How to Play a Chromatic Harmonica

The harmonica is used in nearly every type of music, from blues and jazz to country and rock. In this video, music teacher Marcus Milius teaches you how to play a chromatic harmonica.

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The great thing about a harmonica is that it's one instrument you can keep in your pocket to play anytime you have a moment to spare. In these videos, musician Marcus Milius walks you through the basics of how to play the harmonica. By the end of these online lessons, you'll be able to play "Amazing Grace," "Oh! Susanna," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and more.

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Transcript

"Hi, my name is Marcus Milius. I play harmonica. I got a degree at the University of Southern California, a Bachelor's of Music, in Jazz Studies - Chromatic Harmonica. I play and teach harmonica here in New York City, and I'm happy to show you what I do. Alright, so playing the chromatic harmonica, you'll first need a chromatic harmonica, rather than a diatonic harmonica. The technique is pretty basic. Once you get a single note on a diatonic, the same technique applies to the chromatic. The only difference is, you have a slide on the chromatic harmonica, to get you the notes that you ordinarily bend or over-blow to on the diatonic. That makes it a lot easier to hit notes that aren't in the key, you simply press the button and it sharps any note up a half step. So, if you have a C, it sharps up to a C sharp, D, up to a D sharp. So all notes will sharp up a half step when you press the slide. The thing that does make that difficult is playing in C is very easy but playing in other keys means you have to locate the correct notes and know when not to press in the slide and when to press in the slide. So, each scale, each key is very different. So, here would be a major sound in several keys. So, each key is a different pattern that you have to learn. You can do some bending on the chromatic, it doesn't sound quite as bluesy as when you do it on the diatonic."

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  • Marcus Milius

    Marcus Milius teaches private chromatic and diatonic harmonica lessons in New York City (Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn). He has 15 years experience as a teacher and currently teaches both children and adults of all ages and experience levels. Marcus has a Bachelor's of Music in Jazz Studies (Chromatic Harmonica) from the University of Southern California. He plays the diatonic harmonica, the chromatic harmonica and the bass harmonica and has been playing for more than 18 years.