Learning resources

When starting out, there are a couple of different ways you may want to consider and combine, here is a list in order of expenditure/effort required:

Online

The harmonica probably has more resources online than most other instruments, and a large number of players I have met rely on this medium only. Obviously this is a great option if you are strapped of cash. Most of the tuition is via online videos, here are a few profilic youtubers:

  • Ben Hewlett – Although most of his videos are adverts to plug his teaching series books, Ben does have a couple which cover some basics thoroughly and breaks things down really well for beginners. He’s an experienced teacher in schools, so this probably helps!
  • Lee Sankey – Another Brit who covers a lot of topics, he is particularly informative on the subject of the method tongue blocking holes as oppose to puckering
  • Adam Gussow – this American guy has shed loads of videos online, and from what I have seen so far, he tends to go into quite advanced territory quite quickly. If anyone can figure out why he always seems to be recording in his car, please leave a comment to let me know!
  • Jason Ricci – one of the best current day harmonica players, Jason Ricci also has a couple of videos for beginners. Unfortunately he seems to have gone off the rails somewhat recently with drug addiction and has been spending quite a lot of time in the slammer.

For a good explanation on how to get single notes, have a look here

Find someone who will give you pointers for free

The asking a friend part is probably obvious, but another idea some may overlook is actively seeking out harmonica players in your local region and asking them for advice. As well as online message boards for harmonica players, it might be worth doing keyword searches on altruistic online communities such as couchsurfing.

Books

There are numerous books on harmonica, but the one I have been widely recommended is “Harmonicas for Dummies” by Winslow Yerxa. The name is a bit of a misnomer really, as it is probably one of the most exhaustive and detailed books on the instrument. As with many other harmonica books, it comes with a cd which contains backing tracks and so on.

Join a harmonica group

A number of harmonica enthusiasts have regular meetups, these can be a great, cheap way of picking up various bits of advice from different players. Try meetup.com or have a Google. The London group seems to have gone quiet lately, hopefully it will pick up again sometime soon.

Get a real teacher

Depends on your budget really. An hour tuition in London will usually set you back around 25-30 pounds for a well established teacher. The advantage of having a teacher is having individualy tailered tuition to yourself in a structured manner. Additionaly teachers tend to pick up on sloppy technique which you may have not been aware, and will often give you shortcuts to the information/resources you really require rather than fumbling around in the dark.

Harmonica associations, festivals

Numerous harmonica associations exist worldwide – the British NHL for example, will send out a quarterly newsletter for a subscription fee, containing free lessons and information. Additionaly the NHL runs a harmonica festival with a relatively small entrance fee, where they run numerous workshops, concerts and vendor stalls, also providing a good oppurtunity to meet a wide variety of players.

Sign up to a course

I have never personally taken part on one of these (probably because it requires commitment), but apparently there are colleges or teachers who will run a course over a number of weeks. Additionally, there are intensive boot camps, Philippe mentioned one to me which sounded quite fun, a week long course in Spain with Jonny Halliday’s former harmonica player (course taught in French/Spanish)