This is one of the most valuable tips (along with practicing slowly) you may ever get, so please pay attention. I speak from experience, and I don’t want you to suffer the same setbacks I’ve had.
Here’s the tip: If you do frequent, short practices you will improve faster than if you do infrequent, long practices.
It’s that simple.
Of course, if you do frequent, long practices you’ll probably improve even quicker but we all have lives, families, responsibilities and other real-world commitments. Playing harmonica should be a fun time for you, not a chore.
I usually recommend you aim for at least thirty minutes practice a day. Some days that half hour might sound like a lot, but if you break it down into, for example, one ten minute practice, one five minute practice and one fifteen minute practice across the day it suddenly looks much more realistic.
One of the joys of the harmonica is that you can take it anywhere with you and have it constantly available. You can practice in the morning while you’re waiting for your boyfriend to get out of the bathroom, while you’re waiting in the car to pick someone up, while you’re at a bus stop (though careful not to annoy anyone), while you’re waiting for dinner to cook, I’ve even heard of people practicing on the toilet though I’m not sure I’d recommend that one.
The point is the more frequently you have the harmonica in your mouth the more you maintain your familiarity with it, and your muscle memory develops and solidifies. If you don’t touch a harp all week and only practice for four hours on a Sunday afternoon you’ll spend the first two hours trying to regain that familiarity, and you’ll have to do the same next week. What a massive waste of valuable practice time!
I’m reminded of this specifically because I’ve been neglecting my own practice for many weeks and I honestly feel like I’ve lost a connection with the instrument. My playing, tone and improvising skills have taken a nose dive. Now I need to spend some serious time getting back up to speed prior to a gig next week. And that’s not fun.
Keep your harp handy and play it often every day and have fun doing it. That’s the trick.