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Harmonica Lessons: Smooth Breathing with Howard Levy

Breathing is an involuntary action. Often when going through our daily life, we're not aware of our breathing. But whether we're thinking about it or not, we're always breathing. We breathe in… we breathe out.

When playing harmonica, it's very important to establish smooth breathing if you want to sound good. In this harmonica lesson, Howard Levy breaks down his smooth breathing technique.

Picture the "out" breath and the "in" breath as similar to a circular motion. It's not something you need to think about, we all do this naturally.

Howard used to live by the ocean and realized something as he was watching the waves come in. As one wave comes in, the water from the previous waves goes underneath the wave that's coming in. So the ocean is like a big lung, which is a helpful visualization when thinking about the "circle" of breath. 

When playing harmonica, you want your breathing to be smooth and circular - like the waves in the ocean. You don't want to blow in, then stop, then blow out, then stop, etc. It should be a smooth flow, a constant wave of breathing. 

When you watch a violinist, pay attention to how they use the bow - it's very similar to what we're talking about with this kind of smooth breathing.  When the violinist's hands go down, it doesn't stop and then go back up. The hand goes down and makes a sort of circle, similar to a "figure 8" pattern.  It's a very smooth and beautiful thing to watch.  This is precisely what Howard is trying to do when playing harmonica, mimic this smooth circular motion with breathing. For this very reason, Howard's playing is often compared to a violin - for his legato like sound. 

The word "legato" means "connected and smooth", which is the name of the game when playing harmonica. So when your playing a harmonica scale, the idea is to try to play them as smooth as possible.

So take a deep breathe and just breathe naturally through the harmonica. No need to attack the notes, you can play them fast but try to keep it smooth. Howard can play pretty fast, but it's only because he's practiced playing slowly and smoothly.

So if you want to play fast, you need to start slow.  The more you practice smoothly, the better you'll get and the less choppy you'll sound when playing fast. 

Click below to learn more about harmonica lessons with Howard Levy at ArtistWorks:

 Learn more about online harmonica lessons at ArtistWorks

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harmonica lessons with howard levy




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