THE PYRAMID APPROACH TO MASTERING
CHROMATIC HARMONICA TECHNIQUE PUCKER EMBOUCHER
Your lips and mouth are the interface, to use a computer term, between your BREATH and your instrument, the chromatic harmonica, and are so important to your progress that I’ve listed it as the SECOND most important foundation stone of your Pyramid. For most people, including you me actually….the Pucker Emboucher is first method one will learn to use to play the harmonica.
It has a lot of plusses. It’s pretty easy to do. When the hole in your lips lines up with the holes in the Chromatic Harmonica, supported by good breath, you’ll get a very clear musical tone, and you’ll be able to play one note easily…which is a very handy skill to master, early on. (For picky’s sake, there are actually 3 embouchures used with chromatic harmonica: 1) the pucker embouchure; 2) the tongue embouchure; 3) and the rolled tongue embouchure.) I don’t talk about the rolled tongue embouchure much as I don’t see it used at all. (With the tongue embouchure you basically roll your tongue and stick it between your lips…some can do this and some can’t per genetics… and blow through the hole.) The tongue embouchure which will soon become your favorite method is the topic of Pyramid #3.
In the first few months of your playing, or even the first year, the PUCKER embouchure will be the one you use daily. But as you progress you will master the tongue embouchure, and it is very likely that the tongue embouchure is the one you’ll use most in the years ahead. But you will always use the pucker embouchure a bit too…so it’s in your toolbox for the long haul!
Here’s how to do it, and this story comes from Miles Davis. He played trumpet…and I’m guessing you’ve heard of him. His dad gave him some dried peas and told them to put them in his mouth and spit them out, one by one. Miles puckered his mouth and phewwwey, out shot the bean. I think he probably hit some people with these. You’re basically making a big “O” shape with your lips, like what you do when you whistle a tune, and at the center of your lips is a little hole through which the air is blown, or drawn. Pretty simple.
Try it a few times on your harmonica. You’ll probably play two notes at first, but when you line up the hole in the center of your lips… with the hole on the harmonica…you’ll have a clean sound. One note, clear and clean. If you practice a little bit each day, you’ll master it quickly, and now you have one more foundation stone in your PYRAMID.
Congratulations! Well done!