Why Is 2 Draw So Difficult?

I think my harmonica’s broken…

When learning to play individual notes for the first time, 2 draw (2D) is often the hardest reed to master. We frequently receive emails asking, is it me or is there something wrong with my harmonica? It may not be what you want to hear, but the short answer is, it ain’t the harp! OK, point of order, we have had one occasion in the last fifteen years when the instrument was at fault, but there have been a couple of blue moons since then.

2D is a long old reed, which swings through a big slot as we play it. Picture in your mind a spring diving board, fixed at one end and unfettered at the other. The reed and the diving board behave in the same way. Consider also, the fact that 2D shares a chamber with 2B, another long reed in another big old slot. These two reeds are in constant interaction, working as a pair. So we expend a lot of air when we work in hole 2 and it can feel like we’re running out of breath really quickly.

Add to this the flexibility of the reeds themselves. With a choice of one natural and two bent positions, 2D is very sensitive to changes in air pressure. When we try to play 2D for the first time, it can sound mangled or flat, but don’t panic. Alternatively, despite our best efforts, it can simply not respond at all. At the same time we seem to be inflating much faster than when we play the neighbouring holes.

Fear not, this is a really common experience. So let’s look into things together and see if we can help you overcome an important hurdle in every harmonica player’s development. It’s a short process and we promise you it will be painless. Kim followed our advice and look what happened to her! (more…)

Why Are Draw 2 And Blow 3 The Same?

Every truly cultured music student knows

Find your 10 hole C diatonic harmonica and blow hole 3. You’re playing G natural. Now draw hole 2. You’re also playing G natural. So why do we have duplicated notes on our instrument?

Well before we get all technical, for beginners it’s a great way to check that your 2 draw is true and not partially bent when you’re playing. When starting out, 2 draw can be hard to master. It can help to blow 3 and see if you are in pitch by comparing it with your 2 draw. If you’re experiencing problems, check out this helpful post ‘Why is 2 draw so difficult?. Now back to our two note conundrum. No it’s not a mistake, and yes, it does seem strange.

To solve the apparent mystery, let’s first consider blow 3. Our blow notes are arranged uniformly in terms of pitch. If we blow them in sequence from hole 1 to 4, we’ll hear the C major arpeggio. The same goes for holes 4 to 7, and 7 to 10 respectively. It’s the same result in three different octaves, each one higher in pitch than the previous, rather like a piano keyboard. (more…)