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Harmonica Lessons: Scale Exercises

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[MUSIC]
So now that we've talked about what notes
we're playing, and
about the smooth breathing and
learning the basic,
the major scale from the fourth hole.
I'd like to give you a few extremely
simple exercises that will
help you get around on
the harmonica a little better so
that when you play actual tunes,
you'll have a familiarity with the way
that the patterns flow on
the instrument from practicing these.
It makes playing the tunes easier.
So this is a very basic exercise
that you'll see In any books of,
especially flute methods, and by the way,
the harmonica, the diatonic harmonica
in C, has the same range as a flute.
I just wanna let you know.
[MUSIC]
I mean,
it's a three-octave range in a tiny
little instrument like this.
One of the things that we're gonna
work toward here Is to be able to play
the full range of the harmonica,
not just get stuck in one part of it.
Okay, so
this is some scale exercises that you will
find in music books of flutes,
or violins, saxophone.
And it consists of taking the scale and
instead of playing it in a straight line,
[MUSIC]
you're playing the scale, in small bits.
For example, going up four notes
[MUSIC]
and going back to the second note.
[MUSIC]
Playing up four notes.
Going back to the third note.
[MUSIC]
And so on and so forth.
It's a very simple sound.
[SOUND] I know you're getting
bored already listening to it,
it can be very tedious if you do it for
hours but you won't have to.
So the first note that you play each time,
is the next note up in the scale.
So I'll show you how to keep track of
where you are I'll play that first
note louder.
[MUSIC]
You notice
I'm getting up
into the higher
notes now.
[SOUND] So that's how this exercise works.
I'm going to just give you an overview
of each of these little exercises.
And then be very specific, okay?
The other one I want you to do,
I call it leapfrog.
It's actually easier than
this first one I showed you.
Leapfrog is going through
the scale in thirds.
[MUSIC]
Again,
I'm playing those
notes louder.
The first note of each group of two
notes is just going up the scale.
C, D, E, but
I'm sliding over one hole each time.
[MUSIC]
I'm going from C to E.
It's just four blow,
five blow on one breath.
One smooth breath.
[MUSIC]
Then 4 draw or 5 draw.
[MUSIC]
Alternating between 4 blow,
5 blow, 4 draw, 5 draw, Five blow.
Six blow.
Five draw.
Six draw.
It's very easy.
It also shows you how to slide
from one hole to the other without
stopping the flow of the breath.
[MUSIC]
The third exercise,
is a little bit harder.
It is triads, basically playing
the chord one note at a time.
And this one involves you
sliding over three holes.
[MUSIC]
But there's more
breath direction changes.
So this one starts with four, five and
six blow and then Four, five and six draw.
[MUSIC]
Then five, six blow, and seven draw,
because of the way the harmonica
changes in the seventh hole.
[MUSIC]
Okay,
that's an overview of the three exercises.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Now I'm gonna go back and
play each one of them for
you, okay?
Really slowly, with a lot of detail.
First I'm gonna play the entire exercise
and then I'm gonna break it down.
Okay, this is the one, two, three,
four, two, three four five.
I'm using those numbers.
Sometimes I'll talk about numbers
of the notes of the scale.
I don't want you to confuse it
with the numbers of the holes.
Sorry about that.
So I'll say, C, D, E, F, D, E, F, G,
you're just going up the scale.
C, D, E, F, D, E, F, G,
E, F, G, A, F,G,A,B.
G,A,B,C.
And we can keep going.
A,B,C,D.
B,C,D,E.
And then C.
That's what I'm going to play for
you right now.
[MUSIC]
Now as
I explained,
between the sixth and
seventh hole,
a thing happens
with the harmonica
that creates some
confusion.
On the bottom six holes of the harmonica,
the draw notes are all
higher than the blow notes.
On the top four holes of the harmonica,
the blow notes are higher
than the draw notes.
So all the breathing patterns change.
You're doing a simple little exercise like
this, and the sound of it is very easy.
But when you get between six and seven,
the tendency is to keep your
breathing pattern the same.
And you have to break
out of this tendency and
try to hear the actual notes in your mind.
And change your breathing
pattern at that point.
So,
[MUSIC]
it changed on the last one.
[MUSIC]
Blow, draw, blow, draw.
[MUSIC]
Draw, blow, draw, blow.
[SOUND] blow draw, blow draw.
Every time we play a blow and a draw,
on one hole, and then move up to the next
one, or draw on a blow on one hole and
move it to the next one.
Until we get to seven.
So when we're at,
starting on F on the 5th hole draw.
