How to Play Quick and Wide Leaps on the Harmonica with Corner Switching

By Winslow Yerxa

When you’re playing a note on the harmonica and you want to jump to another note several holes away, you may have trouble landing in the right hole when you jump. You may also find that as you pass over the holes in between, those notes sound when you don’t want them to. Fortunately, you can play wide leaps cleanly, accurately, and quickly with corner switching.

When you use corner switching, you just switch between the note in the right corner of your mouth and the note in the left corner. You do this by simply sliding your tongue to the left or to the right — simple, eh?

Here’s how you perform a corner switch:

  1. Position your mouth so that the left and right corners are placed over the first and second notes of the leap.

  2. Place your tongue on the harp so that the hole containing the first note of the leap is open and all the other holes are blocked.

    You can see the first note of the leap as Hole 4.

  3. Shift your tongue so that the first hole is blocked and the note containing the second hole is now open at the other corner of your mouth.

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A corner switch uses the same tongue technique as a shimmer. However, you play a corner switch in a deliberate way — and usually only once or twice, instead of the quick, repeated tongue motion of a shimmer.

Corner switching occurs in blues occasionally. Here are two typical licks that use corner switching. The first corner switch is almost like a slow, deliberate rake, while the second is like a slow shimmer.

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However, corner switching is also useful in fiddle tunes for back-and-forth hole leaps.

Corner switching can seem confusing and difficult at first, but you can get started with assurance if you follow a few tips:

  • Take everything slowly and deliberately at first. Give yourself time to figure out the next move and execute it.

  • Start with the left corner of your mouth in Hole 1 — if there’s no note to the left, you can tell you’re on Hole 1.