Diaphragmatic Exercises

Hi All,
I have just started Mod 5 of the BtoB course so I am beginning to play through some songs. My problem is that I keep running out of breath and have to pause, sometimes part way through a phrase to catch my breath which means the tune doesn’t really flow very well!!! I have checked out JP’s video about diaphragmatic breathing, tried lying down and monitoring my breathing with one hand on my stomach and the other on my chest. No problem with this except when I come to play again! Any suggestions or other breathing exercises I can try? Is this normal for a beginner? I’m sure I’m not on my own with this frustrating problem!


One exercise that has really helped me is doing long, slow blows and draws up and down the harp. See how long you can hold each note before going on to the next.

Seems to me like @Luke said he can keep it up for over 7 minutes. I haven’t timed myself, but I find it a great exercise to build up stamina and also to really hear the quality of the notes we are playing.

As an added bonus, it can be done at very low volumes so as not to annoy those nearby :wink:


Hello @petermurtagh61,
oh yes, it was also a problem for me for a long(!) time. Even though I exercise regularly.
First, after a few draws and blows, I gasped like a fish in water. So I focused on being really relaxed to play the harp. It got better! And everything else got better with practice. Never practiced too long, because that made me lose my relaxation, and I got out of breath again. But every day, always with a little increase.
Since I started the harp just before winter, I always warmed up the harp in my pocket if it felt too cool in my hand. The reeds like it and it seems easier to play too.

Remember, when playing the harp, your body has to activate and train many small and large muscles first! Give it and take the time! Playing the harp isn’t a sprint either, it’s a marathon over hill and dale… :wink:

Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Thanks for the advice. I will certainly put the recommendations into practice. I like the idea of warming up the harp before playing. I haven’t tried blowing and drawing for as long as possible all the way from hole 1 though 10. I’ll give it a go and let you know if it helps!

Keep harping!!!


Hi, @petermurtagh61,
The same happens to me. I think that part of the solution is to be relaxed. Not only your breathe have to be relaxed but all your body. Your chest, your arms, your neck, your belly… And the other thing is that the majority of the times you have to perform irregular patterns of breathing as draw, draw, draw, blow, draw, draw, blow… So I think that you have to learn to take or to expel air through your nose or between the harp and your lips when you need it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this’s the trick


Hi Alberto, thanks for reaching out! I’m happy with any advice to improve my harp playing. I’ll certainly put your suggestions into practice.

Keep on harping!!!


FYI that long tones idea comes from the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, so don’t think it’s just a “beginner” practice.

Thanks for bringing that up @HarpinBobbyMcB I need to do more of it! It requires so much humility and patience!


And the “long tones” approach becomes even enjoyable and relaxing when combined with the use of (cello) drones ! :+1:

– Slim :sunglasses:


I restarted playing because of back issues and had the blues, but then I realized how great it was for lung, diaphragm exercises it can do. I would play and play, use a timer, play till you can’t, also I found that if you keep your nose open, vary your exhale and inhale to help you breathe and relax. I would play about a minute or so, then stop, a harmonica rest not on the staff. But then I would just build up tolerance. Recently I was doing something with a guitar player and he tired before I did. You can also play lightly which allows you to breathe almost normally. For quiet passages.


I never knew what a cello drone was…

How cool is that!



@Slim - very cool! I just typed in “cello drone” in YouTube, played C and spent a minute playing long tones with it. Whoah. I stopped just in time…another few seconds and I would have fallen into a trance and played long tones for the rest of the day! Good fun. Thanks for sharing.


Will Wilde giving some tips on how to breathe when playing harmonica.


With due respect to the “Wilde” guy, I prefer Master @Luke 's take in one of my favorite of his posts:

Don’t mean to keep “harpin’” on this post which I referred to earlier in this thread, but…


to help with breath control :sunglasses::notes:


@HarpinBobbyMcB, :+1::+1::+1:!

:slightly_smiling_face:Bye, bye!


I’m glad you posted this because it’s reminding me of the daily discipline I was committing myself to before I got sick, and since had forgotten all about!

I didn’t do this in the video cos I didn’t wanna overwhelm people, but when I practice this, I’m moving my mouth from unbent to bent position to explore depths of vibrato.

Hopefully I’ll get back on the wagon with this…

@HarpinBobbyMcB Glad you’re so into the long tones bro. DEEP STUFF!!! :person_in_lotus_position:t4::notes:


Thanks for this Luke, I managed to finish the BtoB course and recently started the JP Allen Blues course. I’m at the part where he introduces the throat vibrato. This You Tube video you posted will be a great way for me to practice both throat vibrato and the coughing technique. I love the idea of using the metronome to measure your progress!!!
Glad to hear you’re on the mend!

Keep on harping!!


I agree, as a geezer and wheezer, harp play is good exercise and long notes until your blues are blue in the face, but don’t pass out.


Sometimes I like to lie down when I do these exercises!