Harmonica Difficulty

When I tell people I play the harmonica, they are quite often astounded that I play such a “Hard” Instrument. So lets talk about myths about Harmonica Difficulty.

Harmonica Difficulty

I know this is going to sound like a player saying it’s easy because I know how but the reason I took up the harp is because of how EASY it is to learn and play. There are 4 difficult things about playing the harmonica which I will address later. I’m going to start with why harmonica is EASY.

Yes Harmonica Is Easy!


First things first. Lets get rid of the confusion. You don’t play harmonica, you play HARMONICAS. There are 12 (More in fact) harmonicas. One for each key. While a piano or guitar plays all keys on one instrument harmonicas play one key per instrument.

What does this mean to you? Two things in fact. One is you choose which which harp to play based on the key so you don’t need to figure out which part of the instrument and which combinations to play to sound right. Second, you learn one way to play on harp and it’s good for all songs in all keys. Just switch harps when you get a new song in a different key and play the same way. nothing new to learn. No new scales, no new techniques. It’s like having 12 guitars all tuned to a different key. you just won’t need a panel truck to carry them around.


The next cool thing that makes harmonica easy is positions. Straight harp, cross harp, slant harp, or first, second and third position. there are more but I will stick with these. In a nutshell, different positions allow you to play the same harmonica in different scales. What does that mean to you? It’s a fancy way of saying start in a different spot if you are playing a different kind of song. If you are playing blues, start in second position, cross harp and if you are doing something in a minor key, start in third position, slant harp.

Why is this easy? You can cheat with your harmonica case. I set mine up so when I get told what key a song is in I find the key, move one to the left, use that harp and start on the 2 hole draw. If it’s minor key blues I find the key, move 2 to the left and start on the 4 hole blow. Doing it that way makes things much easier.


When you play the harmonica there are certain sweet spots to play in. 2 through 6 for blues and 4 through 9 for minor key blues. You can go outside those holes when you get to know your way around the harp but it’s hard to go wrong when sticking with those sweet spots. It works with nothing fancy.

What Are The Tough Things

One Hole Playing

You can play chords fairly easily but it gets kind of mushy. Learning to play one hole is the first tough thing you need to learn. It will take time to get you mouth to work right but once you get it, one hole just gets easier and easier. It takes practice. There is no way around it.


Bending is a pain to learn. you just have to mess with it and mess with it until you get it. There are cheats that make it a bit easier to figure out but in the end it is another thing you just need to work at.

Tongue Blocking

Tongue blocking allows you to do advanced chord structures and cool techniques. You need to know it. I don’t but I’m working on it. That being said, I get paid to play harmonica and I don’t know how to do it so take from that what you will.


You can play any song on any harmonica using overblowing and bending. It’s cool. It allows you more variability and gives you some great techniques. You can also be inducted into the Overblowing Snob club. I get it, it’s great for your bag of tricks. Build on the basics first, then expand on the basics. Then work on your style and your repertoire. Then go back to basics. Then get creative with it. Then start worrying about all the cool things you can do with overblowing. Then Buy an amp and a mic and forget you ever heard of overblowing. Then when someone talks about overblowing, pull out your chromatic that you also learned how to play while they were working on their overblowing techniques.

Get to it

Why are you sitting around reading articles on how easy it is to play? Go and practice. Give it a month. I believe anyone can Learn Harmonica In 30 Days!

Harmonica Notes Magic Garageband Blues Backup Tracks

Hey, this is Erik here at Harmonica Notes, I have a tutorial here for you on how to make backup tracks using Magic Garageband in Garageband 09. It’s a great way to have custom backup music for practicing on your own! Also, everyone remember to sign up for my news letter and get ready for the Learn Blues Harmonica Basics in 30 Days, coming in January. This is all the stuff I learned in my first year all together for you in one place. Will it make you an expert? HELL NO! It’s just the stuff I learned and my philosophy on learning blues harmonica. I might think totally differently in a year but that’s then not now. Did I mention it’s free? Yup, nothing, no cost, nada, zip, zero! What do you have to loose (except a month of your life you can never get back…ever).

But I’m rambling. Here’s the video.

