8 Quick Practical Tips for Your Kisser & Her Lover
Your harmonica can’t be played without your mouth,
And your mouth can’t make sweet music without your harmonica.
Here’s practical tips to keep your mouth and your harmonica harmoniously in love.
#1 Wash Out Your Mouth with Soap
Just kidding. The great blues harmonica player and teacher David Barret shares a surprising story on this subject:
When he was younger, he used to be worried about having a clean mouth before playing. Then he saw the legendary harmonica master George Harmonica Smith eating BBQ and still licking his fingers as he walked up onto stage.
“After that I didn’t worry about it as much!” quips Barret.
So take everything else I say here with a grain of pink Himalayan salt, but…
Before playing, my personal preference is:
Floss, brush, and rinse with mouthwash. It’s almost like a pre-game ritual that lets your body know: we’re about to have fun making music with the harmonica!
If I don’t have a toothbrush and/or floss, then just mouthwash is great!
If I don’t have mouthwash, then I like to rinse my mouth with water. (And if don’t have water, then a beer’ll do just fine )
If I’m in the car and or somewhere else without water, sometimes I’ll chew gum for a few minutes to help clean out my mouth.
Do I always do this? No. Sometimes I have none of the above, and hey if I wanna play, ain’t nothin’ gonna stop me from PLAYIN’ yo!
But here’s the bottom line: we DON’T want debris in our harmonica; trying to have a clean mouth certainly can’t hurt!
#2 Have a Glass of Water with You when You Play
As I mentioned above, not having water don’t stop me from PLAYIN’, but there are benefits of having water when you play:
Staying hydrated is good for your focus, your endurance, and your overall health.
Keeping your lips moist is important so they don’t get stuck on the harmonica.
Water also helps by clearing the mouth of excessive saliva
#3 Saliva Management: Look Up / Look Down
Managing how moist your mouth is couldn’t be more easy:
TOO MUCH saliva? LOOK UP.
Cotton mouth? LOOK DOWN.
In my experience the former is more common than the latter, but keeping this simple tip in mind is sure to come in handy time and time again…
#4 Bye Bye Sore Lips! (Hello Lip Balm!)
Do your lips hurt? Do you live in a dry climate?
It’s perfectly OK to use lip balm!
Living in Hawaii our air is pretty soupy, so this isn’t something I ever have to deal with.
But if you live in an arid climate, you may need a little bit of lip balm to keep your lips from sticking to the harmonica and causing unnecessary pain (and frustration!)
Lip balm WILL NOT hurt your harmonica. Just give her a nice wipe down with a clean soft cloth every time you finish playing - a practice that Joe Filisko recommends we should all adopt (whether or not we’re using lip balm) ALL the time.
#5 The Harmonica Player’s Nemesis: Cold Sores
Over 20 years ago I was being hired to play harmonica on a blues album. On the day I was supposed to go into the studio I got the MOTHER of all cold sores. It was simply too painful for me to be able to play. Guess what happened?….they hired someone else!
2 decades later, I still get bummed out thinking about it!
If you’re prone to getting cold sores here’s some practical tips:
Get enough sleep. Fatigue, stress, and a weakened immune system all increase the chances of getting a cold sore.
Men: trim the ‘stache, dudes. #priorities I find keeping the sides of my mustached neatly trimmed reduces my propensity to have a cold sore triggered by a fight between my harmonica and my mustache.
L-lysine pills can be good as a preventative measure.
At the first sign of outbreak (tingling feeling): I’ve found that the over-the-counter ointment Abreva is extremely effective at preventing cold sores if it’s applied early enough. Once a cold sore appears, Abreva will shorten its life-cycle. But if you get it on the tingly spot BEFORE one appears, I’ve found it can prevent them altogether.
#6 The Tired Jaw Cool-Down
Have you experienced this yet? You played too long without a break and your mouth feels weird, kinda like your jaw is sore or asleep or something.
When this happens to me (more often than it probably should - it’s good to take breaks!) I’ve found that chewing gum helps my jaw more quickly return to feeling normal again.
So, if you get a tired jaw try chewing gum as a cooldown.
#7 Give Her a Daily Wipe-Down…
As I mentioned above, this piece of advice comes from one of the foremost living experts on the harmonica, Mr. Joe Filisko, who advises that after EVERY SINGLE TIME we play, we should:
GENTLY TAP the harmonica AGAINST PALM to remove excess moisture
WIPE DOWN the harmonica with a clean soft cloth
#8 And a Proper Bath from Time to Time
We all need baths to clean off the junk we accumulate, and our harmonicas are no exception.
Occasionally - once a month, once a quarter, or whenever you notice your harmonica doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to be:
- rinse your harmonica both ways under hot tap water
- tap it against your palm (and blow/draw) to remove water
- allow her to air dry for several hours before returning her to her case