Today we are looking at how to play the ‘wah-wah’ sound on harmonica. You will need a harmonica in the key of C.
The wah-wah is a hand effect and is dependent on having a good hand grip.
To start with, make sure that you are holding the harmonica in your left hand between your index finger and thumb. You need to make sure that your thumb is at the same distance along the harmonica as your index finger – this will enable you to keep the hand at an almost right angle to the arm.
Curl the rest of your left hand fingers behind the harmonica to form a cup shape – try to avoid letting them be straight as you then won’t have a resonant chamber.
On your right hand, join your thumb and index finger to make a loop which you then slide over the end of the harmonica. Don’t worry about covering the top holes as we won’t be playing them.
This loop will be the hinge that you use to open your closed cup and make a wah-wah sound!
Open right hand to wah!
Now you should experiment with opening your right hand a little to make the wah-wah sound. If it doesn’t work there are a couple of things you can check –
• make sure the cup is completely closed with no gaps before opening to make the wah
• look at your hands in front of a mirror to check that the cup is completely sealed
• play in a room with reflective surfaces (such as a tiled bathroom) to hear the effect better
Three hand wah licks
I have included three licks which use the technique for you to practice.