Harmonica Notes Stories

Harmonica Notes wants to hear your story. I have a story about how I decided to learn harmonica. I was a teen when I first picked up a harmonica but that didn’t last long. It didn’t last a day. I didn’t think about it again until I found Adam Gussows videos on Youtube. My friend had just broken up with his wife and he got into blues guitar. I started playing the bass when that happened to support him. We would play together. I just didn’t get into it. It wasn’t my instrument.

After I saw the Adam Gussow videos, I decided to try harmonica again. I bought the harmonica key he was using and watched his videos and learned. I have been playing ever since.

So, what’s your story? I want to hear how you got interested in harmonica. Please leave a comment with your story and let me know. I want to hear where you’re coming from and what you want to get out of this site.

Harmonica Note: On Cleaning

 I haven’t written anything technical in quite a while. I really don’t much like writing technical stuff but it is useful. I’m going to talk about cleaning your harmonica today. I meant to do this 8 months ago because of an incident I had with my A harp. I was in love with my Bb harp at the time. It was the only one I played. I was teaching myself man of constant sorrow an thought i was amazing. I didn’t play my A harp for about 2 months. Eventually I picked it up just to blow a few notes through it.

Have you ever tasted oxidized brass? It’s memorable because it tastes so bad. That’s what my A harp tasted like. the reed plates had oxidized. It was just a little bit brown. I couldn’t get the taste out for my mouth for 10 minutes. The only taste worse than that that I know if is arm pit sweat. Don’t ask, it involves a  girl.

I needed to get rid of the oxidized brass. Finding an article on how to clean your harmonica is next to imposible. I take that back, it is imposible. I finally found a series of posts explaining how to do it. It offered nothing to fix my brass flavor problem but it did run me through the cleaning process. I recommend doing this for each harp you have occasionally based on how much you use the specific harp.

Start by removing the nails or screws that hold the harp together. This is one reason I love my Hohner Blues Harp. It has screws. No nails to pry and no holes to widen. Once you remove those, the outer plates come off. Give them a light polish with a rag and they should be fine.

second, the reed plates will be screwed into the comb. unscrew the reed plates and seperate them from the comb. The reed plates are the most sensitive part of the harmonica so be careful of them, especially the reeds. You have to be careful not to bend the reeds. if you do, the harp is done. Run water across them to clean them up. I have seen where people say you can use a tooth brush on them but I would’t trust it. Maybe a toothpick to get any gunk from between the reeds and the plates. Just don’t force it.

The comb is another wipe down. It’s not sensitive. Rinse and wipe and you’re done. I have found bits of food in my comb before. After that, just put it back together.

So how did I fix the brass oxide problem? I polished the mouth side of it with a rag. focusing on the reed plates. It took a few minutes but I got all the brass oxide off.

Harmonica Notes Jams

Last night I hit the battle of the bands at my local bowling alley. They have a separated bar and pool hall where they host karaoke, open mic nights and local bands. I missed the first guy, who came from 50 something miles away to play his guitar. A buddy of mine played next and I caught most of his set. I even sat in on a few songs. I need to start organizing us so we can get something together. He’s as disorganized as I am. If I want to do something live, I’m going to have to take the bull by the horns I guess.

After that another buddy of mine backed me on a little harp jam. He played back up 12 bar acoustic. I wailed a bit and got some applause which surprised me a little. I guess I’m the only person that thinks I sound like crap. I need to tighten up my one hole and key switching. I definitely need to work on my licks. I feel like I have one lick. I jam better when I get going but I always seem to fall back to the same stuff.

Oh, I almost forgot. I blew out a reed on my A harp on stage last night too. My sound guy friend says he heard a ping and my harp lost sound. It’s the first harp that I played heavily so it was in bad shape to begin with. I guess I’m glad I bought the wrong harp from Musicians Friend a while back. I already have a replacement. I may Pick up a Hohner Hot Metal Harmonica in the Key of A as well. I’m thinking about getting a set of them as back up.

Cross Harp Harmonica Notes

Cool Old Harmonica Set
Cool Old Harmonica Set

He said to me at the luau, “Cool so you play cross harp?” The guitarist of the band had me, I was about to fail the pop quiz. I had been playing harmonica for the better part of a month and had just bought my second harmonica, an A Diatonic. I knew enough that the 2 hole draw was bluesy but what in gods name was this cross harp I kept hearing about. I came back with, “For me, it’s all about the 2 hole draw.” He seemed satisfied.

