I have been teaching myself to play the harmonica since the start of the covid virus in 2019. I've never been focused enough to play a musical instrument until the 59th year of this life I'm living, but play it I do and I impress myself more than I remember impressing myself learning something new.

The thing us, I can blow single notes all day long but blowing chords is a constant struggle to make sounds like I hear others make when blowing chords. Is there a basic rule for blowing chords from the harmonica that one must know before getting it right?

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    What make and model harmonica are you playing? And can you tell us more about your single note technique? Are you bringing in the corners of your lips to blow through one hole or are you blocking other holes with your tongue? Do your chords sound any different/better when you draw versus blow? Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 20:17
  • Good to hear of your progress! You're right to be proud. Is your harmonica a blues harmonica (with 10 holes in one row), a chromatic harmonica (with a button), or a tremolo harmonica (with 2 rows of holes)?
    – EdvinW
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 6:30
  • I have quite a few East Tops, some, Big River Band, Honers, a couple of Hamonds, and a couple of Suzuki, all chromatic and except for the two Hamonds I believe they are all, blues Harps. Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


My understanding is that you can blow chords on a blues harmonica, but you can't get the tone you want. One path to getting a good tone on a harmonica is to learn to chug.

Chugging is a technique that creates a rhythmic and percussive sound on the harmonica. It's often used to play blues rhythm.

To chug:

  • Hold the harmonica in your mouth and cover three or more holes with your lips. You can use any holes, but some common ones are 1-2-3, 2-3-4, or 4-5-6.
  • Breathe in and out through the harmonica while chugging. You can vary the speed, volume, and pattern of your chugging to create different effects.
  • Inhale sharply while keeping your tongue at the roof of your mouth, then exhale just as sharply while releasing the tension in your tongue. Repeat this inhale-exhale pattern rapidly and rhythmically.

The best way to learn how to chug is to listen to other players and imitate them. You can find many tutorials and videos online that can help you learn to chug.

Other tonal effects:

  • Overblow the holes till the reeds rattle, and the chord de-tunes slightly.
  • Change the shape of your mouth and tongue while playing. You can try different methods such as tilting the harmonica up, vocalizing “eee” to “ooo” sounds, or moving your tongue back and up like saying “K” or "Y"

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