How to Play the Blues on a Harmonica

Blues is a very famous musical genre played on the harmonica which many people enjoy listening to. Before you start playing the blues, be aware of general harmonica techniques and basics. You will require a 10 hole diatonic harmonica to effectively play the blues. Learning to play the blues on a harmonica takes a lot of patience and plenty of practice. If you have what it takes then follow these guidelines to learn how to play the blues on a harmonica.

Things Required:

– 10 hole diatonic harmonica
– Ace of Harps: Charlie Mussel White CD
– The Paul Butterfield Blues Band CD
– The Blues World of Little Walter CD
– His Best: Sonny Boy Williamson CD


  • 1

    Listen to the Blues

    Listen to as many blues recordings or CDs as you can to get a good feel for it. Be attentive to the chord changes and try to locate them effectively. You should be able to know the different instruments being played. It is advised to tap your feet and clap to the rhythm of the blues. Count 1-2-3-4 to get the 4/4 rhythm usually present in these type of songs. Concentrate on the 2 and the 4 (shuffle rhythm), that is 1 and the 2 and the 3 and the 4 and the... instead of 1-2-3-4.

  • 2

    Playing the Blues

    Do not suck on the harmonica but rather breathe deeply to find your rhythm and draw on hole 4 of the instrument. Draw with the vowel “e.” Then change your tongue position and mouth to say “u.” This will decrease the pitch of your tone. After that, go back between the two vowels. You will realise the pitch changing while you are playing. This is known as bending notes, a skill important for playing the blues. Also, bend on holes 5 and 3 of the harmonica. Do this on all 10 holes and check the differences in how tough they are to bend. You have to close your hands around the instrument when drawing.

  • 3

    Further instructions

    While playing the blues, practice opening and closing your hands around the harmonica. Practice the blues scale up and down until you can play on all of the notes easily. Bend notes on holes 4 and 5 as they are mostly used in this genre of music. Also, play along various blues recordings using the instrument in different keys.

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