So new, so many questions to ask

Hi everyone,

Learning harp is tricky business. I don’t know how to gauge my progress because the pros make it look so natural. I started learning to play harmonica last month. I’m on a Lee Osker in C. I play the thing like crazy, but the sounds I can make are limited. The heart and soul of the harmonica is in the techniques. I’m looking for some help in that category, especially bends. I’ve been trying to bend the notes on the draw for a while now, but I can’t get the airflow to do it. Also I’m not sure if it’s the reeds or me, but my draws are a lot weaker sounding than my blows. Over and over again I basically hyperventilate trying to bend. If it didn’t give me a headache, it would probably be funny.

I also have a question about position. I hold the harmonica just inside my mouth with my lips resting above and below the holes. My action is decent, but I’m by no means lightning. The reason I bring this up is my lips get rubbed nearly raw. I have to lick my lips all the time, drink water, or lick the harmonica to keep it slick enough to move. It seems like there’s something I need to correct about my position? Tips?

Lastly, I was inspired to play by Sonnyboy Williamson II. That video of 9 below zero was simple, but had a good vibe to it. My last question is he does this thing with his hand over the harp that he’s using almost like a trumpet player muffling his sound, and I have no idea how he’s doing it so well. I can’t recreate it. I can do vibrato so-so, but he’s doing something different. O_O

Craziest instrument ever…Thanks ahead of time.

I would strongly suggest you purchase JP’s video harmonica lessons. He has a very clear, slow and well structured method of teaching the very skills you are having trouble with. It is money well spent. It goes without saying that much of your progress is up to how much you practice. It takes time and patience and when you start getting too frustrated stop for awhile and go back to it later.
Bending is pretty difficult. I would suggest working on hole 1 which, at least for me, was the easiest to begin bending. JP hits on this in 3 lessons in his basic course for beginners. If you want a more detailed explanation he also sells a two hour course that focuses on just bending.
Now to address your question regarding the strength of draws vs. blows. Generally, draws do sound stronger than blows. One way you can make your blow notes stronger is too release your upper lip slightly as you blow through a hole. It is also very beneficial to work on your breathing. The more efficient your breathing is, the more consistent your volume will be.

I forgot your last question so here is my suggestion. JP’s beginner videos also address hand positions which influence the tone of the notes. He goes through four basic hand positions and movements that change the tone of the notes.
Get his lessons and many of your questions will be answered. The best thing is you can watch the lessons over and over again and pause whenever you want to practice.

It took me right at a year to figure out bending and another 6 months to be able to go straight to the bend without having to swoop down to it and it still isn’t perfected.
I think you are jumping the gun quite a bit if you have only been playing a month. How many songs do you know in 1st position? Can you play them from memory? Can you make them sound GOOD?
To get a better tone on your draws as well as your blows, imagine having a bite of hot potato in your mouth and cannot spit it out. Imagine how you enlarge your mouth and breath AROUND it. This large mouth cavity is what you are after, it will make your tone better blowing and drawing. Breath from your stomach not your mouth or lungs. This takes work but is a BIGGIE.
The harp goes deep in your mouth so it slides on the inside part of the lip that stays moist not the dry part everyone sees on your face.
The hand thing is called CUPPING. This will come with time and practice. Imagine using both hands to scoop up some water to drink. This same sealed cupping of the hands will muffle the tone (which you have to have first) and popping the hands open and closed will give a wah-wah effect.
I hope this helps!