Upside Down?

Hi guys.
I have started to learn tongue blocking. Everyone recommend to block on left side with the tongue for a good reason (playing chords when releasing tongue). I understand that, but for me it feels way more natural to block on the right side and I can’t get commfortable on the left side. Does it make sense to play harmonica upside down (low notes on the right)? Or does it have any drawback to do so?

Thanks :smiley:


Mm. Well firstly all the tabs available for tunes would be completely wrong if you tried to play upside down. The reeds are designed specifically for the type of air flow your throat and mouth produces so i don’t think bending would work in the usual way. You would not be able to follow instructions given because the airflow would be wrong.
Tongue blocking is just what it is. If you can do it left or right better just do it. I think reversing the harp would cause all sorts of issues. I’m sure there’s people out there doing it but probably totally self taught and I don’t think they would ever get the best out of their instrument.
The top and the bottom of the harp is not the same on most harps. This has to do with air flow and comfort.
If you can manage tongue blocking your way then keep the harp the right way up or lessons will be very confusing.


@Adam1 tongue blocking IS AKWARD. PERIOD. Don’t expect it to feel a comfortable after a few days, weeks, or months. Now that I’ve been at it for 5 years, it’s starting to feel comfy. This is why I don’t teach it at the beginning of Beginner to Boss.

I recommend keeping the harmonica with low notes on the left. There are one or 2 professional harp players who have played it upside down, so it’s not impossible, but I just think you’ll be making it a LOT harder to learn if you wanna learn from teachers and tabs.

And just in case I haven’t been clear about it: TONGUE-BLOCKING FEELS AKWARD at the beginning. Here’s my vid on the subject:


Thanks for quick responses. :slight_smile: After a few weeks of puckering I tried TB because I am still doing unconsciously weird things will my tongue and I can’t get the last 3 holes to sound right while playing songs. Just with a 1-2 hours of TB on right side I could fluently isolate notes and move across harp. It feels way easer to me but probably the better idea is to learn to block on the left side.

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This reply goes out not only to @toogdog but also to @Adam1

Tongues are not all built the same! :astonished: :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: There are people who have difficulty moving the tongue to one side compared to the other. So if playing the harp upside down works well for you, then I would say, “Do it!”

As far as draw bends and blow bends go: both work without any problem when the harp is upside down (I just tested them myself and they work perfectly). And when it comes to playing music according to tabs, you don’t change anything except that now hole one is on the right and hole ten is on the left.

Maybe I have no problem with such things because I am left-handed and have learned to automatically switch many things that are described for right-handed people so that they work for a lefty like me (a computer mouse is a good example with the right and left buttons always being described for right-handed users…). Remember Paul McCartney? He played the guitar upside down and backwards or whatever because he learned by imitating guitar players by watching them but without putting himself into their position (if that makes any sense…). This would also happen if you just watched a harp player sitting across from you, and imitated the harp movements in the way that Paul McCartney imitated those other guitar players.

So, sorry to contradict @toogdog (who really intends to help), playing the harp upside down is really no great challenge other than hole counting, which now starts on the right rather than the left end of the harp.

– Slim :sunglasses:


Hello @Slim, that’s very interesting again! I’ll have fun and test it.
I’m neither right-handed nor left-handed, I distribute my work in the way that works best. Of course, I still belong to the age group where people were trained to have their right hand at school. But since I had a cast on my right arm for a long time when I was ten and eleven years old due to fractures, I had to retrain. This was noticeably easy and the left side was also an advantage later in sports.

I’m really looking forward to the test! I have a habit of holding the harp upside down at the beginning anyway… :upside_down_face:


I do, as a lefty, I thought, why not, and as far as blocking no trouble upside down. Now I want a reverse piano.


@Slim Jimmy Hendrix also played the guitar upside down as well! I’m left handed as well., btw.

Funny I could do on-off pretty easily but not side-to-side, so I’ve been practicing mostly the latter for the last 5 years, and now it feels good, and now on-off isn’t like I want it. :rofl:

It’s taken me 5 years to get really comfy with tongue-blocking.


Terry McMillan was known as a right handed upside down player. Did you know that he learned how to play it upside down because he didn’t know that the numbers were supposed on top of the holes? It is explained in this video clip.

Tongue Blocking upside down seems a lot like hard work as you might have to change the way you put the holes on the harp. Anyways, you can do it either way. I’d try out both just to give it a shot. If playing upside down makes you more comfortable, then go right ahead.