Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Erland Westerstrom interview

August 16, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 92
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Erland Westerstrom interview
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Erland Westerstrom joins me on episode 92.
Erland is from Sweden, where he studied Swedish folk music on the harmonica at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, with Filip Jers as one of his teachers there.
Erland released a solo harmonica album in 2020, Andas! (Swedish for breathe), where he makes use of drones, polyphonic rhythms, tongue spilts and other techniques to create self-accompaniment to the melodies of the traditional tunes he plays.
Erland’s latest band is with the trio Västanvinden. This sees the harmonica combining with great effect with the clarinet and cittern, with the harmonica used as much for chordal accompaniment as for melody.
A big part of Erland’s music is playing for dancers, who are part of the show in Sweden.
Erland also does some harmonica maintenance work as well as teaching in Stockholm and online. He is touring with the Västanvinden trio in Europe later in 2023.


Erland's website:



Custom harmonicas for sale:

Great resource for traditional Swedish tunes:

Audio-Technica ATM350 mic:


From Andas! Album:

With Bjorn Gardner:

With Vastanvinden trio:

Tremolo playing:

Graduation concert:

Podcast website:

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Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

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Erland is from Sweden, and specialises in Swedish folk music
Folk music scene in Stockholm is there, if you look for it, with Erland discovering it in his early 20s
The Swedish for harmonica is Munspiel, which translates as ‘mouth play’
Erland’s first instrument was the clarinet, and started playing harmonica in early teens
How learned the clarinet and played in an orchestra
Doesn’t play much clarinet these days, replaced by the harmonica
Similarities between clarinet and harmonica, including the breathing technique
Mainly learned to play the harmonica by ear
Two advantages of being able to read from sheet music
Doesn’t play the chromatic, with the diatonic suiting the style of music Erland plays
Reads sheet music for playing the diatonic
Studied harmonica on the folk course at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm
Filip Jers also studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, and was one of Erland’s teachers there
Also had tuition on the course from violin, accordion and flute, and how that influenced harmonica playing
Dancing is an integral part of Swedish traditional music
Info on Swedish folk music, with much of it deriving from Poland (Polska)
Polska is not the same as Polka, being a three beat rhythm, but different from a waltz
How much is Swedish folk music played outside of Sweden
Link on podcast page where interested people can find resources to learn Swedish folk music
Most Swedish folk music is played in 1st position on harmonica, although Erland uses other positions when required
Also uses some minor harmonicas
Adds overblows and bending on his playing of folk music, which hasn’t been done much by other traditional Swedish players
There are other harmonica players of Swedish folk music, but Erland is one of the few actively gigging
Filip Jers plays some folk, but is more of a jazz player
How Erland started playing folk music on the harmonica, after initially playing blues
Tried to play folk music on clarinet at first, but found it fitted better on harmonica
Started playing in a student folk group
First recordings were with Bjorn Gardner, who is a folk singer songwriter
Released a solo harmonica album in 2020: Andas! (Translates as breathe), recorded at the end of studying at the Royal Academy
The harmonica works very well as a solo instrument
Records one song with a harpist on the album
Use of a drone in solo harmonica song
Makes use of polyphonic techniques, including different tongue spilts
Tries to find out how many chords are available to play on the harmonica (mainly using two notes)
Sometimes uses different tunings, mainly for minor tuned harmonicas (not for major)
Example tuning modification on minor tuned harp is to raise 6 draw a semi-tone
Uses different tongue splits to produce different intervals, drawing inspiration from fiddle players
Creates a drone tuning: which can be done using 2 draw / 3 blow, but Erland tunes 1 draw down a tone to drone on same notes on 1 hole blow and draw
Does anybody else play drones in this same way?
Erland gets a different sound than typical harmonica players due to his polyphonic techniques
Interprets a solo vocal line on harmonica in Polska efter Måns Olsson
Nominated for Swedish Independent Music Producers award for Andas! Album
Album with trio Västanvinden, and how came to combine with a clarinet and cittern
Does a lot of chordal accompaniment on the harmonica with this trio
Often plays two holes to the melody on harmonica to add texture
Playing in unison with the clarinet to create almost a ‘third instrument’
Melodic sections played on harmonica
Plans to release more albums with Västanvinden trio, playing traditional tunes from different parts of Sweden
Trio has been working a lot with two dancers recently, where the dancers are part of the show
Erland also plays the Harmonetta: a harmonica with buttons
Erland also offers maintenance and customisation of harmonicas
Teaches harmonica, both in person and online, and in group classes in Sweden
Enjoys teaching beginners because reminds him to work on the fundamentals
Plays some tremolo harmonica, inspired by Finnish player Jouko Kyhällä
10 minute question: 1. Learn new tunes, 2. Breathing / tone exercises
Harmonica of choice: Hohner and Seydel brands
What difference Erland sees from using custom combs
Uses overblows, reasonably sparingly
Amplification: uses PA
Cups a small condenser mic: ATM 350
Doesn’t use any effects pedals, a little reverb through PA
Future plans: upcoming gigs in Sweden and Europe, including playing for dances