Physical Therapy Utilizing the Harmonica
for Lung and Heart Disorders
Conducted by: Tulsa Read


1. To strengthen lungs afflicted with pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary 
         diseases  such as chronic bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema; and chronic asthma.
2. To strengthen the heart muscles after a heart transplant or open heart surgery.
3. To strengthen the diaphragm, which separates the abdomen from the thoracic cavity.
4. To develop respiratory endurance.
5. To improve conditions such as stress and depression. 
6. To help cut down on medical expenses.

The fourth most common cause of death in the United States is from respiratory maladies.
Approximately fifteen million people a year die from these problems.

These institutions use the harmonica as part of their respiratory therapy, conducted by pulmonary specialists and respiratory therapists. The Florida Hospital Celebration of Health, Florida; Ohio State University College of Nursing; Ohio: and The Deborah Heart and Lung Centre, New Jersey.

The harmonica is the only blow and draw common musical instrument. The only primitive musical  instruments that can be played by blowing and drawing are the Sheng from China; and the Khane, from Laos and Thailand.


Using the harmonica as a physical therapy tool, and as a musical instrument to give you pleasure, can become an addiction.  Take good care of your health and don't smoke.

"Mr. Read is an accomplished musician and harmonica instructor. Harmonica playing does have the potential to improve lung function by strengthening the respiratory muscles. To that  
extent, harmonica playing is beneficial to patients with impaired breathing."

Dr. Scott A. Lerner, MD, FCCP                                                                                                  
Midwest Pulmonary Consultants  Pulmonary Diseases & Critical Care, K.C., MO.                                                                                                

Alveoli:            Air sacs in the lungs, where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in 
                         Chronic bronchitis and emphysema damage the tiny air sacs. These become 
                         inflamed, lose elacticity, enlarge, burst and billow into large air sacs. This puts a
                         strain on the heart, and the oxygen supply to the blood in the lungs is diminished, 
                         causing physical and mental fatigue.
Asthma:          An allergic disease accompanied by wheezing and shortness of breath.
Bacteria:         Small microorganisms that can cause disease.
Bronchitis:     Inflammation of the bronchial tubes that pass the air to and from the lungs.
COPD:             Better known as, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Difficult breathing, 
                          resulting from the airflow through the bronchial tubes within the lungs that is                                           partially blocked.           
Chronic:          Marked by a long duration or frequent occurrence.
Emphysema:  A chronic pulmanory disease making one prone to pneumonia and acute 
Hypoxemia:    Insufficient oxygenation of the blood, causing a rapid pulse and laboured breath.
Larynx:            A triangular, box like chamber at the upper end of the windpipe, containing the 
                          vocal chords.
LRT:                The lower respiratory tract, lungs, and airways to the lungs.
Pharynx:        A short muscular tube that connects the mouth and nasal cavity with the   
                         esophagus and windpipe.
Pneumonia:  Inflammation of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, and chemical irritants.
Sinusitis:       An infection of the sinuses.
URT:               The upper respiratory tract, sinuses, and the throat.
Physical Therapy Exercises for the Lungs, Heart and Sinus Cavities

First, if you do not have any problem standing, then stand up rather than sit down. If you choose to 
          to sit down for these exercises, you will have more of a strain on your breathing, having your 
          abdomen pushed inward.

Second, always breathe through your nose when playing, both inhaling and exhaling.This      
          releases the air pressure in the back of your throat, which allows the proper tone of the notes, 
          and allows the reeds to respond in the inhale position immediately ( instead of having a delay
          or no response from shutting off your nasal breathing ). Raise your eyebrows as you inhale.

Third, to start practicing these exercises, you should inhale and exhale air from the lower part of your
          abdomen, called the diaphragm. Try using 95%  of your air  from the abdomen through your   
          mouth and 5% of your air through your nose, inhaling and exhaling.

Fourth, start practicing these exercises slowly,  then gradually increase your speed. Set a goal to 
          practice, a minimum of one hour a day.
Fifth, as you work with these exercises, think of your harmonica as a tool, rather than a musical 
          instrument, for now.

  B = Blow Notes                                           D = Draw Notes                          = Holding Notes
                                                                                                                           ( Hold for 4 seconds )

                                  1  1                                          1  1  1  1
                                  2  2                                          2  2  2  2
                                  3  3                                          3  3  3  3
                                 B  D                                         B  B  D  D

                                  1  1  1  1                                  1  1  1  1                                
                                  2  2  2  2                                  2  2  2  2                                   
                                  3  3  3  3                                  3  3  3  3
                                 B  B  B  B                                D  D  D  D

                                  1  1  1  1                                   1  1  1  1
                                  2  2  2  2                                   2  2  2  2
                                  3  3  3  3                                   3  3  3  3
                                  B  B  B  D                                D  D  D  B

Also, try practicing all of these exercises by using only hole 1.  Then try using only hole 4.

Taking the Next Step

After you have worked on these exercises every day for about two weeks, you will change your breathing cavity to breathe from the centre of your chest, inhaling and exhaling ( not from the lower part of your abdomen, the diaphragm ). Continue to breathe through your nose at all times. This is the correct method of breathing for the diatonic harmonica. The correct method for breathing for the chromatic harmonica is from the diaphragm area. I strongly recommend using a diatonic harmonica for these exercises.  The air channels are shorter, whereas in the chromatic harmonica  the air channels are longer, which means  it takes more air to play it.. These exercises are not just for the elderly, but  for all ages. If you know of anybody, such as a family member, a relative, friend, or a person you work with, who has or had any lung or heart disorders, then tell them about this information.

Caution:  If you have any serious heart problems, consult with a cardiologist before you attempt these exercises.
Repeat all exercises. Do Not shut off your Nasel Breathing.