What Are You Struggling With?

Thanks Dai. I’ll keep at it.



I have noticed holes 7-10 are not playing as they did when new. I do not play loud music and I keep my harps in a controlled environment. I clean them lightly and wash out my mouth before playing. The 1-6 notes still play great, both draw and blow and mouth position is correct. After a cleaning and reed check I tighten the screws until they are snug and then about another 1/16 inch. No oily sound just tone and increasingly harder ( more effort) to get good tone and sound on the higher end. Holes 1-6 consistently play very easily and well with little effort so an air leak seems unlikely. I tap out ant saliva that may build up but dry mouth is my bigger issue as is very dry and very hot is south Texas.

I have two crossovers that are having the same problem on the same notes. The higher notes are not as clean and the draws seemingly harder. When new I could play the high end using little pressure. My diaphragm takes over and seems to result in cleaner and better notes on the high end. Reeds are all set as advised. Lastly I can pick one up after a day are so and it plays fairly well and shortly there after the tone and difficulty with draws and blows reoccurs. Reed plates are straight. Given its the right side of both harps that are giving me problems can you think of anything I should try to solve the problem. Both are new but need a bit of tuning, none are stuck. When playing these notes the tongue is down.

I was wondering if you have a lesson or two about trouble shooting in the lessons? I live in a remote area and taking them to a music store is not an option and if possible I would like to be able to tune and set reed plates well as I am on my own. I think to rid a note of becoming flat a bit is ground off near the back of the reed next to the tie down and vis versa if the reed needs to play higher. Is this correct? I have down loaded the app to tune harps.

Any suggestions would be appreciated as well as tips on maintaining harmonicas, trouble shooting and reassembling the harp would be very much appreciated. Lessons are great! Just finished the 25th on module two. The Neil Young song brought back some distant memories but remembering the song was no problem. Fifty one years WOW.




No, it is wrong. To raise the pitch of a reed (i.e. to make it sharper or higher in tone) you remove some material at the free end of the reed, very carefully and while supporting the reed with say a metal shim.

To lower the pitch (i.e. to make its tone flatter) you carefully remove material at its base end (where the rivet is).

There are YouTube videos (e.g. by Filip Jers or Håkan Ehn) that are very instructive.

I suggest buying a cheap harp and practicing these tuning and reed adjustments on it before risking your quality harp. Also: it would be very unusual for any music store to have someone who is able to do this. It’s either learn to do it yourself or send it to a harmonica customizer (which often costs almost as much as simply buying a new harp).

Good luck and work in small steps when altering the reeds.

– Slim :sunglasses:



That is just what I am doing to learn. Now I now back is flat and tip is sharper. Thanks


I am so glad to hear that you are making progress. My limited experience is that practice and more practice is the key to anything worth while! Keep it up! As soon as your notes are clean, you will find new challenges. As has been said, the Harp takes only a short time to learn to play, but a lifetime to master! God Bless!


Well, i got a note to bend slightly, but just out of tune and I can’t get it down to the next note. It seemed to take a lot fo force - is that normal with bends or is that my technique not developing enough yet? Is it just something that you find you’re not forcing after a while?
And, are you actually forcing the reed to change with bends or is it the blow reed interfereing that lowers the note? I’m not quite clear on that.


Hello @Piglet,
it’s not about strength, it’s about the feeling! Specifically, around your tongue. At -2 the tip of the tongue stays in the front area. The deeper the blow, the further back the tongue has to roll. At - 2’ about the middle of the palate and at - 2" to just before the throat. It works the same way on the other blows.

You can also learn the exercises without a harp at first. At every opportunity, in the car, while shopping etc. :grin:.


anyone have any tips about drawing? i am taking in too much breath and not expelling enough on my blow notes to offset this. As such i am finding myself with full lungs and have to stop to release a massive exhale.

I was practicing a video i saw on YouTube called Keeper of the Winds and i was able to do that for 30-45 secs before ending up with full lungs :smiley:

(I know to play from the diaphragm before anyone mentions it, still working on those muscles :smiley: )


Hi @SaucyGibb0n

You are not alone with this “problem”. Especially when playing blues harp in 2nd or 3rd position you will soon discover that most of the “interesting” notes are the ones you get by drawing rather than blowing.

