Learning to Play

Trad Harmonica Music Lessons

The YouTube channel TradHarmonicaMusicLessons, has been started by Boyen van Gorp with the goal to teach and inspire people to play traditional folk music (Celtic, Irish, Scottish, Basque, Dutch, Bluegrass etc.) on harmonica.  He is by no means a professional musician, but does enjoy playing the harmonica.  When he started out he wished there was more information available on playing traditional tunes on the harmonica and since little has subsequently become available, he decided to make his own lesson package, which you may join here TradHarmonicaMusicLessons.

Tony Eyers' Tremolo Harmonica

Tony Eyers has a great new website called Tremolo Harmonica, which is dedicated to teaching tremolo harmonica.  Tony has written a set of online tremolo lessons, including two free ones – one each for beginner and intermediate players - as part of his Harmonica Academy teaching site.

Celtic Harmonica

Nicolas Nicolas Moreau, from France, has an excellent podcast for for harmonica players learning tunes.  He and guest musicians, such as Brendan Power, Jean Sabot ... play celtic music at speed then slowly.

Learning to Play the Tremolo

Jonathan E Brickman's website, The Tremolo, has a section dedicated to Learning to Play the Tremolo, where all is explained.

Ceird and Cheoil-Ep 4-La Harmónica 1 of 5

This is the first part of a partly English, partly Irish Gaelic - with subtitles - video by the BBC in Ireland explaining the background of the harmonica.  It strongly features Brendan Power.  To view further parts, click the links, Part 1 of 5, Part 2 of 5, Part 3 of 5, Part 4 of 5 and Part 5 of 5.

This is a relatively new page and will be developed, however a good place to start is my brief article on the music page of Virtual Hebrides.

If you are lucky enough to live in Edinburgh or Manchester you can go along to evening classes.  In Edinburgh The Scots Moothie Group session from which a group has grown, the ALP Scots Music Group Moothie Class in Edinburgh. The Group meet every two weeks in Sandy Bell's pub to play many of the tunes listed on the web page.  In Manchester Mat Walklate runs classes at the Band on the Wall.

It is not just Edinburgh, Ron Taylor a long term moothie player of mostly tremolo but also chromatic tells me that the moothie is doing okay in Aberdeen where 'Scottish Cultures & Traditions' run two harmonica courses, firstly Harmonica 0 for beginners or players with limited experience of the harmonica. Students will be required to use Hohner 'Speedy' harmonicas, which can be provided for a small charge of £2. And Harmonica 2 for continuing SC&T 'moothie' students and others who can already perform a few tunes. A harmonica in the key of 'D' will be required for this course.

There is, to my knowledge, only one book dedicated to learning tradional Irish, English and Scottish music on Tremolo and Octave tuned harmonicas and that is Tony (Sully) Sullivan's book and CD, Traditional Mouth Organ for intermediate and onwards players.

Brendan Power's YouTube teaching videos on Irish Music on Diatonic Harmonica

Irish Harmonica 1

Brendan plays a sweet and lovely Irish reel, The Maids of Mitchelstown (played by Brendan in G here, though it's usually played in D), followed by a demonstration of Half-Valved Diatonic Harmonica, which are the only kind Brendan plays. This applies to both on diatonic and chromatics and he thinks that they combine the best of both worlds, and afford a greater amount of expression than either un-valved (e.g. the normal 10 hole diatonic) or fully-valved (e.g. the standard solo-tuned chromatic) harmonica.

If you want to learn the tune in this video, go to the page marked YOUTUBE ORDERS in the Left Hand frame on Brendan's website.

For a modest sum, he will email to you 3 files:

1. A PDF file of the written music and harmonica tablature for the tune.

2. MP3 of the tune played at NORMAL SPEED, as on the video.

3. MP3 of the tune played SLOWLY, to pick up all the subtle nuances and tricky bits.

The Suzuki Promaster MR350-V diatonic harmonica comes already half-valved. On this video he plays a G Promaster in Paddy Richter Tuning (great for Irish Music as you can hear on his other videos). Visit Brendan’s website to buy them.

Irish Harmonica 2

Paddy Richter Tuning is fun to play and easy to learn! In this video Brendan shows how it is great for several different styles and common positions on the harp starting and finishing with the Kerry Reel.

He originally came up with the tuning for playing Irish music (hence the whimsical name), which only involves a small change to the standard tuning, hole 3 blow is raised a tone (two semitones); the rest of the harps stays the same.

It works well in Cross Harp (2nd Position), Straight harp (1st Position), 3rd Position, 4th Position, 5th Position, as well as 11th and 12th Positions.  Lots of different styles can be played with it too: Celtic, Blues, Jazz, Bluegrass, Ethnic...

If you want to try a harp already tuned in Paddy Richter for yourself, Brendan offers the Suzuki Promaster MR-350V model, which comes half-valved (He is using a Paddy Richter tuned D Promaster in in this video). Just go to the page marked YOUTUBE ORDERS (in the Left Hand frame on his website) for the ordering info.

Also, if you want to learn the tune Brendan starts and finishes with, for a modest sum, Brendan will email to you 3 files:

1. A PDF file of the written music and harmonica tablature for the tune.

2. MP3 of the tune played at NORMAL SPEED, as on the video.

3. MP3 of the tune played SLOWLY, to pick up all the subtle nuances and tricky bits.

Irish Harmonica 3

Brendan Power demonstrates an exercise from his instructional book/CD Play Irish Music on The Chromatic Harmonica, which shows how to switch between 2 chromatic harmonicas in a Set of Irish Tunes - Paddy Clancy in D/The Kesh Jig in G.  For full size YouTube version click here

Irish Harmonica 4 - Slide Diatonic

Brendan demonstrates his specialist custom harmonica he uses for playing Irish/Celtic music.  It looks like a chromatic, but isn't!  It has all the slide notes tuned to the home key of the harmonica, hence the name Slide Diatonic.  For full size YouTube version click here

Irish Harmonica 5

Brendan Power plays The Bucks of Oranmore which is a great tune! It is Played on Paddy Richter Suzuki ProMaster in D and Brendan explains his playing techniques.  For full size YouTube version click here

Brendan Power's book and CD "Play Irish Music on the Blues Harp" is dedicated to learning Irish music on the diatonic harmonica.  It consists of a 55 track CD with lots of tunes and exercises, played slowly and at normal speed, a 52 page book with detailed playing information, photos, sheet music and harmonica tab and two harmonicas to play the music in D & G, specially tuned to my Paddy Richter tuning.  There are different combinations of options available.

Brendan has also just released his book and CD "Play Irish Music On The Chromatic Harmonica" which obviously is dedicated to learning Irish music on the chromatic harmonica.  It consists of a 78 track CD with lots of tunes and exercises, played slowly and at normal speed, a 72 page book with detailed playing information, photos, sheet music and harmonica tab and two harmonicas to play the music in D & G, specially adjusted for improved performance.  There are different combinations of options available. Brendan is also writing an advanced book, which will cover playing Irish music using customised chromatics with altered tunings.   It will be available in 2009.

Harp On!

The most comprehensive general website for all things (including instrument selection and reviews; music theory; etc.) to do with the chromatic harmonica is G's Harp On!.

There are other Instructional books such as Glenn Weiser's Irish and American Fiddle Tunes for Harmonica or Phil Duncan's Irish Melodies for Harmonica with CD (Audio), both of which have an opening instructional section and are accompanied by CDs.

Brendan Power, Steve Shaw and Tony Eyers, amongst others, write regular columns in the NHL's Harmonica World and both cover traditional harmonica.

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