Harmonica/Self accompaniment

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In order to be able to utilize self-accompaniment feature of Harmonica, one should learn the tongue block embrochure; all self accompaniment techniques, whether it was by chord (European tremolo and 10-holes) or merely enriching (Asian tremolo and chromatic) is conducted with the movement of the tongue.

Open Chord Accompaniment[edit]

The concept of open chord is simple:

  1. Your mouth will stretch over three to four holes (five to seven holes for tremolo), with the right most hole being the melodic note. the reason for stretching over this much is that, by definition, chord is made up of two or more notes.
  2. Make sure that your tongue is hovering above the left most holes, so that some small amount of air can flow into those holes. Play the chord and melodic note together.

Yes, it is simple. However, do keep in mind that this method is more musically accurate if playing on diatonic tunings (European tremolo and blues harp). However, this is a common technique employed over at Asia, where their tremolo is scale tune. Thus, if Solo/scale tuning is used, one should use it where the effect is constructive, or least destructive., to the entire piece.


During normal tongue block, your lips should cover four holes, with your tongue blocking the three holes on the left. If you blow or draw first, then quickly slap the tongue over the 3 holes. If done softly, this can serve well as accompaniment, but done quickly, it will have a percussive effect.

The result is basically sounding the accompaniment before or at the same time as the melodic note.


Vamp can be seen as an opposite of slap: during playing of a single note, pull the tongue back, which will sound the chord, then follow by placing the tongue back on the mouthpiece softly. If not done softly, this will become a hammer. This is also known as the pull.

Sounding the accompaniment after the melodic sound occur; help push the song forward.


If the pull slap is used rapidly, it becomes a hammer. The tonal property makes it very highly percussive.

Octave self-accompaniment[edit]


Drones are sustained notes that forms the main harmonica-structure of the melody; usually, but not always, played in notes lower than the melody's note.

To be musically correct, the drone note usually consists of notes of the tonic of the piece, especially the root and the fifth. Sometimes they are even played together. However, it is quite often to merely use ANY notes for drones.

On a harmonica, this can be done by combining techniques of octave and embrochure-variation techniques such that one note stay as drone while the other is played as the melodic note.

Since there are blow and draw in harmonica, the best notes to use are the notes they appeared in both blow and draw. On a Blues harp, the note is the fifth note of the harmonica's key, which is in draw-2 and blow-3; this is because the note exist in both the second-hole draw and third-hole blow, allowing the drone exist for the entire duration.

For chromatic, there's a few options:

  • Standard chromatic, by treating the B# as being the same note as C, and the E# as F, one can play the following:
    • C
Blow (slide out): C(same octave), E, G, C (octave higher)
Draw (slide in): Eb, Gb, Bb, C(octave higher)
    • F
Blow (slide in): Ab, Db(x2), F(octave higher)
Draw (slide out): A, B, D, F(octave higher)

This more or less give a C-keyed Blues scale in drone of C, and A-keyed blues scale in drone of F.

  • Classical-tuned, it still have the drone of F. With the drone of C, one can play musics in the key of C major.
  • Bebop tuned, the drone in the key of F, in now blow(slide in), will accompany Ab, B, Db, and F. Drone of C will involve shifting to the next register during blow and thus no more accompanying of the same C note, but other wise identical.
  • Irish tuned: By treating Cb as B and Fb as E, one can accompany the following:
    • B
Blow (Slide in):B(same octave), Eb, Gb, B (octave higher)
Draw (Slide out): D, F, A, B (octave higher)
    • E
Blow (slide out): G, C(x2), E (octave higher)
Draw (slide in): Ab, Bb, Db, E (octave higher)

Additionally, since with tongue block, one can bend one note while keeping the other note straight, opening up even more possibilities.

Getting started: Why should I Play Harmonica? | Types of harmonica | Anatomy of a Harmonica | Harmonica Purchasing guide
Playing the harmonica: Basic Holding and Playing a Harmonica | Tablature | Basic Chords | Bending
Additional techniques: Advance Chords | Advance techniques | Self accompaniment
General harmonica theory: Chromatic Harmonica | Positions | Tremelo | Ensemble Playing | Music Style | Learning Songs | Improvising | Recording | Playing with Amp
Cleaning and maintainence: Basic Maintainence and Care | Advance Maintainence |Harmonica Modifications |Tuning
Appendices: Harmonica Layouts and Alternate Tunings| Harmonica Positions Chart | Blues | Writing Songs