Learning to play Harmonica

So I got this email from my buddy this afternoon.

I wanna learn blues harmonica (like there is any other kind).
Give me the top 3 steps to doing so. Also assume I have step one -get
a harmonica

Ninety minutes later (worth of typing) he got a reply, probably more than he bargained for. I can’t let all that effort go to waste on just one person, so I’ve mirrored the info here. It’s very stream-of-consciousness, but maybe the mishmash of links can help some other people jump start their harmonica hobby.

step zero – listen to every harmonica player on youtube, listen to lots of amateurs http://harmonicajam.com/ has a shit ton of stuff you can learn to emulate. listen. emulate. listen. emulate.

step one – buy a lee oskar C harmonica (black plastic box, probably some day-glo orange stickers on it) – $30 – find at guitar center locally, most independent music shops, or on amazon.com, musiciansfriend.com. you can start off with a honer bluesband $5 harmonica, but you’ll just have to go back and buy the lee oskar in three weeks when you’re ready for it anyways. the Lee Oscars have interlocking cases which begin to make more sense once you start buying harmonicas in other keys (Bb, A, E are good keys to branch out to when you get bored of the C)

step two – get good at blowing in and out of single note holes (labeled 1-10) this is accomplished by blowing into the harmonica by sort of whistling style with your mouth. ignore anything written about “tongue blocking”, its a crutch and will ultimately hold you back. this part is frustrating as hell and playing it on and off for about two hours cumulatively in front of the TV/computer for two or three days you should be able to get pretty good at blowing individual notes. that’s right, it only takes three days to become competent at playing the harp. once you sort out blowing single notes, learn how to bend notes (on the draw only).

step three – try and play some basic songs, the whistling theme from the andy griffith show, the legend of zelda theme (should be able to do it blow only playing triads (three notes in a row)), blues shuffle, the victory theme from final fantasy, etc. dont worry about hitting every note perfect, blues harmonica is all about sloppy style and making it sound awesome. once you can play those on command try stringing together some riffs you heard on harmonicajam until you have a good rhythm/pattern going.
Plenty more after the cut, including some links, juicy with information:

Once you get blowing individual notes down, you can look at investing in an amplified setup, which sounds 1000% better and is much more satisfying/impressive (see below, or click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDKbqacmPyw)
so yeah, links:

Haha well there’s the $5 solution, the $30 solution, and the $280 solution

Step zero – listen to lots and lots of blues music with harmonica in it
Step one – “get a harmonica”

Correct! Go down to Guitar Center and buy a Honer Bluesband in C (I think they only come in C) for $5

The $30 solution Or, if they’re in stock, buy a Lee Oscar C harmonica ($30ish? expect to pay between $27-33). If they’re not in stock, but they Bluesband for $5 and order a Lee Oscar, and play the bluesband while you wait for it to arrive. There’s not a huge difference in quality, but the Lee Oscar will be better in tune and easier to play the 7, 8, 9 10 holes. The Honer Marine Band is a great harmonica too, but the Lee Oscars’ cases slide together to create some sort of transformers interlocking case thing which makes them easier to keep track of and transport. I have 4 different harmonicas for different types/keys of music.

A C harmonica (key of C) is THE bluesy sounding harmonica. Everyone starts with a C because they simply sound the best. When you get bored you can buy a Bb (B flat), super bluesy, and an E (think Bob Dylan/tom petty). I’m not sure what harmonica Beck uses.

Ok, the $280 solution. Harmonica is harmonica, but REAL blues harmonica, chicago blues comes from a guitar amp. Google “chicago blues” and look it up on youtube; its a lot more gritty, a lot more “real” and is the sound that makes people’s eyes open and mouths drop. So you spend $30 on a good harmonica, and then you spend $150 on a Fender Champ tube amp (with integrated speaker) for $150 or a Epiphone Valve Junior Combo Amp for $150, and then plug in whatever $20 microphone you find at Frys or walmart. You can spend another $100 on a good harmonica mic but IMO it’s not worth it.

oh you said top three steps. oops.

Anyways, hold the harmonica right up to the grill of the microphone, turn the volume of the amp to about 50%, and blow. Instant, classic blues sound. The rest of the money you spend on a $40 danelectro echo pedal or $99 electro harmonix memory toy or memory boy delay pedal. The delay pedal creates some “fill” to the sound.  Kind of like going from a 6 string guitar to a 12 string. Most players use a delay (echo) pedal see here towards the end http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDKbqacmPyw

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