Breathing In/Breathing Exercises

I have no problem with the blow notes and breath going out, but I often come across shortness of breath when breathing in. Is this simply a matter of perfecting diaphragm breathing?

In a word: Yes!

First up, I’m a smoker…a big smoker!

Yet after my accident in the truck rollover, I could hardly breathe because of my injuries. My chest and ribs hurt like hell. It hurt to talk. But I started playing harmonica and chugging just to keep me alive!

My body eventually healed as much as it will. But I always walk while practicing my rapid inhales; I ride my bike while practicing my rapid inhales. I lie in bed and practice strengthing my diaphragm just as JP suggests in his lessons.

Bottom line: I’m better and stronger for it! And I know you will be soon enough as well!

Stay with it. Don’t over think it too much now. Keep us posted.

Keep on harpin’!

I would just say this while drawing a note make sure the hole your drawing is open and that you have a good seal around on both
other sides otherwise you may be losing alot of air leaking out around the hole.

I don’t know if I explained that really well but I think thats what happens to me. Got to have a good seal on the harp.

Harp on!!

Hi guys,

I’m new here, I’ve just registered. Hope I can learn a lot from you guys.

I am a novice harmonica player, I’ve bought my first harmonica just three days ago and I am still practicing my basic scales. I live in Brazil, and we don’t have such a great tradition of diatonic harmonica blues players over here, so there’s not so much material for me to study. But a major doubt striked me as I was playing the other night, and it has to do with breathing. Now, as I played I was really realizing how all the instructional videos and sites that I had saw were right about two things: Breathing and cupping. I am sure that’s very old news to you guys, but I was just having fun, experimenting with my cupping and breathing technique and really digging into how it really changed the tone of the instrument.

I don’t mean to sound cocky or anything, but I think I have the cupping thing really nailed down, I’ve found a way to position my hands very comfortably around the harp and still create an air-tight seal that produces a tone that I like. It’s the breathing that’s nagging me. I am aware that you are supposed to breathe from your “stomach”, from your diaphragm. I’ve been doing that, but I don’t have a lot of strenght or speed there. Question is: How can I develop my diaphragm? Should I just keep playing the harp and it will get stronger and faster naturally? Or is there some kind of exercise for that? What do you guys do for that?

Anyway, glad there is a community like this. I’ll stick around to read, I’m sure there’s a lot I can learn from here. Thanks!

JP would kill me if I didn’t give you these clips. J/K not really. Hehehe!

But also, yes, your whole body will become stronger through the diaphragmatic breathing and chugging exercises.

You can sign up for JP Allen’s free email lessons here:

Most surely they will help you with many things. And too, your progress will depend on your health, lung power, etc. But stay with it, and you will get somewhere, I know.

Oh, and Welcome Aboard!

Good luck!

Keep us posted!

Keep on smiling!

Keep on harpin’!
HARMONICA LESSON for Beginners Diaphragmatic Breathing
HARMONICA “Chugging” for Speed: My Favorite 1 For Beginners
Beginning HARMONICA LESSON: Train-Time Chug: Puffin’ Billy

Thanks a lot, I will practice this exercises right away!

I would really appreciate if the other members gave their own input as well, I’m interested in every little piece of information I can get, and I think this topic can be really useful to everybody if we discuss our own different methods for breathing training.

Oh, and another thing: Sorry for any grammar mistakes. I think I said in the first post that I’m brazilian, so english is really my second language. Don’t be shy to point them out, I can really use the corrections to improve.

Again, thanks, Street Player, will start these train things now.

Anytime, Pedro! 8)

Oh and as far as this goes:

Sorry for any grammar mistakes.

Said it before, I’ll say it again: Good thing nobody corrects for anyone’s use of the Englitch languitch around here, or we’d all be in trouble! ;D

So no apologies necessary or needed. You’re doing bueno Amigo! :wink:

Just have fun always! And as you’ll notice, we all like to share a smile, good laugh, and wonderful sense of humor with everyone here! :smiley:


SPD Out!

