Even if you are cooped up in the house, it’s totally possible for us to keep on checking off items from our bucket list – because there are plenty of fun things to do at home! For example, learning to play a song on a harmonica was a goal on my own bucket list; one that I’ve now checked off upon learning how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb! And honestly, learning the harmonica as a beginner can be done quickly, without any formal lessons, especially with these easy harmonica songs for you to get started with.
Types of Harmonicas
Typically Harmonicas are seen to belong to three types of categories: diatonic, chromatic and tremolo, of which the first two are the more common types, the diatonic harmonica being the most common one of all.
Diatonic: Diatonic harmonicas are the easiest type of harmonica to start playing from as a beginner, and they are also perfect for playing nearly any genre of music. They usually have 10 holes, with focus on playing music in one key (although capable of playing music in multiple keys). When you buy the harmonica, it’s likely already tuned to one of the 12 keys; beginners are recommended to start their harmonica playing journey by purchasing a diatonic harmonica tuned to C key.
I started with a Diatonic harmonica that was simple and pretty cheap. It worked great! Buy one here.
Chromatic: Chromatic harmonicas vary in how many holes they possess; usually they have 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 holes. With chromatic harmonicas, at least the 12-hole ones capable of being tuned to any key, professionals prefer to play to the C key – it’s recommended to amateurs as well to purchase a 12-hole chromatic harmonica tuned to C key. Unlike the more simplistic diatonic harmonicas, chromatic harmonicas additionally come with a side button for the purpose of producing semitones, so that the harmonica can play any tone in any octave, similarly to a piano.
Tremolo: The more uncommon Tremolo harmonica is distinctive for the trembling sound effect it makes when played. They sound more like an organ than a regular harmonica, which makes for some cool sounds. However, due to its distinctive sound and otherwise limited use in comparison to the other two harmonica types, it’s less common to use a tremolo harmonica.
There are also some additional types of harmonicas, including ones more popular in East Asia or other parts of the world, but the three you’ve learned of above are the most common ones, especially when you’re still just starting out getting acquainted with harmonicas. If you wind up at the advanced level of harmonica playing, you may want to go ahead and sample them.
How to Hold a Harmonica
First of all, know that usually a harmonica is used with a two-handed grip. One hand is used to hold the harmonica while the other is used to play the sounds. Whether you are right- or left-handed, you may be able to hold a harmonica the same way; if you’re left-handed and you find this method difficult, try mirror the movements instead.
1) First, put your left hand in a position that looks like a talking face. This means, your thumb is below your other fingers, in a parallel position, while your other fingers are neatly next to each other.
2) Place the harmonica in between your fingers, secured between your thumb and forefinger.
3) Place your right hand below your left hand, cupping your right hand’s fingers over your left ones, so that the tip of your left hand’s pinky aligns with the top crease of your right hand’s pinky.
This video will help to show you how to properly hold the harmonica:
How the Harmonica Works
By blowing air into the harmonica, you produce sounds. This happens because the air gets the reeds inside the harmonica to vibrate, which is essentially what makes the sound. You’ll also produce sounds by drawing air from the harmonica, overall being able to play 19 different kinds of notes on a diatonic harmonica by blowing and drawing air.
What are Tabs & Reading Tabs
Tabs, shortened for tablatures, are a simplified form of writing music, used for many other instruments beyond just harmonica. It only shows the positions and locations for the instrument to use for performing a music piece, making it an excellent point for a beginner to start learning playing an instrument from.
More than one type of harmonica tabs do exist, but there are three that are most common and conventional for a starting harmonica player to use.
- Arrows, with an arrow pointing upwards indicating a blow note and an arrow pointing downwards indicating a draw note. So, for an up arrow blow out and a down arrow blow in on the number holed indicated.
- Using cell numbers only for blow notes and brackets for draw notes.
- Using cell numbers only, or possibly a plus symbol, to indicate a blow note and a minus symbol to indicate a draw notes
Here’s an example of the Mary Had a Little Lamb with arrow Tabs:
10 Easy Harmonica Songs (with links to the Tabs)
This French folk song is among the easiest songs you could learn on the harmonica, so a great place to start your harmonica song learning process from. Get tabs here.
2. Ode to Joy
Although this composition by Beethoven may seem intimidating at first listen, it can actually be fairly simple to play on the harmonica thanks to how much repetition there is. Get tabs here.
3. Mary Had a Little Lamb
Not only is this cute song popular a popular nursery rhyme, but it’s also often used as a practice song for beginners of various instruments, such as harmonica and piano. It’s the song I learned to check it off my list! You can get the tabs above 🙂
4. When the Saints Go Marching in
I’m happy to inform you that even though you’re new to playing harmonica, you’re not only limited to practicing with nursery rhymes and folk songs, but you can absolutely also go ahead and give a go to some classic popular rock and pop songs with simple chords and choruses, such as this song. Get tabs here.
5. Jingle Bells
This is one for your Christmas Bucket List: Next holiday learn the harmonica rendition of this incredibly famous holiday song, which just so happens to be also one of the easier songs to learn when you’re still getting started with playing harmonica. Get the tabs here.
6. Row Row Row Your Boat
Another children’s song that makes for excellent harmonica practice – especially if you have a child at home you’re hoping to humor and impress. Get the tabs here.
7. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Sticking with the theme of children’s songs, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is another classic that we’ve all heard numerous times during our childhoods, that fact and the relative repetitiveness of the song making it an easy and pleasant one to learn as a beginner harmonica player. Get tabs here.
8. Stand By Me
Not only is this an incredibly popular song that’s easy to sing along to, it can make for a great song to learn playing harmonica with. Get tabs here.
9. Love Me Tender
A bit harder than the previous entries on this list, this classic love ballad by Elvis Presley makes for a great song to learn as part of your Valentine’s Bucket List, even as a beginner. Get tabs here.
10. Happy Birthday
Lastly, since I’ve added some other easy to learn holiday songs on the list, of course one of the most sung songs in the world has got to be on this list too – now is a great time to learn Happy Birthday and truly make someone’s next birthday a special one! Get tabs here.
. . .
So, how about adding harmonica lessons to your hobby bucket list?!? It can be so much fun to dive into, and also totally doable from the comfort of your home. If you’re not yet that familiar with the idea of learning harmonica, now’s a great opportunity to not only add it to your life bucket list, but to check it off right away! And you can show off your new skills on a unique instrument, to woo a crush or to celebrate the birthday of a loved one.
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