Several options are available to “empty” your lungs. Probably the most overlooked, especially by beginners when they are improvising, is the use of silence. Too many players feel compelled to play continuously and do not realize that strategically placed pauses during a solo can be extremely effective both for the player (to exhale) and for the audience.

Another technique is to find ways to incorporate blow chords into your solo.

Another tip is to practice exhaling through your nose while playing blow notes & chords.

– Slim :sunglasses:


@scott4 I’d bet money it’s not the harps, it’s a technique issue. It’s normal for our ability to execute techniques (such as playing high notes) to fluctuate at the beginning. One day we can do it, the next we can’t. Everybody struggles with high notes, ESPECIALLY at the beginning.:ok_hand:t3: -7, -8 are the most frequent ones that REALLY trip people up, but anything above 6 can prove problematic!

Remember to be patient with yourself. This may take some time…

These are the tips for a getting good clean high notes.

1.) Let gravity lower your jaw so that it’s totally relaxed and in a nice “aw” vowel shape, your teeth should be far apart from each other

2.) Keep the back of your tongue down, like it is when you yawn. Make sure it’s not in the “Kk” zone (how your tongue is when you say a “Kk” consonant.)

3.) And maybe most importantly, Nice steady, GENTLE, airflow. Most beginners (and many intermediate and advanced players) use WAY to much pressure.

Hope that helps! :sunglasses:

@Piglet - sorry for my delay here sickness followed by travel, but I don’t recommend working on isolating notes on day 2! CHORDS BABY! FOCUS on keeping your LIPS AND MOUTH RELAXED. This is everything.

@SaucyGibb0n - ALL of @Slim’s suggestions are good. I especially recommend focusing on what I call “Outgassing” - Joe Filisko calls it the “Nose Push”. VITAL technique to work on in my opinion.



Thanks for your comments but I never bet, Only invest when the odds are on my side. You are correct about the variability of my play on the higher notes, especially 8. I do not now how loud I play but do feel its about a soft as I can. Its just the one note that raises my blood pressure.

What is strange is the 6,7,9 and 10 are not a problem. Some days all goes well. Its me not the harp and there is always something that gets out of line, I use very little force to play it. When the diaphragm kicks in it helps significantly. water is always next to me.

I practice one tune that is almost all in the right side ( higher notes) with little exception . One a good day it goes fairly well. I chose this on to practice moving around the harp playing single notes. All notes are slower play with minimal exception this is only a part of the tune but there is a second verse with little difference. Timing is tough as hearing it played well lets me know my play is to fast. Its a real test on breathing as several of the notes are held.

One question I have is what to use for lip lub that will not et into the harp? Right now in south Texas we are going through a very severe level 4 drought and my mouth dry very quickly, making sliding the next note very difficult. Even the cactus are starting to die. Any suggestions would be appreciated as would be about a foot of rain.

Slim if you see this let me know how you are doing.



Hitting the high notes seems to me a lot like trying to enamor a lady… Slow, easy, and gentle seems to work better than fast, hard, and rough. With that being said, I’ve noticed quite a bit of difference in harps. Some for me seem to hit the high notes very well, like my Special 20 in Db, and my Lee Oskar in A, whereas my Melody Maker in C, and my Rocket in Ab get hung up a bit on some of the upper notes.

Seems like each harp has its own characteristic. I’ve tried opening up the harp to make adjustments, as @Slim and others suggest, but the problem holes seem to have about the same gaps as the rest, so I usually do very little tweaking. In addition to the fact that a BIG tweak took out the 4 draw on my first harp, after it started to go flat, and I tried to fix it, breaking it instead.

As @AstridHandbikebee63 has also mentioned here in the forum, warming the reeds up also seems to make a difference. Most of the problems I have when I initially pick up a harp for the first time in a while seem to go away after a few minutes of playing.

As @Luke says, most problems come down to technique, so as your mouth gets more adept, the notes start to come out cleaner.

If your other notes are working, these will likely come along as well, or take a look under the hood and see if something obvious is wrong. A stuck bread crumb can make a perfectly good reed seem like a dud.


What a story.