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How to Play Harmonica Fast

Learn how to play the harmonica fast 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.

Well, one way to play fast is, have a very trusting friend hold the harmonica. And then get a Lamborghini, stick your face out of the window and your gonna have to practice this a few times. You want to line your lips up to go right next to the harp, as you drive by. Now, you want to try this at about 10 miles an hour first,gradually increasing your speed to about 40 or 50 and then, I'd just like, go for it. Like, do about a 210 miles an hour just, and that's all you gotta do.

My point is that, I can play really fast. Anyone can just go...What is it you want to say when your playing fast? That's the thing. You want to play as fast as you can play accurately. In that regard, harmonica playing is just like shooting something. You can just go, bang-bang-bang-bang-bang, but what is it your trying to hit? You actually want to shoot as fast as you can while hitting what your aiming at. And I think music is very similar to that.

Speed should be incidental here. I think that it's a bi-product of knowing something really well and it's a nervous reflex perhaps. I've seen people who were faster than me, I've seen people who were slower than me but, the most important thing is to be saying something. To have a phrase. If you want to be a fast player and to have people noticing your fast, you're not really trying to do that. You're trying to have an elaborate phrase. So, be more elaborate than fast.

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