Fatter Harmonica Sound

The diatonic harmonica is a small instrument with many inherent limitations. It is up to us as players to get a good sound. The key to getting a fatter harmonica sound is the take advantage of the design of the diatonic harmonica. This is also where the tongue blocking technique comes into play to make use of different techniques. In this article I will show how to fatten up a lick so that it sounds bigger.

From thin to fat

The thinnest and most basic sound we get out of the harmonica is when playing clean single notes. This is often where we start and perhaps how we learn a new song or riff. The basic melody is clearly heard when playing like this. However, for blues this is not the most exciting sound. Getting a fatter harmonica sound is al about understanding where to apply techniques and still keep the basic melody of the riff.

Fatter harmonica sound example 1

In this case we are going to take a riff from the beginner blues harmonica riffs article previously published here. It is the boogie inspired 2-bar riff.

Beginner Blues Harmonica Riffs Boogie Inspired Rhythm Tongue slap can be used
Boogie inspired 2-bar riff
Original version.

By adding tongue slaps to the inhaling notes 2 2 3 4 and the exhaling 5+, and exchanging the 5 draw for an inhaling chord and finishing off with a octave tongue split that plays 6+ and 3+ in unison with a tremolo the riff gets a whole lot more exciting. It is still the same basic melody but the techniques used offer more volume and excitement.

A fatter version of the 2-bar boogie inspired riff.

Fatter harmonica sound example 2

In this example we use the 1-bar riff from the same article above.

1-bar beginner blues harmonica riffs
1-bar riff
Original (actually a bit off from the notation, the 5 draw comes too quickly).

To get a fatter harmonica sound here we leave the 4+ alone, switch the 4 to an inhaling chord and play the 5 and 6+ as dirty notes. Once again the basic melody is kept but it sounds bluesier and fatter.

A fatter version of the 1-bar riff.

Try it!

Now you try it yourself on riffs you already know. Use tongue slaps, pull slaps, side pulls, octave splits, dirty notes, chords etc as you see fit to get the sound you want.

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