I have been avoiding this post. I had an idea of what cross harp is, but to write a post about it is another thing. Here is the deal. I had answered correctly when I said, it’s all about the 2 hole draw. On a diatonic harmonica, the 2 hole draw is the first note in second position or “cross harp.” If you get nothing else from this post, remember that. If you, like me, want to play blues harmonica, we play cross harp by default. We start with the 2 hole draw. Here’s the deal though, when we play cross harp, the key we are playing in is not the key of the harmonica. That means, when someone says, “Lets play … in the key of G,” we don’t grab our G harp. Second position on G is D and we need to be playing in G. So what harp do we need? What harp has a 2 hole draw that plays a G? It’s the C harmonica.

That’s what got me. I thought to myself, “Crap, I’m going to have to learn every note on every harmonica.” (I know, the name of the site is harmonica notes but I meant my notes on learning to play the harmonica not the notes on the different harmonicas.) I don’t know if I am going to ever learn what notes every hole, blow, draw, bend, over blow, over draw, and chord on every harmonica plays. I probably will eventually know all the cross harp keys though, and probably the notes on my favorite harmonicas.

Here’s a cheat you can use. Take a sharpie and write an X (for cross harp) and the cross harp key on your harmonicas. As you play you will learn the cross harp keys. I got the ideas because the key labels are rubbing off of my harmonicas and I don’t want to get them confused.

I may as well tell you the cross harp keys for all 12 diatonic harmonica keys.

Ab=Eb, A=E, Bb=F, B=Gb, C=G, Db=Ab, D=A, Eb=Bb, E=B, F=C, Gb=Db, G=D

So there you have it, all the cross harp keys and the harmonicas they’re played on.

A Major Scale Diatonic Harmonica notes

A Harmonica Notes, or is it AN Harmonica Notes? Well it’s Harmonica Notes in A Major anyway. So what are the notes for an A Major Scale Diatonic Harmonica? Well the blow notes are: A, Db, C, A, Db, E, A, Db, C, and A.

A Harmonica Notes
A Harmonica Notes

The Draw Notes are B, E, Ab, B, D, F#, Ab, B, D and F#. Cross Harp is the Key of E. This is the second Harmonica I ever bought, the first of course being my beloved Bb Blues Harp.

The A harp is one of the more common harps for blues playing because of its mellow sound and the commonality of blues songs for it. Looking back on it now, I think I would have held out and bought a set of Major key harmonicas all at once. You always pay more when you buy one at a time. I can’t blame myself though, I didn’t know what I do know about which harmonicas to get.

Hohner 532/20 Blues Harp Harmonica Pack with Case and Belt


Learn Harmonica Chords, C Major

Our Harmonica notes series continues. C Harmonica Notes is already up but we can”t forget about C harmonica chords. I’m starting to notice a pattern here but I am going to have to do some research to make sure. While the blow chords are all in the key of the harmonica, the draw chords start with the 2 hole draw, the second chord is the 5 hole draw and the last 2 repeat the first 2. Which is fine for the fourth chord because the it starts with the note that the chord is. What’s messing with me is the 3rd chord. The key of the third chord does not have its note in it.

I guess I’ll figure it out. At any rate, here’s the C harmonica chords.

C Harmonica Chords
C Harmonica Chords

I’m going to look around for some good songs in the Key of C to post up so we can practice. Let me know what you think and if you have any songs or information about the good old basic C harmonica, feel free to let me know. Oh, and if you don’t have one, a Blues Harp in the Key of C is a nice harp to practice those chords on.

Learn C Harmonica Notes

We’re back with C harmonica notes. These are the basic notes for a Diatonic harmonica in the key of C. This is the basic harmonica most people start with. keep in mind that because this is THE “Basic” harmonica. There are lots of songs in the key of C. So without further ado, The Harmonica notes in the the Key of C.

C Harmonica Notes
C Harmonica Notes

Don’t you love posts that are short, Sweet and to the point? Now all you need is some C Harmonica Chords and C Harmonica Songs. Oh, and if you don’t have one, a Blues Harp in the Key of C.