I love the drone you can get fron a harmonica if you sustain the note for a long time. However, I'm not sure how to keep the note sustained for a long time without having to breath.

I read about using circular breathing when sustaining a blow note, but is there an equivalent technique for draw notes?


Breathing exercises.

Blow holes 1-3 with a steady airflow and a clean tone for 7-8 bars - repeat with the same steady airflow for another 7-8 bars, drawing. Rinse & repeat. Boring, but effective.

There's a sequence in the intro to Whammer Jammer that has a 3-4 draw trill that goes something like this (forgive my poor tabbing skills.. that -3'-3 means to say "scoop the 3 draw bend up from down half a step"), and IMO makes a more fun (and rewarding) breathing exercise for long sequences of draw notes:

4/4 | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4}
    | {-3'-3-4}| {-3  -4} | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4}
    | {-3' -4'}| {-3' -4'}| {-3' -4'}| {-3' -4'}
    | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4} | {-3  -4}

...immediately followed by another bar of draw notes. Check out the song here (fast, live version) or here (slower, studio version). That's a harmonica in the key of A, if you want to play along.

At first you'll fill up too fast and need to exhale by the 3rd bar. Practice again, adjust your breathing - you don't need to draw very hard and very fast to produce a clean & steady sound.

I don't know of any circular breathing techniques - at one point you have to exhale! But with practice you can absolutely sustain both blown and drawn notes for quite a long while.


You can use circular breathing for draw notes. The next time you drink from a straw, try sucking your drink into your mouth while breathing at the same time. This is basically what you do. The trick to do this with your harmonica is to mainly inhale with your lungs, and sometimes switch to sucking with your mouth while quickly exhaling through your nose.

Circular breathing, both while exhaling and while inhaling, is well documented and is for instance discussed by Pat Missin on his site.

If you want a single note drone and have a harmonica in the right key, you could manage this much simpler: note that 2 draw and 3 blow are the same note on a standard blues harp. With some practice you can make the transition very smooth, especially in low keys, and use this to keep the note indefinitely.


You practice! But there'll always be a limit and, as you say, there's no reverse version of circular breathing.

  • Reverse circular breathing is perhaps a bit harder, but it's very much a thing. See my answer :)
    – EdvinW
    Jun 1 at 13:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.