I live in Brazil, and we don't have such a great tradition of diatonic harmonica blues players over here

Osmar over at is from Brazil. You should get in touch with him, maybe you live close to eachother. He is a great player!

I’ll put more in about harmonica later, but I have to say Pedro your English is great. I wish most people in the US could write in English as well as you have here. You should see the trashed up English my nieces write online.

You should see the trashed up English my nieces write online.

jee, hope their like knot learnin none of it like frum there unkle they’re, no wat i meen?! :o

Not that I’m implying nor should you be inferring anything neither, G-man! Am just saying…mwuahahahahahahaha!! :smiley:


Keep on Harpin’!

That was a really warm welcome guys, thanks a lot. I’ve been working on my breathing and although I’m still not able to coordinate my diaphragm the way I want to, I’m having a lot of fun. I figure that it’s going to take a while for me to learn how to play more syncopated rhythms, and so I’m exercising. But I had a few insights and I really feel that I’m improving. I’ve been trying to blow and draw from a deeper spot in my throat and I think…well, it’s hard to describe, but I think I feel the air coming and going from a another place now. I used to feel the beginning of the flow in my mouth, now it’s like it’s coming from my throat, and in a more consistent way. I feel like my air is slower now, but it’s a little bigger. That’s gotta be easier on the reeds, so I’m sticking to that way, I guess. Don’t know if that makes any sense at all, though. :slight_smile:

Anyway, again, thanks a lot. I’m reading some old topics and there is a lot of useful stuff here.

Don't know if that makes any sense at all, though.
Makes perfect sense, Amigo!

From David Harp to Jon Gindick and Howard Levy to JP Allen - you use the breath from the back of your mouth and/or throat - not just from the lips.

And the breath comes from deep down in the gut, not just from up in the lungs.

Again though, since it is new to you, and others still need to always be aware of it, until it becomes automatic as breathing itself - It takes time! But you can do it!

So here’s another view from the great Jason Ricci to help you along the way!

Buenos Suerte!


Keep on Harpin’!
Breathing and the Harmonica (Beginner How To) C Harp 38.

OK, guys, new questions. Hope I’m not bothering anyone here.

I have been practicing my breathing and I decided try some “extreme” experiments to try and hear the differences on the tone I would obtain. So I played the harmonica exclusively by blowing from my mouth (sounded like a hyena on fire) and then I tried to use only my diaphragm - and by that I mean that I made no other effort than raise and low my belly.

I produced no sound at all. I tried doing it faster and stronger, with a sudden movement of my stomach, and I did get some sound - specially blowing. The drawing sound was way fainter - but it was short and not as loud as I would like.

When I learned (from online tutorials and YouTube lessons) that I was supposed to breathe from my stomach, I thought that I should mix the breathing from my stomach with some throat breathing. What I do is this: I expand/contract the diaphragm and then I kind of “push/pull” the air with my mouth, to get more speed.

Now, I do know that I am a beginner (a novice beginner, more accurately) but that really got me thinking: Should I use this “mix” method? Or should I strenghten my diaphragm to the point that it alone will be responsible by my air flow? What do you guys do?

Should I use this "mix" method? Or should I strenghten my diaphragm to the point that it alone will be responsible by my air flow?

Um, do you notice what your lungs were doing during all of this, Pedro?

When you lay down on your back, you automatically breathe from the diaphragm. But your lungs are still involved. Just deeper.

The ‘trick’ is to keep breathing from the diaphragm when you sit/stand up. Most everybody goes to their shallow lung breathing. That is except for singers to sing; and musicians who use their mouths/breathing to play their instruments.

Again, it’s not an automatic thing {I still don’t always do it} until it becomes a second nature with training, practice, and awareness. {And I’ll get there eventually!}

And still you have to find “your” own happy way/method of doing it. Know what I mean?

Hope this helps as others offer their views too!


Keep us posted!

Keep On Harpin’!

I think your thinking too hard about it for a novice beginner. Don’t forget about it entirely but keep your mind on the music and tone and the breathing will come. When you get too full of air on the draw notes, remember when a blow note comes up, all the air does not have to go through the hole, you can relax your lips and release the extra air over or under the harp.