There are lots of books, audio, video, and website resources from many superb harmonica player/educators that are available for learning harmonica. HarpNinja is not designed to replace this excellent body of harmonica knowledge, but is meant to be used a tool to speed your learning in addition to whatever program or teacher you choose to use. It does this by providing real time feedback on the accuracy of your playing, helping you to visualize the note layouts of different keys, tunings, scales and chords – this being one of the biggest challenges for harmonica players that other instrument learners don’t have. Additional HarpNinja modes help you practice and learn Songs, Scales, and Riffs faster, as well as provide a quick and easy music theory calculator via the interactive Circle of Fifth’s. Here is a selection of some of the best free and paid subscriber harmonica learning resources.
Mojo means the art or practice of casting magic or spells. In the context of harmonica it means captivating the audience with the power of your music.
A Dojo is where you practice and train the way of anything, as long as the way leads you to enlightenment.
A HarpNinja trains in the Dojo to work their Mojo!
Make sure you are in a quiet environment so that the microphone only picks up your harmonica playing. Pitch tracking is easily thrown off by other sounds.
In Tuning Dojo or Melody Dojo listen to the tune a few times to get a feel for the it before trying to play along. Use the speed slider to listen to it at a different speeds. A faster speed will make it easier to hear the melody. When you are ready to start practising set the speed to the slowest speed possible you are comfortable with. Speed comes with practice. Beginners should drag the speed slider to the left, the default difficulty setting for “Slow”.
Pitch recognition will work best if you mute the inbuilt harmonica sound playing over your speakers (press the speaker mute button above the song title). It’s good to listen to tune first, but the inbuilt harmonica sound can also trigger the pitch recognition when you are playing your own harmonica. Use the mute button on screen to quickly mute or unmute the harmonica playback sound.
There is also a mute button for the microphone on the pitch recognizer panel. You can use this in combination with the speaker mute to practise the songs however you wish:
Mic on, Speaker On: Depending on your microphone sensitivity you may find notes get triggered by HarpNinja instead of you.
Mic on, Speaker Off: Best combination to allow for most accurate pitch tracking.
Mic off, Speaker On: Listen to your harp & HarpNinja playback without pitch recognition. Useful for more advanced players at higher speeds where pitch tracking has difficulty with complex short note melodies.
Mic off, Speaker Off: Play by visual guide only.
This screenshot shows Melody Dojo with Mic On, Speaker Off
Song mode – song playing example
You will need to play through a few times to get a sense of how the pitch recognition will work best for your playing style. You may find you will have to adjust your breathing and/or embouchure (mouth/lip position) to trigger the notes correctly.
HarpNinja uses analytics to collect gameplay and diagnostics information. This is completely anonymous and provides no identifiable user information. You can turn off this feature off at any time by unchecking “Allow Analytics Data Collection” from the main settings screen.
HarpNinja Main Menus
This screenshot shows the start screen.
Main screen view
Select your Dojo to start that mode. C = 12-Hole Chromatic Harmonica Dojo, D = 10-Hole Diatonic Harmonica Dojo. If you are online you will see a live news feed along the bottom of the screen. You can also control this manually by the online/offline button. Clicking on the newsfeed will take you directly to this website.
Settings is where you change the various global settings.
Main settings display
Menu Vol slider controls the menu sound fx volume
Harp Vol slider controls the harmonica volume
Change Color allows you to customize the background color
Difficulty controls song playback speed
OverBlow checkbox: to control display of overblows in Tuning Dojo
Allow Analytics Data Collection checkbox: to control submission of anonymous usage data in order to improve HarpNinja
Audio Input selects how HarpNinja will hear your harmonica
Audio Output should be set to Harmonica. Set to None if you want to mute the harmonica sound for some reason.
Tip: HarpNinja will react to sound also played from the app itself if the volume is to loud, which could interfere with the pitch recognition of your harmonica playing. Optimal use of HarpNinja would be to use headphones to listen to HarpNinja output, so the app will only hear your harmonica input (assuming you are also playing in a quiet location).
Help Screen is a condensed version of the help on this website.
Select either a Chromatic or Diatonic button and you will enter the main part of the application for that harmonica type. A quick overview of the controls on the Settings screen which you access by pressing the Settings button:
Top Left: Harmonica Key and Tuning Selector. This will change the displayed harmonica to the Key/Tuning you select, and this should be set to the same as the Harmonica you have in your hands.
Top Right: Key, Scale or Chord Selector. You can overlay any of these on the displayed harmonica, and have them play by pressing the small play button to the left of the displayed scale notes that will show up below it. Clear the overlay by selecting the first entry
Notes or Intervals checkbox will switch the display between notes and intervals
Low Tuning will drop the harmonica tuning down a whole octave
Transparency slider will fade out the notes display, allowing you to practice your memorization skills as you begin to build your mental models.
The Tuning Dojo is where you can visualize all the notes on a diatonic (10-hole) harmonica.
Here we see the screen on entry to the Tuning Dojo. This is the default of Key C, Major Tuning. Notes display is selected.
Diatonic harmonica view with pitch display
The green highlighted note C5 (1 = Tonic note) shows it is being recognized by the real time pitch recognition. The note display is the pitch recognizer, and shows you both how close your harmonica is in tune with the reference note for that hole and pitch being played, and also how loud you are playing.
