Many singer-songwriters throughout the history of pop music have used a harmonica to complement their songs. This, though, doesn’t mean that it’s an easy skill to learn. Any time you’re playing two instruments at once, you’ve got quite a lot to think about, and if you don’t approach it carefully, you’ll end up making your songs sound worse. For this reason, I wrote this quick guide to show you how to play harmonica and guitar at the same time using a harmonica holder.
How to Play Harmonica and Guitar at the Same Time
Playing the harmonica and the guitar simultaneously is quite a challenge. We’re going to face it by breaking it into small tasks and achieving them.
1. Buy a Good Harmonica Holder
First of all, if you don’t have the right tools, any job will be more difficult, so find a harmonica holder that will hold your harmonica without slipping. I like the sturdy Hohner harmonica holders with two large springs and two wing nuts to hold their position. If you buy a cheap harmonica holder, you’re going to get frustrated. The harp will keep moving away from your mouth when you try to play it. Drop $20-30 on a really good, high-quality holder.
2. Practice the Guitar Part Apart from the Harmonica Part
Get your guitar playing where you want it for a given song, then get the harmonica playing up to snuff. Don’t write simplistic parts for either one unless you have to, or unless it fits the song.
Once you’re confident and, more importantly, conscious of what each part is doing, you can blend them together. Through all of your practice, you should be working with a metronome, even if you’re just beginning to write a song. Your sense of time needs to be very good to play two instruments simultaneously, especially if the parts differ rhythmically.
Start at a slow rhythm and gradually work the song up to the tempo you want to perform it at. If you don’t have a metronome, you can find plenty of free metronomes online.
3. Don’t Just Randomly Blow Into the Harmonica
Bob Dylan was famous for doing this. If you do it, people will just think you’re a copycat, not a unique artist. Work on developing your own unique sound when you’re playing the harmonica with the guitar, just as you worked on developing your own unique songwriting and singing styles.
Since the harmonica is diatonic, you don’t necessarily need to be aware of the name of every note you play or anything like that, but it helps to have parts mapped out for each song and actually to know what it’ll sound like every time.
Take your time, don’t rush it. Start slow and build your speed after you have built the foundation properly. And don’t forget to enjoy it!
Do you have any other tips for playing the guitar and harmonica at the same time? Post in our comments section below.