The harmonica is one of the friendliest musical instruments for beginner players.
It’s a fascinating little thing making it easy for its lovers to carry it in their pockets, wherever they go.
And because of its portability and ease of use, it’s quite common.
If you happen to invest in one, you can decide to play for fun or professionally and start entertaining people within your hood and later far beyond.
But then, how hard is it to learn to play one?
Let’s explore together.
How Hard is it to Learn Harmonica: Skills Needed
1. Breathing Power
Most harmonica players confess that they find it easy to play as compared to other musical instruments they have tried before.
But, to play it properly, one has to master the art of breath control.
We call it an art because you have to understand some techniques that can help you achieve faster results.
Remember, in harmonica, you create notes by either blowing or drawing on the holes.
And this’s where most beginners go wrong. They imagine that blowing is as easy as blowing a balloon.
Which, unfortunately, isn’t the case. You have to learn how to blow and draw correctly.
The best way to master this is to try proper harmonica breathing for about five minutes each day.
Afterward, continue increasing the duration by five minutes each day. And after a week, your body’s endurance level would have improved.
Here’s a YouTube video on how to breathe on harmonica;
2. Bending the Sound
Learning your harmonica means you have to master bending.
And it’s a fun activity to do.
However, you will have to invest time and dedication before you can bend correctly.
For you to bend the notes, you have to master how to reach out your tongue, then tune your mouth to a specific pitch.
And this’s quite difficult as it’s a life-long learning experience.
But for a starter, so long as you manage the standard pitch, then you can up the scale with time.
There’s no absolute time-frame to learn to bend.
For others, it can take a few hours (for those who can whistle well) and to some, a month, depending on the dedication and practicing time.
Also, let not forget learning how to use a mic. More on that in this article about harmonica mics.
This video should help you get there soon enough;
3. Getting the Correct Harmonica
We categorize this as a skill because if you don’t select a quality harmonica, then you will have problems learning to play.
There are various types of harmonicas, and they range from diatonic, chromatic to tremolo.
But for a beginner, it’s advisable to pick a diatonic harmonica with 10-holes and Key C, which is easy to play.
And can take you 1-3 months to master.
His is one of the most overlooked harmonica skills.
But it’s equally important in determining sound shaping.
If a player can properly articulate sounds such as do, te, da, who, etc., it becomes much easier to locate the cord to use.
And the great the chords, the interesting and more expressive the riffs become.
The best way to practice this is by recording yourself as you play and reviewing later.
This will help you point out mistakes and work on correcting them.
To master proper articulation largely depends on your accent, it can take 1 week to 3 months to master.
It’s often said that to be a good speaker, you have to be a good listener, first.
When you’re a good listener, you can easily come up with amazing ideas as you hear other harmonica players play.
With great listening skills, you will realize that you start appreciating other people’s music much more and are always conscious of the type of music you listen to.
If this’s what you want to achieve, then invest most of your time listening to a music genre of your choice.
You can even decide to repeat songs from a specific artist.
And while at it, take a few notes or transcribe.
If you aren’t a good listener, it isn’t too late, you can learn.
And depending on your dedication, you should be used to it by the 3rd month.
Remember, habits are nurtured, so be ready to harvest whatever you nurture 100%.
6. Sensing Rhythm
As a beginner harmonica player, your main focus should be to master within time and greatly.
You want to impress, and to achieve that, you have to find a solid footing in sensing rhythm.
For it’s only after this that you can begin practicing swaying creatively to wow your audience.
So, get yourself a metronome and get practicing as often as possible.
Also, if you can find a reliability partner, then the better it will be for you.
But if you can’t then you have to manage yourself, and that means being a little bit harder if necessary.
The last thing you want is to always find yourself offbeat.
If you’re constantly in practicing then you should be good to go in a month or so.
But remember, you will keep advancing with time, so the urge to get better doesn’t really stop.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Harmonica
This is one of the most commonly asked questions by harmonica beginner players.
And while most individuals say it’s hard to learn, I say it isn’t.
It all depends on how bad you really want to play.
Because, if you invest your resources, coupled with patience and dedication, then it shouldn’t be difficult to attain good results.
But that’s just me. Let’s look at what other harmonica players at Quora have to say about this
“…Harmonica is a pretty fun and interesting tool to play. I have been playing it for the past year. With the better ½ of it being used in mastering the instrument.
What I can say, however, is that this little pretty instrument is fairly easy to play and the sounds are simply fascinating.
A little tip /I can give to beginners is that, as you play, remember the further you to the right on the mouthpiece, the higher the sound produced.”
Peter Entz on Quora
And Angel Lee on Quora added on his experience with learning harmonica:
“… it took me around 6 months to learn how to play the chromatic harmonica. My playing schedule revolved around weekly participation in club sessions, with each class taking around 90 minutes. And after 6 months, I was able to successfully play 3 songs.
