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How to Play a Double Reed Harmonica

Double reed harmonicas usually have two rows of holes on the body of the instrument.
harmonica image by Julia Chernikova from Fotolia.com

A double reed harmonica is a type of harmonica that has two reeds per note rather than one reed, as you would see on a standard harmonica. Double reed harmonicas can be classified as either tremolo or octave harmonicas. Tremolo harmonica have two reeds per note, with both reeds tuned to almost the exact same note. Octave harmonicas have one reed that is tuned to a note and the other complimentary reed that is tuned to the same note only one octave higher. Double reed harmonicas are fun to play and have a full, interesting sound. You can learn to play the double reed harmonica by practicing consistently and learning to read harmonica tablature, which is a system of musical notation for the harmonica.

Place the harmonica in your left hand with your thumb on the bottom side and your fingers curving over the top side. Make sure you have the instrument right side up. If the holes are numbered, the number "1" hole should be on the left. If the holes aren't numbered, the low notes should be on the left end.

Place your right hand onto the harmonica behind your left hand so that the fingers of your right hand rest on top of the fingers of your left hand, creating a sort of "cup."

Position your lips on the instrument so that your top lip rests on the top plate and your bottom lip rests on the bottom plate of the instrument.

Breathe in and out into the instrument. Breathing out is called a "blow," and breathing in is called a "draw."

Blow or draw into a group of holes in order to play a chord. Blow or draw into individual holes in order to play individual notes. Check a harmonica diagram (see Resource section) to find out the pattern of notes for your particular double reed harmonica.

Produce a vibrato effect on various notes and chords. You can do this by opening and closing the "cup" that you formed with your hands. Move the little finger side of your right hand outward and inward to open and close the "cup," which will in turn make your notes have a vibrating sound.

Reading Tablature

Place your lips onto the hole that is represented by a number. For instance, if you see a "4" place your lips on the fourth hole.

Play a draw note into the appropriate hole if there is a minus sign by the number. For instance, a "-7" means to draw into the seventh hole. Also play a draw note if there is a downward arrow over a number.

Play a blow note into the indicated hole if there is no sign or a plus by the number. For example, a "5" or a "+5" means to blow into the fifth hole. Also play a blow note if there is an upward arrow above the note's number.

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