[MUSIC]
This is where
we go F, G, A, B.
[MUSIC]
There's two draws in a row,
just like there are in the scale.
See this is the part that
gets a little bit strange.
And then instead of blow draw blow draw,
we go blow draw draw blow.
From sixth
[MUSIC]
and then
[MUSIC]
draw draw blow draw
[MUSIC]
and then
[MUSIC].
Now we're up in the top holes.
So it's draw blow, draw blow.
[MUSIC]
And
then I picked that point
to stop to go to C.
[MUSIC]
Because I made it through the major scale.
Understand what I've done,
I've gone
[MUSIC].
Two through the major scale going up four
notes at a time going back to the second.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC].
Okay so coming down in scale
from the eighth hole blow.
[SOUND] The reason why I like to start
up there instead of at C is that
[SOUND] I can play more of these
patterns that end up on C.
You'll see
what I mean
[MUSIC],
three draw.
[SOUND] and then four blow.
So the breathing patterns,
[SOUND] starting on the eight blow,
[SOUND] eight blow, eight draw,
seven blow, seven draw.
And when you're playing on the top,
I have to digress a little bit,
you have to really be careful.
To just breathe through the instrument
because these reeds are very high and
they respond to pressure more.
So you don't wanna be pulling and
pushing, just let the air go through.
[SOUND] It's very neutral, very neutral.
[SOUND] You see that I raise my eyebrows
all the time when I'm doing that.
[SOUND] Then [SOUND] eight draw,
seven blow,
seven draw,
six draw,but two draws in a row.
[SOUND] Then, [SOUND] seven blow,
seven draw, six draw, six blow.
[SOUND] See?
Pretty soon you will be able
to play these things fast.
[SOUND] And then seven draw, six draw,
[SOUND] six blow, five draw.
[SOUND] That one covers three holes.
Some of them are only two holes.
Then [SOUND] now we're
back on the bottom of
the instrument where
the draws are higher again.
So we don't have to worry
about these strange patterns.
So it's draw, blow and
then the next hole, draw, blow.
[SOUND] And then blow, draw.
[SOUND] Blow six, draw five.
[SOUND] Blow five, draw four.
[SOUND] Then five draw, [SOUND] five blow.
Four draw, four blow.
[SOUND] And we can go one more.
[SOUND] Five blow, four draw,
four blow, three draw.
It's a tongue twister.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Now,
the leapfrog exercise,
doing it slowly.
[MUSIC]
I played
from four blow,
[SOUND] all the way
up to eight draw.
[SOUND] So, this one,
you just keep the breath going smoothly.
[MUSIC]
And on the bottom part of the pattern,
you just slide over to the next hole.
[MUSIC]
And then, you go back.
Four blow, five blow.
[MUSIC]
To four draw, five draw.
[MUSIC]
Then five blow, six blow.
[MUSIC]
Five draw, six draw.
[MUSIC]
This is very easy.
[MUSIC]
You can just do a little bit of that.
[MUSIC]
And when I'm breathing,
I can feel the breath
direction changes from,
whoa, from down here in my diaphragm area.
The diaphragm is the muscle that has to do
with pushing the air through the lungs.
And if you can see my hand,
can you see my hand?
If you can see my [LAUGH] hand,
you can see that it's gonna be moving.
[MUSIC]
When I'm breathing,
I'm supporting this air
stream from down here.
And that's when you're
getting a good full tone.
It really helps to support your
air stream from the diaphragm.
[MUSIC]
And then, we get to the dreaded sixth and
seventh hole, where
[MUSIC]
the breathing pattern changes.
Now, its six blow, seven draw,
six draw, seven blow.
[MUSIC]
And then,
you're up in the top of the harmonica,
where things are symmetrical but opposite.
[MUSIC]
Seven draw, eight draw, seven blow.
[MUSIC]
And then, if we head down,
[MUSIC]
again, we deal with the A symmetry here.
[MUSIC]
Seven blow, six draw, seven draw,
six blow.
It's kinda like a whole
bunch of lines going across.
[MUSIC]
You have to switch holes and
switch breath directions.
[MUSIC]
It's good to practice going back and
forth just like that.
[MUSIC]
This will be a really good thing for
you to learn how to do for
future playing, when your gonna try
to do much more elaborate things than
these silly little exercises here.
So.
[MUSIC]
And now we're back down in terra firma,
the sixth hole.
[MUSIC]
Six and five draw.
[MUSIC]
Then six and five blow.
[MUSIC]
Five and four draw.
[MUSIC]
Five and four blow.