It looks complex but lets take it step by step and break it down by quadrant, like a compass, in order to quickly understand all the features.
HarpNinja User Interface Compass
Depending on whether you chose C or D on the main menu, the initial display harmonica in the middle is either:
A Diatonic (10-Hole) Harmonica in the Key of C Major (Richter) Tuning.
A 12-Hole Chromatic C Harmonica in the Key of C Standard or Solo Tuning.Grab the same harmonica and just start playing to see what happens! You can also click on the individual notes to hear them.
A quick overview of the controls according to the UI Compass show above:
TIP! Remember the harmonica key and tuning is set via the Settings panel.
Top: The seven buttons will be set to the seven most common chords, with the tonic, or #1, chord being set by the Harmonica Position in the circle dojo. By default this will always be 1st position. Watch the tutorial videos on the website for guidance on how to use this best. Pressing each button will load a preset chord that also shows the position of that chord for the harmonica tuning and song display key.
Right Zoom Button will transition into zoom mode, removing much of the interface so you can just concentrate on the harp. The slider controls transparency of the display. Have a play with it while playing to get a feel for how you might use it. In zoom mode you can use the Pitch to Tab button to display the tab detected from the pitch detection. This is only displayed if the pitch display is “unlocked”. See “Bottom” notes below.
Bottom Right: Audio Record/Playback controls to record short (up to 30 seconds) snippets of your playing for feedback analysis. Recording will automatically mute the microphone on playback. During tune playback this function is replaced by a song control panel, where you can pause song playback or control the speed of playback.
Bottom: Displays the real time pitch detected and volume of your playing. The microphone icon also functions as a “mute microphone” button by clicking on it. A red circle will display on it when muted. Click again to un-mute. By default the “Lock” checkbox is unchecked, so when you play the pitch detector will be displayed at the note location on the harmonica. If you check this (ie: Locked) the pitch detector will be locked in position on the bottom of the screen.
Select Tune Button to display the “Select Tune” dialog (More info on this below).
This shows the same screen with Intervals displayed instead of notes.
Diatonic harmonica view
By pressing the Select Tune button on the bottom left you bring up the Select Tune Menu. You can go back to the main menu, or select a tune to play. This is similar to the Melody Dojo, but different visually.
Song mode – song selection 2
If you elect to play a tune you will get a short countdown and then notes on the harmonica display will light up one after another as the tune plays. Currently all songs are in Key C, Major Tuning so be sure you have this selected. You can play along with the tune, using the changing color of the note to time when you have to play. It starts out red and slowly changes to green. When it is fully green it means the note will be playing, so you ideally want to play the selected note on your harmonica just before. The note will remain green to indicate how long you need to keep playing it for to score full points. If you select the Pause Mode checkbox the tune playback will halt until you play the correct note.
Overblows can be displayed by enabling them from the checkbox in the main settings screen.
Diatonic Harmonica Overblow view
The keyboard screen is essentially the same as the Harmonica Screen above but uses a keyboard display layout instead of a harmonica.
Keyboard mapping view
Circle Of 5ths Screen
Access the Circle Dojo be pressing the Circle of Fifths button on the Top Menu. The Circle Dojo is a quick and easy music theory calculator – an interactive Circle of Fifth’s. Explore further by reading the Harmonica Learning Resource links above (ex: Diatonic Harmonica Reference).In the top right of the screen you can select either position or chords.
Positions: This is suitable for beginners, and will show you all 12 harmonica positions for the key that you select. Just touch on any letters (that represent the key). The key you touched will now be labeled 1 (as the Tonic key is known) and moving clockwise round the circle are progressively numbered from up to 12. The following screenshot illustrates all the harmonica positions for key of C.
Circle of Fifths Positions
Chords: This is a more complex mode that will suite intermediate to advanced players who are composing songs or playing in a band, & need to quickly calculate the best harmonica/position to play for a song or chord sequence. The following screen shot shows Key of C 1st position. Red numbers indicate major chord, Blue indicate minor chords, and Green diminished. So you can see here 1 (Tonic) = C, 4 (Subdominant) = F, and 5 (Dominant) = G .
Circle of Fifths – position selection 2
If we keep the key of the Harmonica as C (top left list box) and select 2nd/Mixolydian from the position list box next to the key, we see the following:
Circle of Fifths – position selection
The numbers and types of the chords change according to the music theory of chord/scale progressions.
If you press the back button you will go back to the tuning dojo and the chordbuttons on the top will be populated according to the key and position you chose in the circle of fifths.
The Melody Dojo is an advanced game mode for practising and learning Songs, Scales, & Riffs. You will need to use a standard 10-Hole C Major harmonica.
Song mode – song selection
Select the type of tune you wish to practise, then select one of the tunes from that type and press Play. After a short countdown playback will start. The next few screens illustrate how to play. Select “Pause Mode” if you want the game to stop if you miss the note, and it will wait for you to play the correct note before proceeding to the next one.
When the notes scrolling down the screen reach the green “hit zone” you score points by playing the correct note on your own Harmonica.
Green means draw, Blue means blow. The number indicates the harmonica hole, and the length indicates how long you must play the note for in order to score maximum points. Bends are indicated in red, with the number indicating the number of steps to bend down or up.