How To Play Harmonium? Steps & Essential Accessories


How to Play Harmonium
20 May, 2024


The harmonium, with its ethereal tones and rich history, is a captivating instrument that holds a special place in the hearts of music lovers worldwide. It originated in the early 19th century in France. Although it originated in Europe, the instrument became an integral part of Indian culture. It is commonly found in Indian classical, devotional, and folk music traditions.

If you ever want to learn how to play harmonium, you are in the right place. Here’s a step-by-step guide to playing the harmonium and the essential accessories required during the learning process.

What Is a Harmonium?

The harmonium, also known as a “reed organ” or “pump organ,” belongs to the free-reed keyboard instrument family. It produces sound by blowing air through metal reeds and tuning them to different pitches to create musical notes. The harmonium was created by Alexandre Debain in 1840. The harmonium can be operated with both hands or feet by pressing the pedal to create vibrations in the reeds.

How To Play Harmonium?

Know the Basics of the Harmonium

To learn how to play harmonium, one should know its important parts and proper posture. However, it is also important to understand the techniques, methods, and steps needed to play it. A person should be aware of all the white and black keys of the Harmonium keyboard. You should also know the major and minor scales and ragas of Indian classical music.

Learn To Use Fingers and Keys Correctly

After understanding the basics of the instrument, the next most important thing in the process of how to play harmonium is to know the techniques for using the fingers and keys to tune different notes.

  • The harmonium can be played using either the right or the left hand, with the fingers of the other hand positioned on the keys.
  • Each finger has a specific purpose: tuning the higher and lower notes. The thumb at the bottom produces lower notes, while the other fingers (index, middle, ring, and little finger) are tuned to higher notes.

Learn Hand Positioning

Right Hand

  • The right hand is placed on the keyboard, and each finger is positioned to play specific keys.
  • The fingers of the right hand are extended to press the keys and play higher notes.
  • The thumb is placed below the hand and moves up and down to play lower notes, producing soft and melodic tones.

Left Hand

  • Position the left hand at the edges of the bellows.
  • Move the bellows to control them and to play the bass notes.
  • The left hand on the harmonium both plays chords and pumps the bellows to control airflow.

Practice Bellows Control

The bellows play a crucial role in producing the sound in the harmonium, and there are certain steps to learn how to play and control them.

  • Open the bellows, grip the edges with the left hand and thumbs at the bottom.
  • Pull the bellows with your left hand to create vibration in the reeds and increase the airflow, whereas to reduce the airflow, gently release them.
  • It allows air to flow in the harmonium, creates pressure on the reed, and produces musical sounds and notes.
  • Move the bellows with a consistent speed to maintain the air pressure and melody of the sound and the scale.
  • To master the harmonium notes and chords, balancing the coordination between fingers and the bellows is necessary, and it comes only with daily practice.

Start with Scales

Scales are groups of notes arranged in increasing and decreasing order by pitch. The C major scale, which uses only white keys, is also known as the D major scale.

  • Begin by practicing scales to develop finger coordination, technique, and familiarity with the keyboard.
  • Start with basic scales such as C major and G major, and gradually expand to other scales and keys.
  • Pay attention to playing each note evenly and smoothly, and focus on maintaining a consistent tempo and rhythm.

Experiment with Chords

Once you are comfortable with scales, start experimenting with chords. In the journey of how to play harmonium, you should practice using both hands to play basic chords such as major, minor, and seventh. Further, you should experiment with different chord progressions and voicings to create melodic and harmonic variations.

Join Free Online Music Classes

In today’s world, you don’t need to move anywhere to find classes. Thus, you can learn how to play harmonium with the help of internet connectivity. Explore the social media platforms and websites that provide lessons, such as YouTube, Artist Works, Udemy, and Lynda.

Harmonium Accessories

Harmonium Cover

Harmonium covers are important accessories that protect the harmonium from dust and damage. They act as a shield when the instrument is unused and help muffle the harmonium’s sound. Harmonium covers come in different designs, fabrics, and qualities. The materials used to make the cover bags are nylon or other less damageable fabrics, so instruments stay safe while transporting from one location to another.

Carrying Case

The carrying case protects the instrument during transportation. It comes in different varieties made of fiberglass, padded bags or other materials and in different sizes of harmonium. While buying the cases, we look at the bags’ strips, thickness, movability, and fragile quality.

Tuning Kit

The tuning kit includes the tools to adjust and maintain the instrument tuning. The components of the tuning kit include:

  • The tuning hammer is used to adjust the screws and pins of the harmonium.
  • The tuning fork is a fork-shaped metal instrument used to produce pitch when struck.
  • Tuning oil is used to lubricate the machine parts for smooth playing.
  • A screwdriver set is used to adjust the screws of the instrument.

Harmonium Stand

The harmonium stand is used to place the harmonium at a certain height. It is a foldable and adjustable stand made of steel, available at different heights. This stand allows harmonium players to play comfortably.

Foot Pump

A foot pump is used to pump air. It is operated with feet by pressing the two pedals one at a time at the base of the harmonium. It is made of plastic or metal, has a gripped surface to prevent the feet from slipping, and is easy to operate.

Microphones and Amplifiers

Microphones and amplifiers are important accessories for the harmonium. Those who know how to play the harmonium understand its importance when playing at concerts, recordings, or events. Microphones are placed near the harmonium to capture the tune generated while playing, and amplifiers are electronic devices that help boost the sound in a large, high-pitched place.

Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning the harmonium regularly will keep its shine and quality longer. Remove dust or marks with a soft cloth to avoid scratching. Keep the harmonium in a proper, moderate-climatic condition for better performance while playing.


What is a harmonium?

A harmonium is a type of keyboard instrument that belongs to the family of reed organs. The harmonium produces sound by using air to vibrate metal reeds similar to those found in accordions or reed organs.

How to play harmonium?

  • Know the basics of the harmonium
  • Learn to use fingers and keys correctly
  • Learn hand positioning
  • Practice bellows control
  • Start with scales
  • Experiment with chords
  • Join free online music classes

Harmonium accessories

  • Harmonium cover
  • Carrying case
  • Tuning kit
  • Harmonium stand
  • Foot pump
  • Microphones and amplifiers
  • Cleaning supplies


How to play the Harmonium?

  • Know the basics of the harmonium
  • Learn to use fingers and keys correctly
  • Learn hand positioning
  • Practice bellows control
  • Start with scales
  • Experiment with chords
  • Join free online music classes

What are the basic notes of the harmonium?

The seven basic notes of the harmonium are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni or by S, R, G, M, P, D and N.

How do you finger the harmonium?

The fingers are placed curvily on the keyboard of the harmonium. Arrange your thumb (1), index finger (2), middle finger (3), and ring finger (4) for playing.

How long does it take to learn to play the harmonium?

To learn the harmonium techniques, keys, and tunes, you will need approximately a few months to develop the basic skills.

How much does the harmonium cost?

The cost of the harmonium depends on the brand, sound quality, and materials used, and it can vary from $100 to $1500.

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