Want to know a great way to introduce someone to music?
The perfect sized instrument that anybody can play is sometimes called a mouth harp, blues harp, or mouth organ, but many of us know it as the harmonica. The body of the harmonica, or comb, is traditionally made from wood. Some are combs are made from cheap plastic or even expensive metals (I saw a plastic blues harp in a discount store the other day for 1$). Each comb has its own distinct tone depending on the material from which it’s made. The cover-plates house the comb and reed-plates to protect the harmonica and make it easier to hold. The harmonica is in the wind instrument family because it uses air to create sound. Inside, the reed plates hold different sized metal reeds that vibrate when air is blown or inhaled, creating pitches.
How do you play the harmonica?
First, look to see what key you are in. A letter is embedded on the left side of most harps. If you want to play the blues, make sure your musicians are playing in a key that is a fifth higher than the key on the harmonica. So if you have a C harp, the band needs to play G blues. It will allow you to get the bluesy notes of the Mixolydian scale (G A B C D E F G). As a child, I thought harmonica was just about blowing air out. One day I realized that you could also draw air through the instrument by breathing in. To really make the blues harp sing, bend the notes. Pucker up and draw in, slowly spreading your lips apart to allow more air to travel through the reeds. It will bend the pitch and sound really cool! You can also pucker up and over blow to bend pitch while exhaling.
Calling all students songwriters, musicians and singers! We are looking for submissions to be showcased in our Cleveland County Artists feature: