The harmonica is an uncomplicated instrument but listen to Ennio Morricone’s haunting song “Once Upon A Time in the West” and you’ll see how soulful it is. It’s easy to learn the oral organs but there are plenty of instructors online to get you started.
Search for “oral organ lessons for beginners” and Google will bring up lots of hits. So does YouTube. But if you’re serious about harmonicas, then you’re going to want a structured tutorial.
Here are some of the top websites and apps that should help make your first song sound great.
Looking through pages and pages of oral organ tutorials can be overwhelming. And sometimes you just want to get started without much fuss when you have a shiny instrument in your hands. Try this one-page introduction to harmonica on Instructables.
Page “How to Play the Harmonica” will quickly take you through the two main types of harp, the different brands, how they work, and the basic technique for playing them.
Most online lessons are for the C-Major scale on the diatonic harmonica. It’s the same here. Save the page as a PDF and use it as an introductory reference.
Tomlin Leckie is one of the most popular harmonica instructors on YouTube. He also runs a well structured course on Teachable. The full course is not free. But if you are a beginner, you can take a 4 week introductory course without paying a penny.
The basics course will walk you through proper breathing techniques, how to play single clean notes, along with some basic notes that are short sequences of notes.
Yes, the free courses won’t get you very far thanks to Tomlin’s easy style that might give you the confidence to continue.
Udemy has several harmonica courses to offer from some great instructors like Ben Hewlett. They are also economical. But if you just want to try the instrument and pay nothing, then there is only one course in English.
Harp & Soul by Marcus Coll is well rated and takes about 2 hours with 47 video lessons. You’ll learn a bit of the theory behind the instrument even as you put it into practice to learn the three main positions on the harmonica, the 12 bars of the blues, and the various styles of playing it among other things.
The essential skill of overflowing is also discussed. The course ends with tips and recommendations from Marcos’ own career as a professional musician.
This is a clean and simple site for free harmonica tutorials. Ronnie Shellist is a popular blues harmonica teacher and the site is an organized collection of YouTube uploads.
Videos are arranged in levels for each type of harmonica player. Follow the sequence of the video lessons or skip at any time as the topic is clearly stated in the compiled list.
Some videos are short while some last up to 20 minutes depending on the subject. Use weekly exercise routines and checklists to keep what you’re learning.
Harp Surgery is running a free workshop right now. The Good Doctor is a self-taught harmonica player and he passes all that knowledge on through his website.
This site is in blog format. You can learn all the basic harp skills like bend strokes, bend drawing, tongue effects and vibrato. Harp theory is thrown in with harp trivia to keep things interesting. All of this is available in the free section of the site.
The Good Doctor also runs tuition along with virtual classes on Zoom and Skype.
If you’ve come here, then you’ve come a long way. Tabs are easier text notation for students who can’t read sheet music. It shows the notes for the song with numbers representing each hole in the harmonica.
The harmonica tab database still exists and lists nearly 25,000 songs, each indicated by a symbol for the tuned chromatic, diatonic, tremolo, and octave. Each tab also displays buttons and a difficulty level, so you know which one to choose according to your level of play.
The great thing about Reddit is the community that welcomes both beginners and experts alike. The Harmonica subreddit is 14,000 strong members and has been around for a decade.
So expect to find beginners asking about the best way to learn the harmonica and enthusiasts showing off their ancient harp. In short, you have to sift and search through the discussions to find the advice you want.
But hey, this is Reddit. So jump in and shoot your question in the community, and help will come running.
YouTube can be your harmonica school if you choose the right channel. The choice is wide, but there is always a danger of starting and stopping because not all channels are set.
So, we go ahead and do the hard work for you. Here are some of the most visited channels on YouTube.
Also, look for individual videos that focus on specific skills like “how to bend notes” or “how to play clean notes”. Sometimes one video won’t work for you and listening to more than one video will help you understand a certain technique.
Play Harmonica Every Day
A search for the best sites to learn how to play the harmonica will unearth many excellent courses. Not all of them are free like the ones on this list.
On the design side, these sites and many others out there won’t run with Brownie points, but rest assured they will get you off to a good start. Start with a diatonic harmonica on the C scale and let it rip.