Single Note Techniques

Oftentimes, when you hear the word “harmonica”, you think of country blues chords and folk songs. The reeds of the harmonica come tuned to harmonize with their adjacent notes, which makes chords simple to play. However, producing a single, clear tone on the harmonica is an important skill for all harmonica players. Lessons with my mentor and online tutorials have greatly improved my ability to play single notes on my harmonica, although I still struggle with this concept.

There are two main techniques to playing single notes on the harmonica. The first is by lip-blocking. To do this, you need to form a deep relaxed embouchure with your mouth, allowing the lower lip to block out the undesired reeds.

This sketch represents the necessary embouchure to produce a single note on the harmonica.

The second is by tongue-blocking. I struggled much more with learning this technique. This method requires you to blow air normally through three or four holes, and use your tongue to block the undesired notes.

This diagram demonstrates the way your tongue blocks off the extra reeds, leaving only the desired note.

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