How to Test a Harmonica

I just got an email from a slightly nervous new customer. He just got his custom harmonicas and did not want to play them in a way that would damage them. His question was: what is the best way to break in a custom harmonica?

I don’t believe you need to “break in” a  custom harmonicas. It is an interesting choice of words, isn’t it?

It sounds like you are invading the harmonica. Or taming it like a wild horse. Well, you are invading it with your breath, but the wild horse you are taming is the way you usually play a harmonica. I think when you get a new harmonica it is a good idea to take a little time to bond with it.

Here is one way to “bond” with your harmonica as well as the way you play them.

Stand facing a corner of a room and play the harmonica.  The sound will bounce back into your ears. You will hear more of the sound of the harmonica through your ears. What we normally hear is a combination of bone conduction and the sound of the harmonica going AWAY from us.

Try playing the bends in 2 & 3, 9 & 10 as quietly as you can and still bend them. Get the feel for how little air pressure it takes to make the harmonica respond to you. While you are there, try out some of your usual licks and check out what they sound like with the big sound in your face and ears.

If you are trying out a new custom harmonica, here is a good way to do it:

Stand in a corner and play the custom harmonica the way you normally do but with 10 – 20 % less air pressure. A – B the sound you get with the custom harmonica and the same key stock harmonica.

Memorize what you do to go back and forth from your normal playing style to using a bit less force. Then relax and play your custom harmonicas freely with this new awareness.

Try these ideas out with some harmonicas and let me know if this makes a difference for you.