Best Harmonica For Beginners

I get asked all the time “what is the best harmonica for beginners?” It sounds like an easy question but with all of the harmonicas available choosing one can be a little overwhelming! I have created a brief video showing 4 harmonicas that I think would work well for someone starting out as well as seasoned players. Take a look and I’ll have links to purchase the harmonicas shown below

Blues Harp Turnaround

So here is the tablature for a Blues Harp Turnaround. A Turnaround is a riff to get you from the end of a song back to the beginning when you are soloing. Play this a few times at the end of a 12 bar blues song and your solos will instantly sound better!

Download (PDF, 63KB)

 

This blues harmonica tablature goes along with my YouTube video here:

History Of The Blues Harmonica Concert

A few days ago I purchased and downloaded a really good recording called The History Of The Blues Harmonica Concert. It is a great overview of blues harmonica playing from before WWII up into modern times.

Put on in 2007 at the Harmonica Masterclass and released in 2010 it features a few great harmonica teachers.

Joe Filisko opens up presenting excellent examples of pre war blues including a great rendition of a train song and Lost John. many more tracks and then we are treated to David Barrett demonstrating post war blues and especially the amplified stylings of Little Walter. He also demonstrates Big Walter, George Harmonica Smith, Jerry McCain (one of my favorites) and Junior Wells.

Kinya Pollard performs a tribute to Paul Butterfield and Dennis Gruenling finishes off the night by giving us a glimpse of the future of blues harmonica (which is now considering this was recorded in 2007).

The playing on this recording is nothing short of fantastic and the spoken introductions before each track are informative. Overall, this is a fantastic album and should have a spot in every harmonica student’s collection.

Skype harmonica lessons

I am now teaching harmonica lessons over Skype! It has been going well so far and while not quite as good as in person lessons, the video lessons can impart a lot more information than a sheet of tablature.

I’ll be posting an information page soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in Skype lessons, drop me a line and I’ll get back to you with the info.

thank you!

Charlie McCoy solo on Waltz Across Texas

Here’s an easy Charlie McCoy harmonica solo on the Ernest Tubb song Waltz Across Texas.

To play it you will need a diatonic harmonica in the key of D and country tuned. Country tuning is simply the 5th hole draw note raised a half step. When played in crossharp, this note is changed from the dominant seventh to the major seventh. Charlie McCoy used this tuning often.

In this solo he stays very close to the melody of the song. Get the Ernest Tubb recording of the song an listen to his phrasing. He really makes the most of a short solo which in turn makes the song and that’s what counts.

Leave a comment and let me know how you like it.

Download (PDF, 42KB)

 

Easy Harmonica Songs to Play

I thought in this post I would continue where I left off in Play me A Song And Don’t Be A Foot Shuffler and put up a few songs that are not only easy to play on the harmonica but are important songs to know. They are perfect songs to play when asked the dreaded question…”can you play a song?” Instead of looking away, shuffling your feet and mumbling something about needing a band to back you up, play one of these songs. It’s important to be able to play songs people can recognize. No one really cares if you can rip off some fast blues riff. While flashy and might impress another harmonica player it’s melodies people want to hear. I’ll be adding songs as time goes on so check back now and then.

The first song is Red River Valley. I tabbed it out in the low range of the harmonica. after you learn it there, try working it out in the high range of the harp. Enjoy!

Leave a comment and let me know what songs you want to learn!

Download (PDF, 491KB)

 

The next song is Simple Gifts. One of my favorite songs this one is easy to work up a tongue blocking arrangement.

Download (PDF, 645KB)

Draw 2 or Blow 3?

One of the more common questions I receive from beginning blues harp players is whether to use the draw on hole 2 or blow on hole 3. This is a valid question because they are the same note. However, if you play each one and really listen to the sound of the harmonica you will hear that while the note is the same the inflection and tone of the note is not. For most peoples’ ears, the draw 2 note sounds more gritty and powerful. This is why when playing blues, the draw 2 is king. Also, the draw 2 is the “home base” or root note for playing Crossharp.

Cross Harp Chart

While it is preferable to play the draw 2, it is perfectly ok to use the blow 3 as a passing note in order to keep the airflow moving in the same direction which might be needed to play a lick that goes by rather quickly.

Experiment with the Hole 2 draw and hole 3 blow and let me know what you think.

Have fun!