Seeking advice for a single hand player

Hi All!

I am a beginner who started learning harmonica a few weeks with zero background in music theory & playing any instrument. It’s really nice to be able to join this warm & supporting community.

I am looking for some advice /insights in one-hand harmonica playing, as I have had a stroke before on my left body so my left hand are only able to do simple movements like open & close ( could not C grip the harmonica nor move precisely by left hand)

in this case, I would like to how far I could still go on the journy of harmonica, what tecnique/sound effect will I lost (for example I am now in the train sound lesson and I think I might not able to do the hand “wah” sound ) and is there any other technique to compensate them?

Also since I might have to continue the lesson with one hand (probably with the c grip )will that affect a lot on my learning in the ongoing lesson? If so, would you have any suggestions for me to adapt the situation?

Thank you everyone, who scroll through the end, I am not a native English speaker so please tell me if you feel a bit confused or unclear about the text, and I will try my best to address it better.

Hoping to receive all your comments

Thank you


Welcome @ryanchowmw !

Remember there are no rules to how you hold the harmonica, so while a lot of players, use their left hand, it is perfectly fine to use your right hand

As for the effect, I am not good at using my hands either, although not due to disability, but I like making effects with my mouth instead, f.x. the oy-oy-oy motion instead of the tremolo/vibrato, or even mouthing “wah-wah” Those are just my 2 cents, others may have different views

There’s always a solution, so keep enjoying the harmonica :slight_smile:


Hello @ryanchowmw,
What is your native language? Mine is :de: and many others here also have other mother tongues and use the translator. Somehow it works very well and if something is unclear, they ask.
I see it the same way @Vibe does. Otherwise, you could perhaps use a neck holder for the harp so that you only need your right hand to wah, wah.
Here are some with physical limitations, myself included. We all have to experiment as it is individual.
If you have any questions or tips, we are here and will try to help.
Warm welcome!
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


@Vibe thank you for your advice I will try to adapt those technique in the further lesson, it’s good to know that i did not lost any sound element from harmonica


@AstridHandbikebee63 My native language is cantonese from Hong Kong

I think your suggestion is very good , I trully did not think of this method before.

I will try to practice doing the wah sound by mouth first and if it could not be done the neck holder will be my second plan.

wish you all the best :grin:


Hey @ryanchowmw
You’re very welcome. I don’t know if the techniques I like to use will work for you or the next person, but as @AstridHandbikebee63 said, we all have our own ways to adapt

And don’t worry about the language, I understand you just fine too :slight_smile:


Thanks for the wishes @ryanchowmw , all the best for you too!
I’m fascinated by where we all live here in the forum! That creates music and such a small instrument! I’ve got goosebumps right now and I’m proud as a :peacock: to be there.

Ever since I learned the wah technique, I’ve been doing a lot with my mouth, tongue AND larynx while playing. This worked quite quickly with good concentration. It’s now automatic, after a short time. It helps me because, among other things, I have a so-called drop hand on my right hand, which does not work reliably.
Maybe you should really focus on that too? I think it will be helpful. Please let me know!
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


@ryanchowmw Thanks for posting this! I’m in the same boat - stroke patient very young, 25 yrs ago, only my right side instead of left. and was going to post something similar! At times I’m discouraged at what I can’t do but need to focus on what I can.


@ryanchowmw and @RollyJoe,
Men, don’t get discouraged, please! Yes, there are super humble times, but if there is only a small possibility with detours, then use it. Treat yourself and take a break! Nobody said it was easy. Neither as a healthy nor as a physically impaired person! I deliberately do not write handicapped! You will grow on your small advances, steadily and steadily! Under no circumstances should you build up pressure or let it build up!
I’ve been part of my changed life since I was 20, that is 39 years here, and my life planning looked 180 degrees different.
Like everyone else affected, I struggled and asked myself: why me?
Halfway through the years I know because I have enough strength to deal with it!
If one doesn’t work out or because of other health restrictions, I look for something else.
We’re here when you’re having a bad time!
What I have just revealed to you here are very private words. But you are important to me because I realize that you want it and you can do it.


@AstridHandbikebee63 Sounds like there’s more of a story there? Thanks for the encouragement :v:


I agree with @Vibe and @AstridHandbikebee63, using both hands is ideal but it doesn’t seem absolutely necessary.

Most of the time I play seems to be with one hand, particularly when I am first working on a tune and just trying to figure out the notes.

After I get the notes down is when I start working more on the quality of the notes I play, transitions, and any effects, of which there are a bunch, with or without hands.

I’m sure you’ll both do great and look forward to hearing about your progress @ryanchowmw and @RollyJoe :sunglasses:


Everyone is giving you great advice. I have really little hands and can’t actually really wah wah. I get close but not completely. So I also sort of get it by different mouth techniques. You will have your own individual sound. Welcome aboard.


Welcome to the forum @ryanchowmw - your communication is very clear and easy to understand. Welcome to the forum! Happy to have you here.

I do not think you will be hindered in any way on your harmonica journey. As others have responded very well, we all have our own unique sound. My friend and mentor Joe Filisko, who I consider to be one of the living legends of harmonica, said he is trying to play with one hand more often because it is so much more conducive to being able to maintain a healthy, relaxed posture.

It cannot be overemphasized how much the tone can be altered with vowel shapes of the mouth, tongue, and larynx, what Joe Filisko refers to as “head tone.” These are the bedrock of tonal variation on harmonica.

“Hand tone” by contrast is an effect that works well sitting in a small room for example, but is often difficult to accomplish when using a mic in a larger live setting. So many people who might use in the former context, don’t end up using when they get onstage under the lights anyway!

All this to say, I echo the thoughts of everyone else here that you are really at no particular disadvantage on your harmonica journey. I wish you a most successful journey! And keep the questions coming!

I’m curious, is there a style of harmonica that you’re most drawn to? Knowing this, I might perhaps suggest some various options you could pursue.

And speaking of how many hands we use to play the harmonica, I’ve never been able to understand how people like Sonny Boy Williamson use NO HANDS!! :flushed: Check this out:


Thank you for all of the comments and kindness to me :blush:, I sincerely did not expect there is that many people who share similar experience with me and also interested in harmonica , it really encourage me to keep on practice more so that i can master the instrument and deliver my own sound in my own way

I feel very lucky to be able to enter this community , nice to meet you all :grin:


Hi Luke, it is really great to receive reply from you, also a bit different since most of the time I was listening to your voice in the video lesson. I have thought about your questions for quite some time since I did not listen very much about different style of harmonica so it’s hard for me to name someone :sweat_smile:. I like listening to rock, heavy metal, shoegaze and pop music which in my knowledge are hardly connected with harmonica :smiling_face_with_tear:. However, I recently discover Will Wilde who include harmonica in hard rock (I guess? Not good at genre) music. I am quite impressed as he can imitate the electric guitar sound by harmonica and doing quick and intense Solo/riffs I think that would be something I want to achieve, although I know part of the sound are rely on effects, not solely by harmonica, I wish I could master the harmonica part.

Can you give me some technique direction to work on? Or some suggestions & examples on the style/harmonist I can learn from.

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