Most harmonica players don’t have enough stamina…

Hello and welcome to this week’s lesson, where I will be talking about an important aspect of musicianship which is Stamina.

This is a lesson for all levels of player and to play along with the examples you will need a C harmonica.

One of the most important things to develop as a musician is the stamina to play through an entire song. All too often as harmonica players we get hung up on just playing a solo over a 12 bar portion of a song. However, other musicians will not be impressed if that is all you do.

If you are a singer then you will be forgiven for only playing a harmonica solo but if you are not then you will be expected to do some work…

Breathing Problems

I regularly receive emails from students asking me for advice about breathing because they keep running out of air and while there are ways to fix it by improving your technique, necessity is one of the best solutions.

What do I mean by necessity?

Well, as animals we have evolved to do everything we can to keep breathing otherwise we write ourselves out of the gene pool. So, as a harmonica player you are not actually going to run out of breath. In fact, if you have to keep going your body is going to do everything in its power to keep you going. DISCLAIMER – please try not to pass out while playing harmonica…

Building up stamina

Ok so I don’t actually want you to start hyperventilating because that would be silly but I do want you to push yourself by trying to play through a whole tune.

This is a relevant exercise no matter where you are on your harmonica journey.

Some examples of good exercises to build stamina and concentration

Not only are we trying to build stamina to be able to play harmonica all night but we also want to maintain concentration. Here are some tunes which I want you to try…

Beginner – ‘I’m a man’ Riff

Practice playing this riff with the backing track below and try to play for the whole duration…

Advanced Beginner – ‘Shape Your Hips’

Practice playing this riff with the backing track below and try to play for the whole duration…

Intermediate – ‘Descending Box Shuffle’

Click here for the full lesson. Practice playing the bass line over the whole backing track.

Advanced Intermediate – ‘Country Blues’

Click here for the full lesson. Practice playing it 4 or 5 times in a row without stopping.

Fighting Boredom

You are quite likely to feel bored at first because you are not taking a solo but practicing this kind of thing and making yourself play through a whole song will do amazing things for your timing and your musicianship in general.

Good luck and thank you!

Good luck with building up your stamina and thank you so much for taking part in this lesson. I hope it was useful for you. If you enjoyed it please feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook and/or Twitter.

If you have any questions just send me a wee email.

See you next Wednesday for the next harmonica lesson!


  1. thanks for all the lessons Tomlin,theyre brilliant….however here’s a weird question …how many harmonica’s do you manage tobreak as a beginner …i’m on No. 3…first one was a gift, not a well known brand second was a Hohner special 20 ..third a hohner Blues band (all in C)…in each of them the 4 hole draw reed is bent and out of tune and ive been on t’internet and seen how to retune reeds …but frankly theyre buggered…..ok maybe I bend too many notes (i didnt wail the 4 till you showed me how )…trying to play softer but Weeeellll when the mood hits…thanks again for the lessons guess I’ll buy a Lee Oscar or some other brand next …

  2. Ronald Mack says:

    Really great lesson and much neede!
    Thanks for all you give to tha harmonica community.

  3. Ken Canales says:

    Great lesson. Find the beat. Stay in step.

  4. Rick BASAROWICH says:

    great lesson. I really enjoyed it.

  5. tomlinleckie says:

    Hi Rob, glad you like the lessons. How many harmonicas you break all depends on how hard you play. For example, I am a very soft player and I have broken two harmonicas in the last 12 years. Other players will go through a lot more. I would definitely recommend trying to play more gently. I would also recommend that you try Seydel harmonicas as they are more durable for players who play harder. Hope that helps. Best wishes, Tomlin

  6. Rafik Rogaev says:

    Do you believe a Boseno 10 hole double Tremolo is useful for a beginner to start with?

    As a casual 63 year old beginner I’m still enjoying your lessons. Even though I have trouble with breathing, I am very much satisfied with my progress in playing the harmonica, thanks to you and your lessons!

  7. tomlinleckie says:

    Hi Rafik – I don’t have any experience with the Boseno but I would avoid a Tremolo harmonica if you are wanting to play Blues music which is what I teach. In that case I would recommend a 10 hole diatonic in C major; a Hohner Special 20 or Suzuki Bluesmaster are great places to start. I hope that helps. Happy harping, Tomlin

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