Tense lips on single notes

On chords I am comfortable with the deep relaxed mouth technique. I’ve been struggling with single notes though.

I can get clean sounding notes, even on the 2 draw and 7 blow. But I find that if I take care to start out with good lip position (deep in mouth, tilt up, make sure lower lip is pulled out), as soon as I start to move the harmonica left and right it’s like it starts to slide out of my mouth. I lose the lower lip and my top lip tenses trying to hold the harmonica in place. After a few minutes the muscles around my mouth are pretty sore and tired.

Is this just a matter of practice, or am I building in bad habits by missing some technique?

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Hi Adam. I had the same problem - I found that as I moved the harmonica the thumb of my left hand was edging forward and pushing the bottom lip away. Now I glue it in place and it’s a lot better. Might be worth a try!

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Thanks for the tip billyb1952 :slight_smile: I tried it out, but I don’t think that’s what is happening for me - even when I start out, there’s daylight between my thumb and lip.

I’ve been ruminating on it more and experimenting. I think part of it is that my mouth naturally doesn’t open very wide - always an issue at the dentist. I may be able to achieve relaxed mouth position but deep relaxed mouth position might be out of reach for me.

I’m going to keep practicing with more of a focus on staying relaxed and having a good seal, and less of a focus on how deep the harmonica is in my mouth, while still resetting occasionally. Hopefully that’s not building in any habits that are too terrible.

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Hello @adam,
apparently you haven’t been playing that long.
The problems you describe sound familiar to me, since I had them at the beginning too.
You need patience, because many previously unknown muscles have to be trained first. The same applies to the skin on the lips and your hands must also find the right muscle tone so that they are neither too tight nor too loose. As you can see, this is a complex cycle that your motor skills have to bring together with your brain and it takes time. In order not to perpetuate bad habits, less often leads to better results.
The top priority is to relax before the game by breathing and relaxing, taking the pressure off.
First, play the exercise or song through your mind, hum or whistle the correct notes. Pretend that you have the harp in your hand and “play through” the exercise with the appropriate movements.
Before any practical exercise in a lesson with the harp, always play the C major up and down.
The whole thing with patience and even longer breaks (days) without a guilty conscience! Your body continues to work unconsciously and soon you will be amazed by your progress. :slightly_smiling_face:
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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Yes Adam - relaxed and good seal and you’re golden. When I say “Deep” that jut means the moist part of your lips is in contact with the harp (and that’s not all that far.)

The main thing is that you’re not pursing your lips like you’re giving a peck kiss to the harmonica. It sounds like you’re on the right track now.

Keep us posted.

Rock on,
Luke

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Hi Astrid, thanks very much for your reply. You are right, I haven’t been playing for that long. Thank you very much for the hints, especially about starting with playing some scales first - that is a very good tip!

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Thanks Luke! It’s comforting to know I’m not building in bad habits and can keep practicing on this path.

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For whatever reason, when I hit single notes I have to tilt the harmonica a little bit sideways, low note side downwards. Keep experimenting til you get the technique that works for you, if you relax, have patience and a strong desire to play it’ll happen eventually.

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