Hello, welcome to this week’s harmonica lesson. This is a lesson for all the people out there who feel that they are struggling with keeping a solid rhythm on harmonica.
To play along with me you will need a harmonica in the key of C.
Using a metronome
Years before I started playing harmonica, I really struggled with my rhythm on the guitar. Other players would keep telling me that they didn’t understand how my left hand was so good but my right hand didn’t have a clue.
So, I started practising with a metronome religiously and now my timing is much better. In fact, people even compliment me on it (sometimes!).
What is a metronome?
A metronome can be analogue or digital but the idea is the same – it is something which produces a regular beat and you can vary the tempo of it.
Why practice with a metronome?
Practising anything using a metronome really helps to solidify your internal sense of rhythm. This is very important when you are playing with other musicians and also when you are playing by yourself.
If you have found yourself drifting what are you are playing, this will help.
Let’s take something that you all know pretty well (I hope); the blues scale.
Set your metronome to 60 BPM.
1/4 notes last for one beat so you want to make sure that you are playing one note every single beat.
To start with, you might find that you fall out of time with a metronome. So, try to focus on tapping your foot in time with the beat. When you’re comfortable doing this, start playing the blues scale over it.
An 1/8 note lasts for half a beat. So, you need to play two notes per beat. You count this kind of note “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…”
A triplet lasts for a third of a beat, so you will be playing three notes per beat. This will feel a little bit weird at first but it is very useful for blues music as it fits very closely with a shuffle rhythm.
Shuffled 1/8 notes
Playing 1/8 notes with a shuffle rhythm is something we do a lot in blues. Basically, you are still playing two notes per beat but you make the first note last slightly longer.
This is not going to change your sense of rhythm overnight, but after a couple of months you should start to feel a little bit more confident with your timing.
You can also practice just tapping your foot in time with any music you’re listening to. All of these exercises will reinforce your internal sense of timing.