Intro to Harmonica

“Music in My Pocket”


History of the Harmonica

  1. In 1821. sixteen year-old Christian Friedrich Buschmann registered the first European patents for his new musical invention. He called it the "Aura".
  2. The “Aura” was a free-reed instrument consisting of a series of steel reeds arranged together horizontally in small channels. It offered only blow notes.
  3. The scale of the “Aura” was arranged chromatically.
  4. Around 1826, a Bohemian instrument maker named Richter developed a variation that consisted of ten holes and twenty reeds, with separate blow and draw reed plates mounted on either side of a cedar comb.
  5. Richter's tuning used the diatonic scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do).
  6. This became the standard configuration of what Europeans referred to as the Mundharmonika or mouth organ.
  7. Hohner was the first company to mass produce the harmonica. These instruments were identified by their ornate cover plates with his name.

Reading Tab

  1. Tablature is a way to communicate melodic pitches without using traditional music notation.
  2. "Tab", as it is sometimes called, uses a series of numbers to represent the holes of the diatonic harmonica
  3. The symbol "+" represents an exhale or "Blow" through the indicated hole
  4. The symbol "0" represents an inhale or "draw" through the indicated hole

Reading Notation

  1. Notation is the standard media for communication between musicians
  2. Even if musicians don't speak the same verbal language, they can still communicate using notation
  3. The notes of a "Major" scale are used on the diatonic harmonica
  4. Solfege or interval singing labels the notes "Do", "Re", "Mi", "Fa", "Sol", "La", "Ti", "Do"
  5. These diatonic pitches are played on holes 4-7 on a ten-hole diatonic harmonica
Diatonic Harmonica Chromatic Harmonica

Parts of a Harmonica

Air Chamber The hole you blow or draw through
Cover Plate Protective shield for the reeds, also serves as advertising for the manufacturer
Comb Originally made of wood (now plastic) is the skeleton of the harmonica (air chambers)
Plunger A button on the chromatic harmonica allows for 1/2 step pitch change
Reeds Thin pieces of metal, wood or plastic that vibrate to produce the harmonica's sound
Reed Plate A piece of metal which the reeds are attached to

Introduction to Harmonica Players (Also called Harpists)

Bob Dylan
John Popper
Toots Thielemans
Marion Little Walter Jacobs
      Stevie Wonder

Harmonica Call Charts

Hoochie Coochie Man
      Fingertips Pt 2

Unit Vocabulary


Basic Harmonica Lessons

Basic Lessons

Video/Ipod Lessons


Improvisation Tracks

Hand Position
iPod Q.time
Making a Sound
iPod Q.time
iPod Q.time
iPod Q.time  
Unit 5 - 8th Notes
The Rip
iPod Q.time  
Unit 6 - Song #1      
Unit 7 - Song #2
Lesson 8 - Song #3
Lesson 9 - Song #4