--- Begin Message ---
- Subject: Re: Tremolo (vibrato)
- From: "JACK ELY"@mrgate.mec.ohio.gov
- Date: Wed, 12 Sep 1990 11:27:00 EST
- A1-type: DOCUMENT
- Posting-date: Mon, 28 Mar 1994 00:00:00 EST
>Hello, I am a new harp player (6 months of learning that the tongue is
>hard to control even when I'm NOT talking) and new to this list. I'm
>very pleased to have been directed to it from someone at music.bluenote.
>I'd like to ask what players have found to help them with getting the
>throat tremelo (is that spelled correctly?) going. I have listened to
>one instructional tape that advises to start with draw 2 notes in
>short duration rising in speed. I've lsitened, I've tried, and I can
>tell it isn't there yet. I know that practice, practice is needed. I'm
>just wondering if there are any other techniques or exercises that
>could help me. Thanks for your time.
First off Jim - welcome to the HARP-L list.
Tremolo is the correct spelling - OK. I'm not a good speller, just have a WP
with a built in spel-cheker. I think the correct term here is vibrato. Your
question reminded me of something I posted a while back which may help.
Sorry about the long post but With the number of new readers on HARP-L I
thought it might be worth repeating portions of it -- Especially since there
are recurring questions on "bending", "vibrato" "tone" etc.
Note to new players: I believe that you have to be able to play a clean
single note before you can effectively develop other techniques & skills
like NOTE BENDING (not addressed here) and VIBRATO - even though those are
probably the sounds that turned you on to harmonica in the first place.
Excerpts from: SHORT HARP TIPS (Getting Started on the Diatonic Harmonica)
-- This article appears in full on the harmonica gopher --
PLAYING A SINGLE NOTE:
Playing a single note comes with great difficulty for some. Relax, you may be
trying too hard. Embouchure (the method of placing the lips and tongue to a
wind instrument) must be precise yet supple. There are two methods prescribed
and much debate over which one is proper. Method #1, Tongue Blocking, is where
you place your lips over four holes and block the air flow to the left with
your tongue, allowing air to flow into only the rightmost hole to produce a
single note. Method #2, Pucker, is where you cover only one hole with your lips
as though you were going to whistle. The tongue does not touch the harmonica. I
suggest that beginners use the method they find easiest and most comfortable.
However, I strongly urge you to learn both methods as you develop. Method #1,
Tongue Blocking, seems to produce a better (or at least different) tone. You
may or may not be able to hear the difference. Tongue blocking lends itself to
playing double stops (3rds, 5ths, and octaves) by blocking out unwanted notes
with the tongue and allowing air to flow past the tongue on either side to play
more than one note at a time. These are more advanced techniques you will want
to develop later. CRUTCH: Blow a mouthfull of notes and tilt the harmonica
upward while still blowing (relax). This will produce a clean, single note. Not
the prescribed method, but it proves that it can be done. Some players do tilt
their harp upward.
Producing a clear, pretty tone on the harmonica requires proper embouchure and
breathing. Before you worry too much about tone you should master your
technique of getting a single note consistently across the full range of the
harmonica (See PLAYING A SINGLE NOTE). If your tone is weak try this. While
playing a note, pinch your nose shut with your fingers. If the note suddenly
gets louder you are letting air pass through your nose. Pinching the nose
forces more air to go through the harmonica, producing a louder tone. No air
should be passing through your nose while you're playing, save it for the
harmonica. This is where breath control is important. You will eventually learn
to keep a reserve of air in your lungs and actually be doing most of your
breathing through the harmonica.
Embouchure also affects tone. Tone is affected by the way you hold (shape) your
tongue, the way you blow or draw through the instrument and the way you
position your jaw. Dropping the lower jaw opens the air passage and allows air
to flow more freely giving a rounder tone. Try dropping your lower jaw while
playing a note and hear the difference. You should be bringing the air from way
down deep. The force (power) comes from the diaphragm. Remember how it feels
when you are fogging a mirror or your glasses; or how it feels when you are
blowing the last few breaths into a large balloon? This is how it should feel
when you are blowing into your harmonica properly. Blow hard through a straw.
This is how it should NOT feel. Now, blow hard with your mouth open wide. This
is how it SHOULD feel when you are playing the harmonica properly.
