Not enough breath!

Hey there,
I’m very excited to get started, I love the harmonica and am happy to finally learn how to play it.
I’m finding that I run out of breath quickly even on the first OUT (end of lesson one, medium and faster in lesson two). I’m trying very hard to relax my mouth and breathe from my stomach, but still not good

Does it get better with time? Thanks



Hi @viennacarroll and welcome to the forum!

Yes, breathing will improve with practice and time. My first instrument was the flute and I remember getting so dizzy while practicing!! But the problem eventually went away.

By the way, the harmonica is also used by some respiratory therapists to help people improve their lung function. You can also do breathing exercises to improve your own lung function, but it’s a lot more fun to do that while at the same time learning how to play the harmonica! :sunglasses:


– Slim


Thanks for the encouragement Slim!

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J.P. Allen promotes a simple warm-up breathing exercise at the beginning of each practice or gig. Takes a couple of minutes and consists of: slowly taking two deep breaths while you raise both extended arms. Stop briefly at the top then two big exhales as you lower your arms. Relax very briefly and repeat once or twice.


Sleazy Bob
London :canada:


Thanks, I’ll give it a try!

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What harmonica are you playing? - Scotty

Hello , and welcome. I’m really new as well. I found the chugging exercise and the train whistle exercise helpful. Bc your breathing in as well as out. Also there is out gasing. Which means some times up get full of air while playing and need to let some out while still playing. You do this thru your nose or by loosening you lips and blow air out the top and bottom not through the harmonica.


Hohner Blues Harp

OK thanks, I haven’t got that far yet but I’ll give it a try.

Hi, initially I just matched the inhale to the exhale and that, mostly, left me ‘neutral’. It DEFINITELY gets easier, though I still don’t manage it all the time with the later songs etc.


Hey Vienna - welcome to the forum! I agree with everything @slim says.

Yes, breathing gets better with time. When you say “running out of breath” are your running out of air so that you blow, or running out of room in your lungs so that you can’t draw?

Really pay attention to see if nose is escaping on exhales or adding to intake on draws. That’s a very common cuplrit!

Keep us posted…


Yes, John! Very good, sir!

I still run out of air (or room in my lungs) all the time! LOL.

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Hi Slim, I am know as Poppo. I am 79, have been oxygen for about 15 years with copd. I am having breathing problems (along with other problems). You seem to be familiar with ‘exercises’, Do you have any suggestions. Thanks


Hi @Poppo, and welcome to the forum!

I saw your message to @Luke describing your struggle to play single notes cleanly. While I personally am more of a single note player, I really enjoy listening to the music made by those who have mastered the various techniques of multiple note playing!

Now to your issue: COPD and the associated breathing problems. Better than me writing a detailed, long reply here is for you to visit the Seydel harmonica company’s online site – and in particular this page about their Pulmonica harmonica. It is not cheap (priced around $150 with harp and instruction book in English) but the medical test results are quite impressive:

  • Better breathing in as little as two weeks.
  • Better clearing of secretions with only 5 min. use twice each day.
  • 13% improved quality of life after 8 weeks of use.
  • Exhalation pressure (FEV1) improved 34% after 8 weeks of use.
  • Vital capacity (FVC) improved 46% after 8 weeks of use.

So it is definitely worth checking out!! :point_left:

Another page on the Seydel online site about the Pulmonica is this page.

If you and your doctor decide to give this a try, but you prefer sticking with the regular diatonic blues harp and following the lessons that @Luke provides, then I would suggest moving to a lower tuned diatonic harp (such as a Low D or Low C harp – the Low C would be the same as used in most of the lessons from @Luke but is just one octave lower in tone), and Seydel has a great selection of low-tuned harps ranging all the way down to a Low-Low E :astonished:

The reason for lower tuned harps is that lower frequencies (tones) played as chords (more than one hole at a time) are better at loosening the secretions in your pulmonary system. :point_left: :face_with_monocle:

The models in the 1847 Classic Low line-up include that Low-Low E model (priced around $90), while the less expensive Session Steel Standard Richter line-up “only” go down to Low C (priced around $60). If you can afford it, I would go for the 1847 models. :point_left:

Be sure to first consult with your physician and tell him/her that the research concerning the Pulmonica was done by Dr. William Weiss at the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota, Florida. Here is a collection of videos about the Pulmonica.

What I almost forgot to say about the Seydel harp models that are mentioned above: they all come with stainless steel reeds (which last much longer than the usual brass reeds found in almost all other harmonicas). :partying_face:

More questions? Just ask! :sunglasses:

Best regards,
– Slim


Wow Slim! This is so fascinating! Thank you for sharing this. I saw a “Harmonica MD” booth over by the Seydel booth at the NAMM show one year, but hadn’t a chance to visit it, and WOW I had no idea these kind of results were had with it.

It’s also fascinating to me that the lower tunings are better. Great tips to try the Low C to go along with the Beginner to Boss course. I will recommend that for students of the course who are battling COPD.

Rock on,


Thanks for the advice/help. I appreciate it…BTW, I just watched Luke’s “Bend It” video. I was able to get my first bend on 4 Draw almost immediately. I also found that I lost the technique very easily if I ‘over practiced’. Need to be patient and let the mouth recuperate between bends.


Wow! Congrats on getting your first bend! Yup, as with learning any new technique, patience is a must with bending!

Rock on,

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Read the following article!Harmonica helps improve lung function - CHCH



Check out the following link! Hope it helps!harmonicaMD - Home

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