How to Practice Chromatic Harmonica Using Music Training Books and CD Sets

How to Practice Chromatic Harmonica Using Music Training Books and CD Sets.


I know that many of you have not yet utilized BOOK/CD combos in their personal training, and I thought you’d enjoy knowing more about this wonderful form of training that’s fun and effective! I’m going to focus in this blog on an excellent BOOK/CD combo written by Italy’s Max De Aloe (Al OH AY), of Venice, Italy… Method For Chromatic Harmonica, offered by Sher Music Company (SHERMUSIC.COM). It’s a great example of a superb training tool made just for chromatic harmonica players.

First off, when it comes to training materials now available, all are not created equal. Some are wonderful, a good example being William Duckworth’s A CREATIVE APPROACH TO MUSIC FUNDAMENTALS (available used on Ebay for about $7) but it was not written for chromatic harmonica players. I have many method books, most were written for sax, trumpet, or piano.

There are also great PLAY-ALONG books by Mel Bay, where you get printed music and a CD with two tracks: one with solo, one without. I have a lot of these. And then you have the jazz music theory books. These are all great tools, but it’s far better when the book you are working with was written specifically for chromatic harmonica. This is because the exercises teach A SPECIFIC SKILL on chromatic harmonica, with the unique technical challenges of that instrument in mind. Other books usually are built on chordal theory, or piano or sax or trumpet technique in mind…but that’s not our instrument.

Max’s book has many useful elements for you….to begin with, copy which illuminates a specific skill: playing chromatic scales, use of the slide, easy movement to find the notes you need, etc. Then the exercises hone that particular skill, and the exercises are graded: meaning they increase in difficulty from the front of the book to its back. This book will carry you and your training for over a year, or more.

The CD has a fantastic group of musicians, and Max is a very well known composer/ chromatic harmonica player in Europe. Look him up on Youtube. The first track of each exercise/song has Max playing the solo, the second track of each song or exercise (of 23 total on the CD) has no solo, so you play on top.

Here’s how I use this book…and you’ll note I get a lot out of it:

  • First, I sing the melody I’m going to play.
  • Then I read the music and go through it slowly, reviewing the key it’s in and the rhythm.
  • Then I play the music, forgetting the rhythm, I just want the flow.
  • Then I play at rhythm right with Max, along with him. He usually does pretty well.
  • Then I play the piece without Max, and I’m the solo. Sometimes I do pretty well.
  • Then I play harmony, just notes which work well with the chords in the piece, back up
  • Then, and this is fun, I improvise over the second track, I do it my way.
  • Finally, I make up a new melody which fits the chord changes

When you add up all that, it’s quite a learning experience.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you get this book, and that you get loads of CD’s from the library or off Pandora, and play with pro bands every day…right on top of their recordings. You will quickly develop a feel for what makes a tight band so good, and learn to fit into the flow…and music is a flow, like life, like water.

Another indispensible tool is a personal digital recording device…such as a Tascam DR7. These units have come a long way; you can record your playing or a song you want to learn, then change the pitch, change the speed, and add many sound effects. Then you can record your playing on top of an existing sound file, to see what it sounds like when you play with them…and play it all back through ear buds, headphones, or a sound system. Most musicians are very shocked to hear what they sound like on recording equipment; you’ll likely hear some things you love, and some you want to improve upon. Some of the best-known musicians in the world, including Diana Krall, learned to play Jazz by playing along with recorded music, later in her career she actually set up performances with these same artists…so excited to play along with them on stage. Good for her- and them. We are all part of the world of music…and welcomed too!

So, in summation, you’ll get a lot out of the Book/CD sets, and you’ll find it gives a great boost to your playing skill, and they are fun. As book/cd sets go, Max De Aloe’s METHOD FOR CHROMATIC HARMONICA from Sher Music Company (SHERMUSIC.COM) is superb, and I highly recommend it to all chromatic harmonica players.

Who knows? Maybe you will be playing world class gigs some day with people you played along with on CD’s! Why not? Build on a solid foundation of skills…and you’ll go far.

Here’s to beautiful music!


NOTE: We now have a video which shows the host of MASTERSOFHARMONICA.COM, David Kettlewell, doing a practice session with a BOOK/CD combo….Max De Aloe’s superb book, METHOD FOR CHROMATIC HARMONICA, published by SHER MUSIC COMPANY, SHERMUSIC.COM


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