Steve Lockwood's Guide on Mastering the Harmonica

Following on from the Harmonica Playathon in aid of Learn to Play Day, we have put together a handy guide of Steve Lockwood's top tips and tricks on how to develop your Harmonica playing. Being a graduate from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, Steve has always emersed himself within the local musical. He has been performing and recording music for 28 years touring around the world with artists such as Larry Adler and Screaming Lord Sutch. He has recorded albums with the Royal Philharmonic and Prague Philharmonic Orchestras, therefore his knowledge and expertise on the harmonica are invaluable. You’ve learned the basics with Steve at the playathon, now it's time to expand your skills to become the ultimate harmonica player!

Steve's 5 Top Tips:


Little and often is the most effective way to learn and build your skills.


There is always something new to learn. Learn from the best Listen to great harmonica players and try to copy what they are doing.

Get together with friends

Gather your friends and family to play, making music fun is one of the best ways to learn.

Play at a jam night

There are loads of local jam nights to get involved in, Willingham has a great one!

Steve’s Practice Exercises

As well as following these tips have a go at the practice exercises below, you can do as much as you like switching up the exercises each time. These focus on your technique, repertoire, and improvisation. Pick one or two exercises from each section.

Section 1: Technique

Single notes

Train Rhythms

Pitch Bends

Vibrato Scales

Section 2: Repertoire

Play simple songs incorporating techniques from section 1 Play one song you know and learn one new one

Section 3: Improvisation

Improvise over the music of your choice using the pentatonic scale

Combine the different licks from the Playathon

Solo over the music using the blues solos from the Playathon

Song Suggestions in the Key of C

Losing my Religion - REM

Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen

Fly me to the Moon - Frank Sinatra

Piano Man - Billy Joel

Fire and Rain - James Taylor

Harmonica Maintenance

You will need to ensure your harmonica is kept in the best condition for years of enjoyment. The harmonica is a mouth-blown instrument, even playing it can lead to the deterioration of tone quality, reed pitch and the length of the harmonicas life as the particles in a person’s breath can build upon the reeds. This will ultimately cause the pitch to flatten over time, so careful cleaning of your harmonica will help prevent corrosion and preserve the harmonica. For regular cleaning, you can rinse in plain water. However, for a deeper cleaning of your instrument, you will need to disassemble and reassemble the harmonica and clean the reed plates, comb, and cover plates. You will need to have these tools at hand:

Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

Small spray bottle

Lint-free cloth

Small round brush such as an electric shaver cleaning brush.

The Reed Plates – Spray both sides with the alcohol and wipe plates clean. Do not use a brush on the reed plate as the brush could get caught on the reeds. Make sure to wipe in parallel to the direction of the reeds starting at rivet end.

The Comb – Spray with alcohol and use the small round brush to clean holes and chambers. Then wipe it dry with the cloth.

The Cover Plates – Spray with alcohol and carefully wipe inside and outside surfaces with the cloth.

We hope that you continue to enjoy playing and learning the harmonica! Take a look here for our range of sheet music and harmonicas.

Take a look at our video of the day!

Steve will be hosting one more workshop at our store on 17th June, 11.30am - 1.30pm. If you would like to attend then please call 01223 354452 or visit us in store to book.

There is a £20 admission fee per person.

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