I am a left handed harmonica player and when I started playing there was nobody around to guide me. This meant that I had to figure out a lot of things myself. Unfortunately some of the decisions I made in the eighties later turned out to be less than optimal decisions. I have later changed the way I hold the harmonica and my embouchure for example. To help any left handed player out there (and right handed) this article covers the options you have when holding the harmonica.
To keep things short and sweet I focus on two things, the hand holding the harmonica and if hole 1 on your diatonic harmonica faces left or right. What felt most natural to me when I stared playing and what seems to be most natural if you are a left handed harmonica player is to hold the harmonica in your right hand with hole 1 to the left. Most right handed players opt for left hand and hole 1 to the left. There are of course two other combinations as well to look at.
Right hand, hole 1 left
Let’s start with the one that felt most natural to me. In this case the right hand holds the harp and your left hand is used for hand effects. It is certainly a playable position but there is one major drawback. Holes 1-3 which are the low pitched holes are the ones that get most effect from hand cupping effect and this way of holding basically removes this option. This is the reason I abandoned this way of holding. If you primarily play through a bullet mic and have a tight cup this may be less of an issue for you.
Right hand, hole 1 right
To remedy the drawback of the previous way you can simply turn the harmonica upside down. This way you can still hold with your right hand and have a cup over the lower pitch holes. This is the way Sonny Terry held the harmonica, definately an option if holding with your right hand is important to you. Just remember that you have to flip all instructions you find online and your toung will be to the right most of the time while tounge blocking.
Left hand, hole 1 right
This is not a way I would recommend, using the left hand to hold but having the harmonica upseide down has the same problem as the first option I presented. There is really no need for this.
Left hand, hole 1 left
This is the way most right handed players naturally pick up the harmonica. The harmonica has the numbers facing up so you can read them easily and your hand cup naturally covers the low pitched holes. Even if you are a left handed harmonica player I would recommend you to switch to this way if you can. Most things regarding instructions and so on is simpler this way.
But what if it’s impossible
Of course the recommendations above may be null and void for you if you have any physical challenges that prevents you from holding like this. In that case you should o what works best for you and find your own way.
If you do decide to change the way you hold the harmonica, let me know how it works out for you. I remember feeling a bit awkward for a few weeks before it became natural to me.