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Harmonica Lessons: Tone, The Overtone Series, Talking Through the Harp

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[MUSIC]
Okay,
I'm gonna talk about tone.
Now the harmonicas that I'm playing
are kind of hybrids, they're marine bands,
except they have special 20 reed
cover plates on the outside.
So my tone sounds a little different
from a standard marine band tone.
The marine bands are open.
The reed cover plates
are open over here so
there's more treble that gets out of them.
I just wanna let you know,
I personally like
these reed cover plates because
I like a smoother, darker sound.
So, tone on the harmonica Is determined
by a lot of different things.
One is, of course,
how you hold your hands.
The other is,
what kinda harmonica you're playing,
what kinda reed cover plate is on it.
The third thing,
really the most important thing,
is what's going on inside your mouth,
especially with your tongue.
Now each reed inside the harmonica
has the full overtone series in it.
For all of you guitar players who have
ever played harmonics along a string, or
all of you trumpet players who ever
just practice warming up without
pressing any keys down, or
playing the bugle and hear,
you'll know that every string and
column of air has a lot of parts to it.
It vibrates its full length,
half its length,
a third of its length, and also for you
guitar players, you know that if you pick
closer to the bridge you'll get
a more trebly and harsh sound.
Well on the harmonica, we can duplicate
all of that by the movement of our tongue.
If we keep the tongue back.
[SOUND] All the way back.
We get a very full deep sound that
accents mostly the note we're playing,
which is a C here on first hole.
[SOUND] As I move my tongue up.
[SOUND] It's almost like I'm
saying [SOUND] cuz I am,
and you can hear the reed start to play.
[SOUND] And you can really
hear it if I'm playing a cord.
[MUSIC]
And on the inhale too.
[MUSIC]
You can even use that to
your advantage if you want to go.
[MUSIC]
Never thought of that before.
[LAUGH] But in general, the tone of
the harmonica when you're playing
it is mostly controlled by where
your tongue is in your mouth.
So, if you play with your mouth like this,
you're gonna sound like.
[MUSIC]
If you play with your mouth like this.
[MUSIC]
Same exact notes, and
I wasn't playing harder or softer.
It's just the tongue is the treble
controller that brings in the high
harmonics, and you can use that
sometimes to your advantage if you want,
and sometimes, when people
are trying to learn how to bend,
they end up flaying their
tongue around and going.
[MUSIC]
And
that's not necessarily
how they want to sound.
And that's a sound that a lot of
people associate with the harmonica.
Yeah, that's that folksy sound.
[MUSIC]
I mean I'm exaggerating, but
I'm not too fond of that sound myself.
I try to avoid that sound at all costs.
[MUSIC]
I prefer the blues sound with the throat
tremolo on the deeper tone, but
if you want to go after that.
[MUSIC]
You could put your tongue up right here
like Chester on Gunsmoke, or
like the way Bob Dylan sings,
way, way high, and when you talk
like this, you're gonna sound like.
[MUSIC]
You're gonna sound like that, so
I'd like to do something really silly for
you to emphasis this.
I'm gonna talk through the harmonica,
and I know that it's cheesy, but.
[MUSIC]
I just said hello, how are you,
I'll do it on the blow now.
[MUSIC]
You can see that the harmonica reeds
pick up the full overtone
profile of my speech.
So If you can understand something I'm
saying through the vibration of the reeds,
this is pretty far out.
So you can see that the harmonica's just
capable of amazing amounts of expression,
depending on how you move around
the inside of your mouth, your teeth too.
[MUSIC]
If you close your teeth it gets a.
[MUSIC]
Kind of a pinch sounds that's
kind of appealing sometimes.
[MUSIC]
As opposed to.
[MUSIC]
You clench your jaw.
[MUSIC]
Because you're getting that resonance
of vibration of that hard of your teeth.
All sorts of stuff that can go on in
there, and if you're doing a bend, there's
different ways to achieve the resonance,
and sometimes you can do a bend,
get the same exact note, but
have a different tone as a result.
Like [SOUND].
One way I'm doing it more like this and
the other is more like this.
So you can hear that there's the same
amount of air in here to create
the resonance but the tone,
the overtones, the actual tone,
like base and treble,
of the note that I produce is different.
[MUSIC]
I prefer the second one.
It sounds fuller.
So, there's just an infinite number
of variety of tones that you can get
from the more basey to the more treblely,
and you can experiment with this yourself.
[MUSIC]