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How to Get Started Playing Harmonica

Learn how to get started playing the harmonica with this Howcast harmonica lesson taught by John Popper of Blues Traveler.


Hi, I'm John Popper, lead singer of the band Blues Traveler. I also play harmonica, and am arguably one of the best in the world. But thank God, there really never can be an actual best, but I'm damn good. I'm gonna teach you a few things about the harmonica.

My best advice to play the harmonica, and I say this because it's funny, it's a lot like life: Sometimes you blow, sometimes you suck. You... just do what sounds good to your ears. Just have fun going *plays harmonica notes*. Break up the pattern, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in twice, breathe out twice, breathe out twice, breathe in once, then breath out again. Bob Dylan, who is a poetic genius, is actually a pretty simplistic harmonica player, and he taught a generation is that all you have to do is *plays harmonica notes*. Now I'm not playing a melodies right there. Bob Dylan sort of played melodies, but you can kinda just ham it up and have fun. And as you do that you start to hear things, and really pay attention to what your ears are hearing. And find melodies that you like, and gradually, you start going *plays harmonica notes*. And people around you will be driven nuts by this. They will not be able to stand what you're doing, but in your mind, you'll go "Wow, I kind... la la la, la la la." It's like humming, but with these chords. And gradually over time you will start to feel your way around the harmonica. You'll know exactly where things are. When you start to go *plays harmonica notes*. And that's just making something up off the top of your head. And you can tell as I was playing, you get a little more focused on single notes. That again is just playing smoother, and calmer, purse your lips a little more, focus the air on one whole opposed to more chords. But again don't let that bother you, don't let it distract you. There's a saying that a saxophone player told me, "If it sounds good to you, it's right." And that's the great thing about the harmonica, there's no pressure. Enjoy the sounds, you're making. And screw what other people say, at least for the beginning. Eventually if you live in rent control or on someone's couch, you'll have to listen to what they say. No problems.

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