I have been learning to play the harmonica for a couple of years. My sole interest is in playing melodies. I have no interest in blues or bends or wah-wah’s or any other fancy techniques or sounds. For that reason I use the Seydel Orchestra S solo-tuned harmonica. I have 5 of them, four with my own custom tunings.

The one technique that I am interested in learning is vibrato/tremolo, on both blow and draw notes. I can do it with traditional hand cupping but want to achieve it with just embouchure.

I have watched numerous YouTube videos on the subject, but most concentrate on the bluesy, bend-related vibrato, which is not possible on the majority of notes in the solo tuned harps. It also doesn’t produce the sound I am looking for.

This YouTube video by Sanggyun Kim playing the Beatles song Hey Jude perfectly demonstrates the sound I want:

I used Audacity to analyse the second word of the song - “Jude” which is A4, a draw note. It appears to be tremolo (volume fluctuation) rather than vibrato (pitch fluctuation).

Attached below are screen-shots of the first half of “Jude”. The first image shows the volume and indicates increasing and decreasing volume. The second image shows the frequency after applying a filter to restrict it to the approximate frequency range. There does not appear to be any frequency fluctuation, just a constant A4.

At time 00:23 he plays the word “heart” which is a blow note C5. I analysed it and it shows an almost identical volume and frequency profile.

Is anyone able to suggest what exact technique he is most likely using to produce the tremolo effect please? I asked him via the comments but he doesn’t appear to answer comments.

I have tried “throat vibrato” - the opening and closing of the throat with a sort of reverse coughing or ah-ah-ah-ah action described in many videos, but cannot get anything that even vaguely sounds like his sound.

There is some jaw movement when he plays some of his tremolo notes so I am assuming it is mainly “jaw vibrato” produced closer to the front of his mouth, possibly by mouthing yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah or something similar, but I am not having much luck with that either.

Jude volume left track


He’s using his jaw. Draw and move your jaw up and down to whatever speed you prefer. Imagine making a kissing movement with you lips over and over. That’s the movement. Assuming you are puckering and not tongue blocking, but same mechanism for both.


If you study him closely when he plays the second word of the song - “Jude” and in other places where he produces the tremolo effect, you will see that there is no more than 1-2mm of movement of his jaw. That alone does not seem to be enough to produce that amount of volume change in the notes. Do you not think that there is also some involvement of his tongue as well?

1 Like

Who knows. But I did it myself and you do not move the jaw much. It’s like puckering up and making little kisses in rapid succession except you are drawing in while you do that. I’m not using any tongue to get that vibrato.

The volume is created by drawing harder. The tongue cannot generate volume. It can generate tone as in pucker vs tongue blocking with tongue blocking providing a thicker tone in general than pucker.


He does it on both blow and draw notes as per my first post, but I presume the technique is the same.

1 Like

Yep. And the blow is easier than the draw because you can build up pressure blowing out it seems. You would need to check if that changes pitch I would think.

I do not have his key of what appears to be a CX12. I have C and G for blues.

1 Like

I analysed C5 blow at time 00:23 and it also has absolutely no pitch variation.

1 Like

I meant when you try to do that. I’m certain he was in pitch to have posted the video on youtube.

1 Like

He plays beautifully in all of his many videos.

1 Like

Glad you enjoy his music.

My advice to you is spend more time practicing. It’s easy to get sidetracked and procrastinate. In the end your analysis will help you play in pitch both on a diatonic (third position for example) and chromatic. But don’t waste too much time analyzing everything. Learn to play and you will soon be playing beautiful music too.

I took lessons from Pierre Herbineaux around 1990. He was a violin player as a young man. He decided to be the world champion chromatic player after reading Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. He said he practiced 3 hours every day and 3 years later he won the title world champion chromatic player with his wife and best friend. Standard chromatic harmonica trio group.

Practice, practice, practice!!!


And Pierre could play any harmonica. His blues playing was a bit stiff but what he did with the little lady 4 hole harp…OMG.

Something else he told me: when practicing a complex piece practice twice a day 12 hours apart. Best way to train the body mind connection.

Is this him?

Yes. I’d forgotten he did this. He was also a watch repairer. He repaired his own chromatic harmonicas as well. Lived in a huge house in Tucson. Had a huge recording studio, Richard Marx and others recorded there.

1 Like

Brilliant player. I love how fast he can play those classical tunes in the album you referenced above. I don’t know how he doesn’t get RSI in his right finger, pushing the slider in and out so fast.

1 Like

Are there any videos of him playing the Little Lady please? I have the Little Lady plus the Suzuki Mini-5 plus the Suzuki Minore. I can play them but I would love to see someone playing them well.

I do not believe there is video.

Those are not on a Little Lady though are they?