Re: Chromatic octave tips?

<< The big stretch needed for octaves on the chromatic is pretty 
 Any technique advice for making the embroucher more comfortable?>>

Advice on this one seems to have missed an important point--don't think of it 
as an active stretch.  The human jaws form a semicircle or arc; the 
mouthpiece of a harmonica forms the chord of that arc--the chord being the straight 
line crossing the interior of the arc.  Move the harp in deeper between the jaws, 
deeper into the semicircle, and the chord increases in length, opening up 
more mouthpiece holes.  Move it out and the chord shortens, closing off holes.  
Hence the advice to eat the harp if you want to play blues chromatic like 
George Smith.  Let the harp push the opening wider, rather than trying to draw your 
lips back as in smiling.

Close your mouth, stick your thumb and forefinger at the corners of your 
mouth, and push straight back at yourself.  Feel your thumb and forefinger 
spreading apart?  If you concentrate on moving the harmonica in and out, the lips 
will follow naturally, sliding back over the teeth and opening wider as needed 
without much conscious stretching involved.  The tongue can be used to push the 
harp out or relaxed to let it come in deeper.  I learned to do this by running 
the octaves up and down the 10-hole diatonic--the harp can ride your tongue 
in and out as you move up and down, particularly in the high end.  The 
in-and-out shifts are very visible.

Of course the lips may squeeze to help move the harp out and the hands are 
involved in the in-out motion too, both of which can be used to free up the 
tongue for flutters and shimmers, but for me the tongue should be doing most of 
the work and the lips should feel relaxed.  If anything, I feel the vertical 
stretch, as the harp wedges the jaws open wider and my jaw muscles adjust their 
tension, more than the horizontal stretch at the lips, because I don't like for 
my teeth to touch the covers (some don't mind).  It may help to think of 
opening your mouth vertically rather than horizontally.  For me there's more 
effort involved in narrowing the embouchure back down and pushing the harp out--the 
bigger spread is achieved by relaxing.

Think in-and-out and wider-and-narrower will largely take care of itself, due 
to the shape of the jaws.  It probably helps with adding lipblocking or 
tongueblocking to one's repertoire too--you're learning to relax the mouth and let 
the harmonica come in until the desired number of holes is open, then hold it 
there without unnecessary tension.

Stephen Schneider

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