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How To Play The Harmonica: The Difference Between Chromatic and Diatonic Harmonica

How To Play The Harmonica For Beginners

The harmonica is one of the most simple instruments to play and is easy to get started as a beginner. However, it will take some practice to complete a song and remember what chords are where on the harmonica.

The easiest way to play a harmonica is to blow out and draw in air within the harmonica to create a note. Depending on which hole/holes you are blowing or sucking, depends on what chord or note is played.

Have a play around with the harmonica to see if you can point out what notes and chords you can hear. It’s best practice to point out what chords or notes you might have heard in a popular song so it can be easily replayed.

The Difference Between Chromatic and Diatonic Harmonica

There are two types of harmonica: a chromatic and a diatonic harmonica. Both types are used in a wide range of genres of music but typically stick to ones that they are most suited to. This section will discuss which harmonica you should use for each genre and the differences between them

Chromatic Harmonica

The chromatic harmonica has all 12 octaves available to be played. It uses a sliding button to redirect the air to be able to play more notes. This type of harmonica allows you to play all the keys rather than just one but it is arguably harder to master.

Chromatic harmonicas are typically used more in classical and jazz music. The harmonica is able to bend notes on both draw and blow which is perfect for these genres.

Diatonic Harmonica

The diatonic harmonica is set to one key. This means it is the equivalent to playing a piano with just the white keys. This may be more restricting but the diatonic harmonica is much easier to play. This is a great harmonica for beginners.

Diatonic harmonicas are typically used in pop, rock, blues, and country music. It is perfect for these genres as typically two harmonicas are played at the same time to create a harmony. For example, one person can play the first 3 holes whilst the other play the last three holes.

Diatonic Harmonica In Depth

The diatonic harmonica is divided into three sections. The first section is holes 1 2 and 3. When you blow air into this section you will be playing a c major chord where drawing in air will play a g major.

The next four holes are designed to play the major scale - c d e f g a b c in order. Whilst the last 3 holes are c major blowing out and d minor when you inhale.

To learn more about learning the harmonica for beginners look at our Harmonica Course here:


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