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Introduction

Free-reed aerophone - a musical instrument where sound is produced as air flows past
a vibrating reed in a frame. Air is generated by breath or with a pair of bellows.
Diatonic scale - using only the tones of a major, minor or modal scale. For example,
starting at the note C on a piano and playing all the white notes until you get to the next
C is a major scale.
Chromatic scale - a scale made up entirely of semi-tones (all the black and white keys
on the piano).
Chord - playing more than one pitched sound at a time, simultaneously.
Kazoo - a wind instrument which adds a buzzing timbre to a players voice when one
hums into it.

The Instrument:
The harmonica is a free-reed instrument in the same family as the harmonia, accordion,
melodica, Argentinian bandoneon and Chinese hulusi.
You play the harmonica by blowing air into and drawing air out of one hole or multiple
holes. When you pass air through the harmonica, the air causes reeds inside the
instrument to vibrate up and down and make sound. Have you ever taken a blade
of grass between your two thumbs and blown air through it to make a high-pitched
screech? This is a very simple free-reed instrument!
There are many different sized harmonicas, with longer reeds making deeper sounds
and shorter reeds making higher sounds. Svng play several different types of
harmonica, including the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas, the bass harmonica and
the chord harmonica or harmonetta.

Detta Danford & Love Music Festival

Activity 1: Making a Kazoo


Practical

Thick paper / thin card


2 cocktail sticks
Wax paper / baking parchment

20 - 30 mins

Individual
Primary

Although making a harmonica may not sound like an easy task, you can make a very
simple sort of kazoo. Kazoos are wind instruments that add a buzzing timbre to a
players voice when s/he hums into it. One of Svngs many musical influences is the
jug bands of the 1920s. A jug band is a band that uses traditional and homemade
instruments. These would often include washtubs, washboards, spoons and a comb and
tissue kazoo!
Heres how to make your own!
1. Take your sheet of A4 paper or card and cut it down to a size of about 22cm by 16cm.
2. Roll it into a cone shape, with the wide end forming a circle with a diameter of around
4cm and the narrow end a circle with a diameter of around 1cm.
3. Tape the cone together with sticky tape so that it doesnt unravel.
4. Now take your piece of baking parchment and cut a square to fit over the wide end of
the cone. To make sure it fits, maybe make it around 6cm square.
5. With your sticky tape stick the baking parchment over the wide end of the cone. Make
sure it is not completely tight, but that it has a little bit of room to move in and out. I
normally stick mine down with a little tape at each corner, so that the paper is snug, but
loose!
6. Once all the tape is in place put the narrow end of the cone to your mouth and sing a
note into your kazoo! It should make a vibrating buzzing noise as you sing.
7. Try singing a tune you all know into your kazoos together. You could try Happy Birthday,
for example.
Maybe you could create your own class jug band. What sorts of things could you bring in
from home to use as musical instruments? You could combine these with your kazoos!
There is another group performing at Love Music Festival that is also inspired by jug
bands - can you find out which group it is?

www
.lovem
usicfestiva
l.com

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The History:
The harmonica first appeared in Vienna in the early 1800s and was primarily used to
play German and European folk music. However, its popularity greatly increased when
it made it over the seas to the USA in the early 1900s, where it found its home in blues,
folk and country music.
Although President Lincoln carried a harmonica in his pocket, it was considered a toy
instrument and was associated with the poor. Serviceman in the civil war would entertain
themselves with the harmonica and Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp were also players. The
first recordings were race-records, intended for the African-American market of the
Southern states, but by the 1950s the harmonica had made it to the Northern states as
well, in the blues music of Chicago, Detroit and St Louis.
African-Americans playing the harmonica at this time started using amplification. A
player called Marion Little Walter Jacobs (who is also one of Svngs favourite players)
revolutionised the instrument by playing the harmonica with a microphone. Little Walter
used a bullet microphone, like the ones used by taxi dispatchers, cupped in his hands
with the harmonica. The introduction of amplification allowed the harmonica to become
much more audible, even cutting above the sound of an electric guitar. This enabled
it to have a leading role in blues and rock music, but it also gave it its punchy sound.
Increasingly players discovered that by tightening the air around the harp, the harmonica
could produce a powerful, distorted sound, somewhat reminiscent of a saxophone.
For short film about Little Walter and the harmonica, go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUwfrj9aMNA&feature=player_embedded

The Players:
Famous players from around this time include Howlin Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson
II, Muddy Waters and Slim Harpo, who experimented with different techniques such as
note bending. Through the years the harmonica has also been played by Eric Clapton,
Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and John Lennon.
Today, as well as being played by the fabulous Svng, the sound is being kept alive in
the blues and rock world by players such as Jason Ricci and Carlos del Junco and in
bands such as the Libertines and Babyshambles, where Pete Doherty plays on tracks
such as Albion and Kilamangiro. Check out Yuri Lane, for his amazing harmonica /
beatboxing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHUuqsSCn5g

www
.lovem
usicfestiva
l.com

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Harmonica Bands:
As well as being used as a solo and ensemble instrument in the rock and blues world,
there have been many harmonica bands, trios and quartets throughout the history of
the instrument, many playing arrangements of popular songs of the day, or classical,
jazz and swing arrangements. One Brazilian group, called Walterama, was set up in
celebration of the legendary Little Walter.
http://www.myspace.com/projetowalterama
However, as you will soon be experiencing at Sonic Harmonic, nobody plays the
harmonica quite like Svng, in fact not even at all like Svng! The band has a completely
new take on this, now somewhat over-looked, instrument. In the words of band member,
Jouko Kyhala, Harmonica quartets used to be mostly novelty acts, playing light classical
music with an unlikely instrument. We, on the other hand, compose our own material
and make it just the kind of music we like.

Three Strange Facts About the Harmonica:


1. Playing the harmonica requires inhaling and exhaling strongly against resistance. This
action helps develop a strong diaphragm and deep breathing using the entire lung
volume. Pulmonary specialists have noted that playing the harmonica resembles the
kind of exercise used to rehabilitate patients with breathing problems and asthma.
Learning to play a musical instrument also offers motivation in addition to the exercise
component. Because of this, many pulmonary rehabilitation programs have begun to
incorporate the harmonica.
2. The harmonica is the worlds best selling instrument.
3. During a performance in 1994, Ramon Barrero, a Mexican musician famous for playing
the worlds smallest harmonica, inhaled the harmonica and choked to death.

www
.lovem
usicfestiva
l.com

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Activity 2. Listening and Comparing


Listening, comparing and writing
Computer, internet
access & speakers
Paper & pens / pencils

45 - 60 mins

Whole class / groups


Any age

Listen to the Love Music Festival Jukebox. Can you find the tracks that include the
harmonica? As well as the incredible sound of Svng and their quartet of harmonicas,
you can find some of the other bands that Svng members play in.
See if you can find tracks by Markku Lepist and Farther-Out. Listen and think about the
following things:
How is the harmonica used?
Are there any other instruments playing?
If so, what are they?
How would you describe this music?
What is similar and different about these two tracks?
Have you got any questions to ask Svng about them or the harmonica? Svng will be
presenting a Glow Meet before your festival performance, where they will demonstrate
some of the harmonicas they play and explain a little more about how the instruments
work. All we need to make the Glow Meet complete is you and your questions! So
please add them to the discussion board in our Glow group or email them to me at
detta@lovemusicfestival.com.

www
.lovem
usicfestiva
l.com

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