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Le Fantastiche Guide Online di Thomann: Harmonicas

5. How To Play

Basics

You usually
SustainA general term with various specific meanings in music/audio production: 1) In general terms, how well an instrument's sound persists once played. 2) The third part of the ADSR envelope used by many synthesisers, Sustain ('S') determines to what volume a note decays after it is triggered, but before the key is released. (Decay 'D' controls how fast this happens) 3) The piano pedal which removes the dampers from the strings, so that notes will continue to sound even after the keys have been released. This is implemented in MIDI as a specific message with 2 possible values: 127 (pedal down) and 1 (pedal up).
hold
the harmonica with one hand, and cup the back of the intrument with the other. The chamber you make with your cupping hand acts like the soundbox on a guitar or violin. Breath deep - from down in your chest - and don’t rely on your lips and tongue to do all the work. It’s like singing - breath control is essential if you want to be able to play for a long time and make a great sound. That's why we use the word draw instead of suck - you draw the breath deep down inside you.

Single Notes

There are two techniques for playing single notes on a harmonica: the so-called pucker or whistle, and tongue-blocking. Most players employ a combination of the two.

Pucker

This is the simplest way to play a harmonica. Simply pucker or purse your lips over the hole you want to blow or draw, so that no other holes can play. It takes trial and error to find the shape that works for you - everyone’s mouth is different - but it’s the best place to start.

Tongue-blocking

Here, you use your tongue to block the holes next to the one you want to blow or draw. On a standard Richter diatonic, this gets more difficult in the lower register; players generally use tongue-blocking from hole 4 upwards.

Chord Accompaniment

To play chords, simply blow or draw two or more holes together. For more rhythmic
AccompanimentLiterally, playing along with other musicians who are playing a melody or lead line. Accompanists play chords or counter melodies that should enhance and complement the lead line. Also refers to the written parts for accompanists.
accompaniment
, you can
TapTo split a signal in such a way as to use only part of it. The most obvious example is 'coil tapping' where an output is taken from one side of a humbucker pickup, allowing switchable operation between humbucking and single coil operation.
tap
your tongue against the holes - making a kind of “duh” sound - or click it against the roof of your mouth. In fact, there are as many ways to affect the tone and rhythm of your playing as your mouth will allow. The harmonica is the most vocal of instruments.

Accompany Yourself

If you can
Master1) The final version of an audio recording or album that has been prepared for release. 2) The physical medium on which this recording is stored or transferred, such as a glass master CD, CDR or vinyl master from which a production run will be replicated or pressed.
master
the tongue-blocking technique, you can actually learn to accompany yourself on the harmonica. As you play the melody, briefly
ReleaseThe final stage of an envelope, that in synthesizers determines how long a sound will continue to play after the key has been released. In a compressor, release is the parameter that defines how long compression will continue once the input signal has fallen back below the threshold level.
release
your tongue to allow the blocked holes to play. You get a bouncy, rhythmic
AccompanimentLiterally, playing along with other musicians who are playing a melody or lead line. Accompanists play chords or counter melodies that should enhance and complement the lead line. Also refers to the written parts for accompanists.
accompaniment
that adds an extra dimension to your playing.

Bending Draw Notes

This is the missing
Daisy ChainThe patching of the output of one piece of equipment to the input of another, which can be repeated indefinitely in theory. Common practice with guitar effects pedals, and with MIDI equipment where the Thru of one device is connected to the In of the next and so on.
link
for Richter players, and adds expressiveness to all playing. To bend a draw note, you need to alter the shape of your mouth slightly, lifting the back of your tongue - the front naturally drops lower - and moving your jaw forward a little. As with all aspects of harp playing, however, there has to be some trial and error; you have to find a way of bending that works for your mouth. With care, you should be able to get two or even three extra notes out of draws in the lower holes; draw bends get more difficult in the higher
RegisterA temporary storage location in a computer's CPU for data being processed.
register
because the reads are shorter.

Overblowing

Overblowing - and overdrawing - describes a technique where you blow the draw reeds and draw the blow reeds. This creates a rise in the pitch of the note, allowing you to play full
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatic
scales on an ordinary Richter diatonic harmonica, and can also be used to get additional notes from
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatic
and other harps. As always, trial and error is the key; you use a similar method to a
NormalType of patchbay configuration in which a top row socket is internally connected by default to the corresponding bottom row socket; the connection may be broken by inserting a plug into one or both front panel sockets, depending on the type of normalling in use.
normal
bend, but you’ll need strong breathing technique and great control to make it work properly for you.

Effects

The harmonica springs to life when you introduce extra
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
, using your hands and mouth to colour the tones you produce. You can use vibrato techniques to create subtle shifts in pitch that expand your musical possibilities and give great expressiveness to this simple instrument. The beauty of the harmonica is that the hands, the mouth and the chest all contribute to the tone that’s created, ensuring that every player sounds unique, and giving great flexibility to the quality of sound you make. A slight shift of the tongue, a movement of the hand, and the whole character and mood of your performance can change.

Hand Vibrato

A rough and ready technique, this involves gently vibrating the harmonica itself up and down as you blow and draw.

Throat Vibrato

Usually used for draw notes, this is a way of varying the tone by adjusting the
AIRSome artists and producers believe that AIR - Always In Record - is a valuable technique, because it can capture moments of musical magic that may otherwise go unrecorded. It simply means that the tape or hard drive never stops running during a session.
air
flow. Make a kind of “H” sound towards the back of your throat as you draw.

Tongue Vibrato

Probably the easiest vibrato technique, this is achieved by going “yuh-yuh-yuh” with the tip of your tongue. As always, it depends on the shape of your tongue, but experimentation will quickly find the way for you. A note on vibrato - albeit a wobbly one - don’t overdo it. Too much vibrato quickly gets irritating and diminishes its expressive power. But a long, sustained note, finishing with a flourishing vibrato, can be spellbinding.

Tremolo

Vibrato techniques adjust the pitch of the note.
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
Tremolo
involves interrupting the
AIRSome artists and producers believe that AIR - Always In Record - is a valuable technique, because it can capture moments of musical magic that may otherwise go unrecorded. It simply means that the tape or hard drive never stops running during a session.
air
flow. Hand
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
is the basic
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
technique. By moving the cupping hand, you can interrupt the flow of
AIRSome artists and producers believe that AIR - Always In Record - is a valuable technique, because it can capture moments of musical magic that may otherwise go unrecorded. It simply means that the tape or hard drive never stops running during a session.
air
to create the
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
effect. Varying the speed of the movement makes the effect still more colourful. Slightly more demanding is breath
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
. Try going “uh-uh-uh” as you draw and blow - it sounds more dignified than it looks written down - but try to do it way down towards your
DiaphragmIn a microphone the diaphragm is a thin membrane up to 1" in diameter that converts sound waves into electrical current. A loudspeaker diaphragm does exactly the reverse.
diaphragm
to get a really rich effect.

Trills

A
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
characteristic of blues playing, this involves moving the harp rapidly from side to side, so that adjoining holes sound their notes in quick succession. The trick is to ensure that each note is clear and even with a fast trill. Do it by moving the harp, not shaking your head as some harpists seem to do. You get more control, and your head doesn't hurt afterwards!

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