Harmonica Novelty Tunes - dummies

By Winslow Yerxa

You can have some fun and draw attention to your harmonica playing by picking up some of the tried-and-true harmonica tricks, which can be fun to play, fun to watch, and even fun to hear. Here are some of the best-known and loved:

  • The talking baby. Say, “I want my ma-maaa.” Now pick up the harp and try to say the words while playing Draw 3 or Draw 4. Start each syllable with your hands closed around the harp, and then open them quickly as you start the syllable. Try starting each note bent down slightly, letting it rise as you open your hands. Bend the note down again as you close your hands before the next syllable.

    This technique can be surprisingly effective at conveying all sorts of syllables — “water,” “uh!-uhhh,” “uh-huh,” and so on. Dozens of old-time harp players recorded versions of “I want my mama.”

  • Trains and fox chases. Old-time rural harmonica repertoire includes dozens of tunes that mimic events like trains, hunting, and barnyard animals. You can learn some of these tunes or you can make up your own. You may even think of ways to use a harmonica to imitate sounds more typical of modern life — car alarms and ringing cellphones, for instance.

  • Noisemakers and fast switches. Some harmonica players, like Peter Madcat Ruth, make several fast switches among different harmonicas, duck calls, party noisemakers that puff up or unfurl, and other items, while playing in strict rhythm. These fast switches and noisemakers are visually exciting, and the sounds of the different noisemakers playing in rhythm are sure to get a chuckle. The different harps can be identical or they can be in high or low ranges for dramatic contrast. They can even be in different keys to add excitement.