What Are You Struggling With?

Part of the learning process is hitting up against obstacles, and finding ways around them. Everybody hits obstacles, even the legendary musicians we all admire.

So what are y’all up against right now?

I’ll share an obstacle I hit recently. Personally, I’ve been bending my whole life by lowering the back of my tongue and raising my soft palette so in an “O” vowel shape, and then releasing by doing an “EE” vowel shape.

Recently I made a video comparing “oy” to bending, and someone at Harmonica.com told me that was all wrong, and that “wa-oo” is better for bend and release. I thought he was crazy and stupid. But after I worked with it for a few minutes, I was able to bend and release with this vowel shape.

Then I consulted my Harmonica for Dummies book, and it also confirmed that lifting the back of your tongue into the “kk zone” is the best way to bend.

Well I felt like the rug had just been swept out from under my feet. I was just so used to doing it the other way! The opposite way! I felt confused.

But I discovered the new way (new to me at least!) did give me more control over the half-step bends on the draw 2 and draw 3, and I like the release tone of an “oo” vowel shape better than “ee” because it’s darker, warmer, rounder, and my tone tends to be a little too thin and bright.

So I’m trying to work on it and re-train myself after doing it the other way for for 25 years! Lol!

What about you? What are you struggling with?


A bit of everything to be honest

I’m a beginner, so my biggest issue is bending. I can at times hit a C#/Db on the 4th hole if I draw whilst blocking my nose and making the oo sound, but I can’t keep it for more than a second because I run out of breath, which leads to my next issue

Breathing. I read somewhere that you’re supposed to be able to hold your notes (both blow AND draw ones) for 30 seconds. The blow notes I can hold for a reasonable amount of time, but the draw notes I struggle to hold because I again run out of air, and I don’t even feel like I’m drawing too hard. I think I am breathing properly on a daily basis, but I am in bad shape so that could be the culprit


Hi, Vibe!

You could very well be correct about your physical fitness being responsible for your difficulty holding a single note (in your special case the draw note) for an extended period of time. By training and profession I am a human physiologist with one of my specialty areas being the respiratory system. There are various reasons that your current physical condition could be limiting you: some are relatively harmless and can be corrected by aerobic exercise.

Others are more serious and can be the result of developing health issues that no one wants to have. :thinking: If you think that you are in that latter category, I suggest making an appointment for a medical exam (in particular one concentrating on the respiratory system).

Of course, if that is not the issue, then one good bit of news is that playing your harp is actually one way of improving the fitness of your respiratory system. :astonished: That system is a very complex interaction of muscles, skeleton, joints, soft tissues (known as fascia or connective tissue) and (of course) your lungs and respiratory airways. Believe it or not, playing the harp can help to improve the functioning of all of these!! Great news, right? :smiley:

So if you are pretty certain that there are no developing or already existing medical problems, then get out your harp and start working on your respiratory fitness!! Also, don’t forget the running shoes or swimming gear or bike or whatever you prefer for aerobic exercise and start working with them as well!! :sunglasses:

Happy harping,
– Slim


Hi Slim!
Thank you for the valuable information!

I am in the overweight category, but I’ve lost around 10kg by doing low impact cardio (I also go on walks several times if I can’t get to do cardio ) I’ve never had a medical exam regarding my respiratory system but I don’t suspect I have a medical problem since I don’t struggle with breathing normally (nor do I have a problem with wearing a mast), but I do still struggle when doing anything of high intensity, which again I think is because of me being in bad shape

It’s interesting that the harp can actually improve the respiratory functions! I must say I have seen some pretty amazing harmonica playing, and I am amazed at how good breath control the players have. I will strive to be as great as that one day, and I will continue to get in better shape, both for my lungs and for myself

Again, thanks for the information!


Glad to be of assistance, Vibe. It sounds like you are on the right track to becoming a good harpist! :sunglasses:

Have fun and don’t hesitate to ask questions here on the forum.

– Slim


Hey Vibe - the fact that you’e getting it to bend AT ALL is AWESOME, so CONGRATS on that!

#1 secret to not running out of air when drawing is to exhale ALL of your air before you draw. (Your belly should be going in to exhale all of your air.)

Everything Slim said is awesome and on point. I’ve noticed when I’ve incorporated swimming into my lifestyle, my stamina on harmonica improves. And I also corroborate what he said that playing the harmonica is proven to be good for your breathing.

Have you checked out my free lesson on Bending? https://www.harmonica.com/how-to-bend-harmonica/

Aloha my friend,


Hi Luke!

Thanks for the praise on the bend :smiley: It took a while to even get it to bend so I was pleasantly surprised that I even managed to do it the first time, even though it’s not perfect yet. Also thank you for the link, I cannot wait to dive into it and hopefully learn something more about bending.