[MUSIC]
Four and three draw.
[MUSIC]
And then four.
[MUSIC]
It's pretty easy to play fast
after you understand what it is,
and practice it slowly.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay.
Now the triad exercise.
This one bends your
mind a little bit more.
It starts out being easier and
ends up being a little bit harder.
So these are chords one note at a time.
Triad means a three note chord.
If I were to play them on the piano,
which I will do now,
you'll see what they look like.
If I play the chords together,
it's like this.
[MUSIC]
Doesn't take much piano
technique to just move
your hands like this.
Unfortunately, on the harmonica,
you can't play all those chords.
[LAUGH] Because you can't blow out and
breath in at the same time.
So if I want to, I can play the first two.
[SOUND] That's four, five and
six blow and four, five and six draw.
[SOUND] And then when I get to
the next one, [SOUND] it's impossible.
So we're gonna practice
the three notes separately.
It's called arpeggiated triad,
playing the chord one note at a time.
So, it'll be more like this.
[MUSIC]
It takes no technique
to do that on the piano at all.
Anyone can pick up a keyboard and do that.
On the harmonica, doing this most
simple thing involves this breath
direction change stuff
that happens at the.
It's very frustrating.
And by the way ,in case your forgetting,
in case your asking how come he's
not doing this from the first hole?
Since you don't know how to bend
notes yet, which is gonna come
in the intermediate section,
you can't get a lot of these notes.
[MUSIC]
That's all you have on the bottom.
You can't get F and A, they're not there.
So we're doing all of these preliminary
exercises in first position,
that's what it's called.
In other words, C major on a C harmonica.
Starting from the fourth hole for
that reason.
So triads.
[MUSIC]
Immediately, when you do this,
you'll realize what's harder about this
is you have to jump back several holes.
[MUSIC]
four, five, six, blow.
Four, five, six, draw.
You have to go from six,
blow to four draw.
[MUSIC]
Now this is a problem,
because we're leaping over a read.
[MUSIC]
How do you do that?
A lot of it is just intuitive,
some of you will just do it right away.
But the problem is that, if you go.
[MUSIC]
If you keep the air going from six blow
to four draw, you might hit five blow.
[MUSIC]
Or if you change your breath duration.
[MUSIC]
You might hit five draw.
So the idea when you're
leaping like this is.
[SOUND] You don't keep the breath
going between the two,
you don't exactly stop breathing, but
you kinda take a little bit of a [LAUGH]
pause in your breath until you're at
the hole that you wanna be at and
you kinda change your breath
direction as you're going,
as you're leaping over this other hole.
It's something that I probably
have never thought about until
trying to teach it slowly like this,
but that's the problem.
[MUSIC]
So those first two triads are very simple.
Four, five, six, blow.
Four, five, six, draw.
The next one,
[MUSIC]
which is called the E minor chord for
all of you, E minor triad is E,
G and B, [SOUND] which is five blow,
six blow, seven draw.
[MUSIC]
The next one is the F triad.
[SOUND] F, A and C.
Five draw, six draw, seven blow.
So you see to play these triads,
you're crossing over this funny
part of the harmonica here.
So.
[MUSIC]
And then the G triad.
[MUSIC]
Which is G, B and D.
[SOUND] They're like chess moves and
then the next one is A,
C and E, which is A minor.
[MUSIC]
I'll let you look at the the numbers
yourself and
then [SOUND] the B diminished triad.
We could keep going up
the harmonica forever.
[MUSIC]
Until we realize we don't have a B up
on the top,
because we've run out of holes.
[LAUGH] So
this is what this one sounds like.
[MUSIC]
And then
on the way down,
we can start from
eight blow.
[MUSIC]
If you listen to these
carefully, you can almost
hear the chords forming.
[MUSIC]
It almost
sounds like music and
some of these exercises
will start sounding
like music.
And that's why it's good to learn
these things as you're learning how to
play simple tunes,
because it gives you more of a mental map
of what's going on in this instrument.
So that when you do want to play a melody,
you'll have the vocabulary to
play these type of patterns,
which many melodies are made of.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
So now that I've shown you these,
and hopefully you'll practice them and
try to get them into a good shape.
And please feel free to
send me a video of them.
Once again, I'm referring to the three
little exercises I showed you.
The scale one,
[MUSIC]
the one that goes back to the second note
and the third note.
And the leap frog one.
[MUSIC]
And then the triadic one.
[MUSIC]
So if you wanna put together a short clip
of you playing all three of these and
send it to me.
I'll check them out and
send you a response back.
[MUSIC]