Vibrato, the slight lowering and raising of the pitch of a note, also affects
tone. Throat vibrato is what vocalists use. Well controlled, light throat
vibrato can produce a very pretty tone. Heavier vibrato can be used for
emphasis on a note or passage. Vibrato should not be over done and it probably
should not be used at all on some songs. Of course this is a matter of personal
taste. Throat vibrato should not be done too fast. (see METHODS/VIBRATO).
METHODS of PRODUCING VIBRATO
HAND VIBRATO (the simplest method, not really a vibrato)
This is easy to master yet it can be effective. Many pros use it. The hands
form a "cup" or sound chamber around the harmonica. (See HOLDING the
HARMONICA). Vibrato is achieved by opening and closing the hands. If your hands
form a good seal around the harmonica you can get vibrato by just wavering your
bottom two fingers on the left hand. Vibrato should be smooth and not too fast
and should not be over done. You can get vibrato by moving the right hand as
TONGUE VIBRATO (also simple)
This method is also fairly simple to learn but should be used sparingly. Tongue
vibrato is achieved by swelling and relaxing the tongue which changes the air
flow. Say the words yoy, yoy, yoy. Try it without the harmonica, you can feel
your tongue change. Now try it with the harmonica. Vibrato can be used with
blow & draw notes.
THROAT VIBRATO (most difficult)
This is the most difficult method to learn and also the most desirable. This is
how good players achieve that beautiful tone. It can be used constantly yet
subtly for good tone and emphasized for a pretty or "schmaltzy" effect on
certain passages. It can be combined with hand vibrato. Heavy "schmaltzy"
vibrato sometimes sounds pretty but should be used sparingly, it too can be
Throat Vibrato is really controlled by the diaphragm, however, you feel it
mostly in your throat. That's where it seems to come from.
Here is an exercise you can do daily. It in itself will not give you vibrato
but it will exercise your diaphragm, improve your breath control and also
improve your speed playing. (1) Take a deep breath. (2) let it all out. (3)
Take a deep breath again. (4) Now, while keeping the lungs inflated, exhale and
inhale very rapidly as long as you can. You are exhausting and replenishing
your air rapidly while maintaining an air reserve in your lungs. (Don't do this
too long at first as it will probably make you dizzy - practice this daily and
gradually increase the length of time you do it). The rapid exhale and inhale
is controlled with your diaphragm. Your chest should not be puffing in and out
but you should be able to see and feel your stomach (lower abdomen) moving in
and out rapidly. Kind of like a dog panting. In fact, now that I think about
it, it's exactly like a dog panting.
EXERCISES FOR VIBRATO:
Example #1 - Play a single note at a slow tempo while tapping your foot in
time, play one note per tap. Now play two notes per tap, (keep the same tempo).
Next, while keeping the foot tap constant, play three notes per tap. Finally,
smooth out the note so that it becomes a wavering sound instead of three
separate notes. To get the vibrato you must flat the note slightly. It is the
repeated lowering and raising of pitch which produces vibrato. This exercise
should be done in one breath. You can think of it as playing a half note, then
two quarter notes, then triplets and finally a constant, smoothed out, wavering
tone. Practice the exercise below.
VIBRATO EXERCISES #1
Tap-> ........ 1 ........ ........ 2 ........ ........ 3 ........
Play-> Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Taaaaaaa Taaaaaaa Taaaa Taaaa Taaaa
Value-> half note 1/4 note 1/4 note tri - pl - et
VIBRATO EXERCISES #2
(Without the harmonica) Say AHhhhhhhhhh. Now chop up the AHhhhh with little
coughs. AHhAHhAHh etc. Practice this while exhaling and inhaling. This will
probably make you choke or gag and cause your eyes to water, especially on the
inhale. If it does, you're doing it right. Gradually increase the speed of the
"cough" and concentrate on smoothing it out and eliminating the cough sound.
(Maybe this is where the term throat vibrato comes from because you can feel it
there). As you smooth out and eliminate the cough sound you can feel that it is
your diaphragm that is doing the work. Now try this while playing a note on the
harmonica. It is easiest in the low register, high notes are harder to get
vibrato on, so start out with the low notes and you will see (hear) results
quicker. An E (blow 5) and F (draw 5) on a 10 hole are probably the easiest to
get vibrato on. Notes lower or higher come with a little more difficulty.
Eventually you should be able to get vibrato throughout the range of the
harmonica, then you will have good tone. Vibrato should not be too fast,
moderate speed gives best results.
Experiment with both methods above. Find out which example works best for you
and then practice daily. Good luck and good vibrato!
---end Short Harp tips---
Note: All the above applies to chromatic harmonica too.
Jack Ely ely.j@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
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