And as for my breathing, I will keep playing as well as do exercise to gain more stamina as well as make my body more healthy :slight_smile:


Sweet. I just replied to your other post too. Sorry for the repetition.
Rock on,


Well my struggles are many fold.
I must be “Harp Dyslexic” because I can see the draw… but for some reason I blow. Also I see the tabs telling me to skip to the right for the higher numbered hole or left for the lower, but I go opposites instead… then I lose the plot altogether and throw my toy out of the pram!
Now I’m not sure if I have the right idea but I am starting with a Hohner BluesBand. I have a nice shiny new Lee Oscar waiting for the day I get it right.
My logic is if I can get results with the cheaper instrument, then moving up to the deluxe harp will be my reward.
My last struggle is with my teeth…as they are dentures, they will often have a life of their own and can mimic the cars in the Low Rider video.
Taking all into consideration, I am 50% of the way through the single note module II do rewind quite often as my memory is a little vague these days.
I’m having fun all the same.


Hey Bobby - first of all, welcome, I’m so glad you’re doing the course, and secondly, don’t be so hard on yourself! LOL. It’s normal for this all to be a bit overwhelming in the beginning. Just keep trucking along. It will get easier, I promise!

Also, I’d say, if you have a Lee Oskar, open her up and enjoy her!! I’d relegate your Blues Band to being an “out and about” harmonica, but I’d play the Lee Oskar when playing along with the course.

As for the teeth, have you considered taking them out? I don’t think you need them for anything, so if it’s more comfy, maybe just ditch them altogether when playing!

Ok hope that helps. Rock on, my harmonica brother.



I tried without my teeth, I got the deep mouth position…in fact very deep.
So deep I swallowed the harp.
Should have it back in a day or so then I can carry on :slight_smile:


You got me Bobby! That is hilarious. But seriously, was it easier without the teeth?



Hi Luke,
Not able to isolate single notes without the teeth, works great for chords though. Guess I need denture adhesive.


Wow, I’m actually surprised to hear that. I’d be curious if you try again in a few months, if you have the same experience?


I have some Blues Band harps. They’re cheaply made. The one that I like is even cheaper(in quality), the Johnson BK-520. It’s hard to play, but, it’s good for single notes. It almost keeps someone from playing chords, until it gets broken-in. Yes, it gets " broken-in." I don’t think I’ve ever had a harmonica which could feel so different after being used for a while. It usually gets better instead of worse. After a while it’s like wearing an “old pair of shoes.” It feels so comfortable, it’s like part of you, but, it takes time. When you first play it, you’ll ask yourself, " How will I ever get a note or tune out of this thing?" You just have to endure. It will come. I think the “Johnson’s” are amazing little music machines. I know this may not work for you but I saw your note and thought I would reply. If you get a ''Johnson", buy at least two. Sometimes, it takes more than one to find a “good” one. No, I don’t own stock in the company. This is something I just stumbled across after playing the “Johnson’s” for several years now. They have a sound which I like. That may not be the case for you. Good luck, however you decide to resolve this issue.


Cool! I’ll have to check one out at some point…


Hi everyone,

I’m struggling a little with my 2 and 3 draw bend. My 2 and 3 draw has the vibrant tone, the 3 half step bend also has this vibrant tone. However, as soon as I try to bend the 3 draw more than a half step, it sounds muted. My 2 draw is a mix. I can get it to sound vibrant if I bend towards the front of my mouth, but it’s not very consistent. Any tips on how to get these to sound more like harmonica playing and less like flatulence would be greatly appreciated… thank you. I love this instrument!


Re: -3", this is a lifelong pursuit to get this to sound great!! The fact that you’re getting into this is fantastic. One thing that will help your -3" improve, is working on your -3’’’. The trick to that is the same as -2".

Re: -2", the key is to move the “Kk” zone further back, and to make the back of the throat as big as possible by raising the soft palette, like it does when you yawn. Think “Aww” vowel shape at the back of the throat, with the tongue up in KK zone at the roof of the mouth, pushed back.

Does that make sense? LMK if this helps…



Hello I’ve completed happy harping last year but now I want more is it worth me doing the beginner to boss or is it a bit basic for me. ?
Many thanks Darren


Hey Darren - Welcome to the forum. I think you’ll really enjoy Beginner to Boss! Obviously, the Deep Relaxed Mouth Position and breathing stuff will all be review, but much of the single notes songs, theory, rhythm, bending, tongue-blocking, and one-man banding will all be new.

My guess is that you’ll have a blast with it.

And if you don’t, you can always ask for a refund!

Keep me posted.