Q: What is a U-block playing?

When I started playing, automatically I used the curled tongue (U-block) to select single notes. For me it was a very natural thing to do. Later I learned to tongue block (TB) and pucker. Now I switch between those three embouchures. All have serious pro's and contra's. I guess the characteristics of puckering and TB-ing have previously been discussed.

For those who don't know how a U-block is done. You curl your tongue around the hole you want to play. In fact you block the holes right and left from the one you play. This could give you a good seal to play single notes.

Let me post you the pro's and con's of the U-block IMAO. Tonewise I'd place it in between pucker and TB. I'm convinced it gives you fatter tone than a pucker, but slightly thinner than a TB. It also allows you to play very fast and accurate. However for bending and other tongue-effects you have to leave the U-block and you loose an awful lot of speed. Also, for playing chromatic the U-block doesn't give me a satisfying tone. For the subtle Toots Thielemans tone, you need a pucker. For blues chromatic (George Smith) you need to TB. We have an expression "It's neither fish nor meat", which means it's neither here nor there. That's the feeling I have about the U-block for chromatic harmonica. For diatonic however I believe it can help you to fatten up your tone...you either have it or you don't. I think you really must be comfortable with the U-block in order to get any gain. To my students I always discourage the U-block in favor of a TB -- "Re: Tongue Blocking (N. Buffalo is a curled tonguer, nah-nah)" 19 May 95 SB

(FMI: "Re: Tongue Blocking ((U-Block)" 19-21 May 95 JT,TH, SB) (FMI: "RE: Tongue blocking (U-block): JT)


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The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into JT30.com in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

Picking Up Blues Harp

A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

Usenet Articles

Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old Harpamps.com website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.

Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

Harp-L Archives 1992 to 2002


Harp Frequently Asked Questions