes to the black keys on a piano’s keyboard. To go back to your original notes, all you must do is close the slide again.
An excellent choice for beginners, just as the chromatic harmonica is, the diatonic harmonica is known by more than just its official name. In fact, if you can recall a time someone references a “blue’s harmonica” or a “blue’s harp,” they are likely referring to a diatonic harmonica!
Along with blue’s, these harmonicas are also commonly found in pop and folk tunes, providing a unique element to the songs you listen to.
The diatonic harmonica is smaller than the chromatic and only offers a small range of noises it is intended to make. The smaller size means there will be fewer holes and diatonic harmonicas do not have slides. With one base key being provided with each diatonic harmonica, you may even find it shocking how quickly you’ll build up a collection. Despite the lack of range in diatonic harmonicas, it is not impossible to create your desired noise. As you get better at your skill, you’ll learn the tricks of the trade!
While there are bound to be expensive harmonicas out there, most versions are affordable, and their small size makes them easy to store. This means when you want to learn, it is easy to have your instrument with you whenever you go. In these modern times, it’s even possible to learn by yourself and not in a nerve-racking group learning scenario.
The Basics of Harmonicas
If you are curious about the important aspects of your harmonica and want to delve into as much information as you can, we have compiled some other good stuff for you to know below. These are things you will learn in more detail as you progress further in your skill.
Regardless of how you stumbled across wanting to play the harmonica, knowing where you will begin will remove a lot of stress from your shoulders.
Handling Your Harmonica
While it may seem pretty straightforward how you hold a harmonica, it may actually vary. Some common determining factors for how to control your harmonica include not only the size of your harmonica itself but also the size of your hands. If you have larger hands, you will have to work to position them on the harmonica, or you may want to consider getting a larger harmonica.
The way you handle your harmonica will determine how you position your hands on the instrument. This is important to note, as the music you will go on to create relies on how your hands interact with your harmonica and if it is not resting correctly, you may not get the tones you desire.
If you already have a harmonica, you should feel out how it sets in your hands. Does it feel awkward or is it resting comfortably? Get used to the noise is your instrument makes and notice how the sounds change based on the position of your hands.
Beginning to Play Notes
While some people may remember seeing a harmonica for the first time early in their lives, others may never have seen this particular instrument before. Every life is unique with its own sense of “normal,” after all. For those who may not know, a harmonica is a wind instrument.
To play a harmonica, you will place your mouth onto the harmonica with your lips forming a seal. When your lips have formed a seal, you will blow the air from your lungs. If done successfully, you will make a noise; If it doesn’t work, flip your harmonica.
If you are playing the correct side, you can breathe in again with lips still sealed around the instrument. This inhale is known as drawing and is utilized commonly in playing harmonicas due to the different tones drawing creates.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of playing simple songs, you can start working towards more complex skills like bending. This iconic harmonica tactic is mentioned frequently and makes the difference between messing around with noise and making music.
How Long Does Harmonica Take to Learn?
No two people have the same progress, and individuals will have a timeline tailored to them depending on their schedule availability. However, you can expect any pretty good at the harmonica in about a year’s time. Note: this does not mean you will be a master; skill mastery comes with years of practice and learning. You’re not going to achieve that in a short amount of time.
The harmonica is amongst the easiest instruments to learn, meaning you could be entertaining friends and family and as little as a few months with your novice harmonica skills. Practice indeed makes perfect, so you’ll need to dedicate yourself to your playing.
Thankfully, with its portability, you’ll have the ability to carry your harmonica around with you. By carrying around your harmonica, you will maximize any free time you have. This may help you in the long run, because every minute of practice will get you closer to playing successfully.
How to Learn Harmonica At Home By Yourself, Conclusion
To tie all of this back around, there are several ways to learn how to play the harmonica on your own, whether you have money to spare or not. If you don’t want to spend any money, you have the option of learning from your own experimentation and mistakes, or you can learn from YouTube and the video content that is provided for free by creators all over the world. Which you decide to do will impact how long harmonica takes to learn.
However, if you want to spend money to learn this skill, there are also multiple choices for you as well. Whether you choose to find a private tutor to have one-on-one lessons or purchase courses online to watch in your free time, you can be cozy in the comfort of your home!
Regardless of which option you choose, remember this is a skill you are learning because you enjoy it. If you, at any point, begin trying to force yourself to learn, you may ruin the craft for yourself. Instead, remind yourself to have fun. And if you're up for a challenge, why not learn to play harmonica with your nose.
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