I even got the opportunity to play the role of the lead harmonica in my class to lead a performance during the semester’s clubs’ performance. Having tried out a few string instruments in the past, I can confidently say that, it’s much easier to play the harmonica as compared to them.
But for you to become a pro in the industry, you have to put in more effort. And that means more practicing sessions. And for this, you should focus more on how fine you get than how long it will take you. Set a goal, smash it and move to the next!”
And we learn from Robby Goetschalckx’s answer on Quora that practice is the everything
“…Well, I would say that it all depends on several factors; For instance, the amount of time you spend practicing each day. If you take a half-an hour to practice or even twenty minutes daily, then you will attain good results soon enough. Also, how great do you want to be? If you aim to be the game master, then you should be ready to invest in years of constant practice.
But if you can easily settle for the intermediate level, then a few years will do, again, depending on your hard work. Another factor is the type of music you would prefer to play. It can range from folk, rock, blues, classic jazz, etc.
Mastering simple folk is pretty easy as compared to jazz and Celtic, which require you to master all diatonic harmonica positions. Blues and Rock, on the other hand, require advanced skills, so might take a bit longer than folk, but lesser tome than jazz.”
Harmonica vs. Guitar Difficulty: Comparison
Ever found yourself thorn between learning to play guitar or a harmonica?
While both are interesting instruments, you might want to start with the less difficult one.
And we are here to give you a detailed comparison between the two, in terms of difficulty, so
that you decide with ease.
First of all, a guitar is more difficult to play than harmonica.
You see, the harmonica tends to be more rigid and inflexible.
And because of this, the notes are locked in, making it easy for players to understand the music theory.
With this, you can easily recognize songs in various keys, understand timing and necessary rhythm, something which isn’t easy to pull off when using a guitar.
Most harmonica and guitar players confess that they find it pretty easy to figure out a song using harmonica, before translating the notes and chords to the guitar.
However, this mostly applies to when you’re playing basic stuff.
If you want to go complex then they’re both difficult.
In short, if you manage to figure them out, both the guitar and harmonica can be very fulfilling when played together.
Harmonica Tips for Beginners
1. Avoid soaking your harmonica as this can rapidly shorten the life-span of your instrument.
2. Be bold.
Never be afraid to try out some new tunes with your harmonica.
When you listen to music and find it fascinating, try it out with your instrument, as this can help you better your game.
3. Always listen before you play.
Take your time to carefully listen to the song you want to try out.
This will give you time to notice the notes, articulation and other vital vibes that will help you play better.
4. Have fun.
Life is for the living. And having fun is one of the most important aspects of harmonica.
For you to exhibit happiness to your audience, you have to feel really good about yourself, the instrument and the whole performance.
Remember, expressions are great in revealing how you truly feel, and everyone else will be monitoring.
So, play the harmonica first for yourself, then for others. It will give you joy that can easily ooze to those around you.
The harmonica is a very expressive tool, so don’t let it down with your moodiness.
When you get off stage, people should say “that way cool!”
5. Observe Cleanliness
Not that we are saying you don’t know what being clean is, but some players work on ensuring they’re physically appealing but forget to pass the same to their harmonica.
How unfair can that be!
The harmonica and you are supposed to be one, in the music scene, soon that should give you a cue of what hygiene measures you ought to give it.
Religiously follow the cleaning instructions that came with the package.
And on top of that, ensure the harmonica is always in a case to keep it safe and for easy maintenance.
Check out this YouTube video on how to clean it;
6.Give that Harmonica a Tap
This is extremely important, especially for the first few months as you learn how to play the harmonica.
It’s during this period that most beginners get themselves salivating a lot into their instruments as they play.
So, at the end of each play, ensure you tap it, in an upside-down position to get rid of any form of moisture and debris that could have found its way in there.
You can tap it on your plain palm or a soft cloth.
But, always remember it. It will save you on the replacement fee.
If you aren’t currently following an exercising regime, then it’s time you start one.
Because, to effectively play the harmonica, your cardiovascular health has to be top-notch.
You should play for long without running out of breath.
Here are some top cardiovascular activities you can try at the comfort of your home;
8. Sorry, no sharing!
Always avoid sharing your harmonica with other players, no matter how generous you’re.
This isn’t about mean, but taking care of yourself.
Consider is as your toothbrush.
There’re various health and hygienic reasons to help you label it as personal!
Conclusion: What Now?
From the above information, it’s clear that the harmonica is one of the easiest instruments to play, so long as you’re determined to learn.
So, if you’ve been hesitating to try it out, we hope you now got enough push to jump right into it.
That that bold move today and give your best.
Who knows, you might be one of the famous harmonica players we will be quoting to encourage beginners soon.
Best of luck!