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Harmonica Lessons: Smooth Breathing

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Now the breathing through
the harmonica is something that I take for
granted, because I do it,
you don't think about breathing.
When you're walking down the street,
when you're just moving around in your
daily life,
you're not aware of your breathing.
And the difference between an out
breathe and an in breathe,
one doesn't start and the other stops.
It's not like.
[SOUND] [LAUGH] It's more like a circle,
it's kind of like.
[SOUND] It's circular and
you don't think about it at all,
you just do it until
you stop breathing and
you're not alive anymore, [LAUGH] but
your breath is like a circle.
And I grew up next to the ocean and
now, I live in a Chicago area and
I often would go down to the water and
just stare at the waves.
I realized that the water,
when the waves come in.
One wave comes in and then the previous
wave, the water that's there is going
back underneath the wave that's coming in
and that the ocean and Lake Michigan too.
It's like a big lung.
And it really helps me when
I visualize this circle of
breath when I visualize it the water,
like that.
It can be a really helpful thing for
seeing your breathing,
because when you're breathing on a
harmonica through this tiny little thing,
it's barely here and
with these vibrating reeds.
It's not like.
It should be a smooth flow.
When you watch a violinist,
when they play with the bow,
the down-bow and
the up-bow,
it's very similar to this breathing thing.
When the violinist's hand goes down,
I don't know if the camera's catching my
hand going all the way down, but
when the violinist's hand is going down.
It doesn't stop and then go backup,
because then it would be.
[SOUND] The hand goes down and
it makes kind of a circle,
it's actually like a figure eight pattern.
When you hear a violinist play,
a really good one.
It's this beautiful smooth thing and
the bow is going back and forth.
When I'm playing the harmonica,
I'm trying to do that.
So that's sometimes people say that I
sound like a violin and
Larry Adler, the great classical
chromatic harmonica player,
often talks about that.
That he was very influenced by violin
playing to get his playing to sound,
what they call in music legato,
which means connected and smooth.
So when you're playing these scales
as a beginning harmonica student,
the idea is to get them
sounding smooth and
just breathing naturally
through the instrument.
And I don't attack the notes,
I'm not going.
It's like a.
[SOUND] I'm exaggerating now.
If you want to you can.
That's fine too.
But even when I do that, it's smooth.
I can play pretty fast.
Because I've practiced playing slowly and
smoothly, so that if you wanna play fast,
you have to start slow.
And by practicing playing smoothly,
the better you get on the harmonica,
the speed, when you play fast,
it won't sound choppy.
It'll sound smooth and connected.