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The diatonic scale harmonicas are for us musical dummies. We don't have to know anything. But we do have to own a separate harmonica for each major key in which we plan to play. We could own as many as 12 harmonicas though I think you will find that 5 or 6 cover just about every song you will ever play. You can easily get by with just a C and a G harmonica if you are not going to be playing with a band.
The chromatic scale harmonicas require a little more knowledge about music theory. If you have ever played another music instrument before, you might find that the chromatic scale harmonica is for you. Even though they are more expensive, you will not need a separate harmonica for each key. There are also many songs that cannot be played on the diatonic scale harmonica, simply because there are missing notes on the diatonics. You will be able to play any song on the chromatic scale harmonicas.
A Word About Keys
It is important that you keep in mind that you can play any song, regardless of the key in which it was originally composed, on any diatonic scale harmonica. If the only harmonica you have is in the key of A, then every song you play will be in the key of A, even if was written originally in G or C. And if you pick up a harmonica in the key of D and play the same numbering system, you are playing the song in the key of D. You do not have to relearn a song when you change over to another harmonica.
You can easily get by with just a C and a G harmonica if you are not going to be playing with a band. You can find these harmonicas as well as a great selection of harmonicas online.
If you are using these lessons in a class, then all the students should use the same keyed harmonica. I usually have them use the key of C because most of the cheaper harmonicas only come in the key of C. You have my permission to make copies of these lessons to distribute to a class or your friends.
My Simple Harmonica Notation System
The numbering system is really quite simple. Over each word or syllable in the lyrics to a song is a number. If that number is a 4 then you blow into hole number 4. However, if it is a -4 then you draw into hole number 4. If the number is preceeded by the < symbol, (which only occurs on the chromatic scale songs) then this means that you push the lever in on the right side of the instrument to produce a sharp note. This is what enables the chromatic scale harmonica to be able to play any song, regardless of the number of sharps and flats in the song.
So What If You Don't Know The Songs?
Only attempt to play familiar tunes. If you can hum it or whistle it, then you can learn to play it fairly soon. In fact, think of yourself as singing the song through your instrument and the reeds of your instrument as a substitute for your vocal chords.
Enough of the introduction. Each lesson will include helpful tips on improving your playing. Each lesson will also include a couple practice songs. (the downloaded version of these lessons includes four practice songs) Learn each song before moving on to the next lesson.
Play each line at least five times. Start slowly and increase speed with each repetition. Blow into the hole indicated unless there is a minus sign (-) in front of the number, in which case you draw through that hole.
It is not absolutely necessary that you play clear single notes. When trying to get a blow #4, it is OK if you include holes #3 and #5. Eventually you will want to learn to play single notes. Work at it and it will come to you naturally.
Make sure you practice every day. Your practice does not need to be for long periods of time. It is quite acceptable to practice for just five to ten minutes. In fact, it is possible to practice for too long. It may be counter productive. It is more important to practice every day, then it is to practice for a complete hour once a week.Lesson #1 Practice Songs