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Blues harp learning and playing -sometimes there is not enough time to surf the net to locate the site that is particularly useful, so I thought I would review three or four of the best for finding out about blues harp learning and playing.

Blues harps Ray Harris

I would have to start with Adam Gussow, who as a teacher, is now well known and his site does not disappoint. It may not have many flashing lights but for straight forward intelligent information then it is certainly worth a look.


Two items that interested me was Adam’s take on blues harp tablature and the assessment of levels of proficiency:

A word about my tabs:  Many years ago, when I got my first harmonica teaching gig at the Guitar Study Center in New York, I purchased a few of the commercially-available instruction books.  Most of them used standard harp tablature–numbered arrows pointing up and down–but none of them indicated, with even minimal precision, the duration of each note, not to mention the rhythmic emphases (syncopation or “swing”) that made for real blues.  A few of them offered this information in the form of actual musical notation instead of tablature, but like most harp players, I didn’t read music.  So I developed my own form of tablature from the ground up.

My tabs give you numbers and arrows to indicate which hole you play and whether it’s draw or blow, like standard harp tabs, but they also give you a precise rhythmic count underneath the arrows.  As you’ll see if you order one of my videos, I’m a stickler about counting time.  If you can’t count your way through a tab, you can’t play the song with the precision and intensity it deserves.  Modern Blues Harmonica is NOT about mush-mouth harp.  No matter what level you are, I believe in treating you like a serious musician.  Counting time accurately is part of what it means to be a musician.  My tabs, in any case, are specifically designed to ground you in rhythmic fundamentals.  Most of them are hand-drawn, but please don’t confuse this handmade aspect with carelessness, backwardness, or lack of precision.   I take great pride in my work.  You can find a few other accurate, precision-engineered harp transcriptions on the web–Glenn Weiser and David Barrett are both excellent–but I believe that my tabs offer a combination of accuracy, accessibility, and an attention to syncopation that makes them unique.

What level are you?

INTERMEDIATE: You are able to bend the 4, 3, and 2 draw without much trouble.  The 4 and 2 sound pretty good; the 3 isn’t as bluesy as it should be because you don’t yet have the control to consistently hit the “blue third,” a ½-step bend.  You’ve probably tried tongue-blocking but you’re not very good at it.  Simple melodies are easy for you.  You’ve spent some time jamming along with 12-bar changes—either CDs or jam tracks or, if you’re lucky, the guitar-playing of a friend.  You may even have gotten up at a jam session, or sat in with a local band.  You have some very basic harmonic knowledge:  you know, for example, that the 2 draw is the root of the I chord, and that the 4 draw is a good note to play on over the V chord.  But you’re still finding your way through the 12-bar changes and you need some guidance about which notes/holes work best over which chords.  When asked to improvise over 12-bar blues changes for two or three choruses, you run out of ideas.  Your playing definitely sounds “bluesy” to your friends and fellow players, but you’re beginning to realize just how much you don’t know about blues harmonica.  You occasionally still have trouble getting clean, strong single notes, although moving from hole to hole now seems quite natural to you.  You can keep the beat fairly well and you may even have a chord pattern—chugging, a train song—that really drives.  You’re not sure what “swing” is, as a rhythmic concept, or how to work it into your playing.

The forum section is useful not only for present forum posts but for the archive of posts – you are bound to find some answers to some of your technique , technical and tablature questions.

And if you want to buy…there are plenty of resources to buy and download.

And there are the lessons -great teacher and great lessons on all aspects of harp playing as well as maintenance and gear.

Site 2


From the introduction:

Along with the text are lots of pictures and diagrams, charts, and tables, to summarize information and provide a quick reference to information in an easy to find, clear, and understandable way.  There is advice to help you choose which harp to get, what keys to get first, and much much more.

A mine of good information here -just look at the range of topics covered on this site:

How a Harmonica Works
Holding the Harp
Which Harp to Get
Tab Action Notation
Make Your Own Tab
Note Layout
Note Layout “Game”
Diatonic Techniques
& Examples

Overblows and Overdraws
Amplified Harp
Circle of 5ths
Note Layout on a Keyboard
Note Layout on Manuscript
Layout Generator
Layout Description
Key of C Layouts
Basic Diatonic Chords
Ways to Play Music
How to Play Blues
The Blues Scales
Second Position
Third Position
First Position
Fifth Position
Blues Theme 101, Cross Harp
101 in Straight Harp
Musical Vision
Motivated Notes
Improvising Over Chords
Improvising with Melodic Rhythm
Composed Improvisation
Breathing Patterns
Odd Rhythms
Special Tunings
Practice Tips
Reed Gapping
Reed Slot Embossing
Reed Replacement
Harp Physics

Enough there to get you started.. a whole year of study..

Site 3

Harmonica Club

About harmonica club…the beginning…

Harmonica Club.com began in June of 2000 when we started building a harmonica tab website. People used email their songs and tabs and I’d post them on the site. We were eventually able to develop a site where members could upload songs and tabs directly, each member having their own profile.

There is a forum and a members area for those who want to sign up and get extra benefits and also a section on learning and playing:

Songs to Learn
Note Bending
Octave Transpose
Harmonica Software
Key Change Table
Jam Session
Midi Files

In the forum area you can find beginners and advanced sections,such as :

Advanced Discussions
For the more technical topics, position play, amps and microphones, accompaniment, modification and repair of harps, etc.

Some useful information when playing with other musicians,with an interactive chart:

If the song is in the Key of “E”  you could play a Key “A”  harmonica in second position, or you could play a Key “D”  “harmonica in third position.

and of course,lots of links to keep you surfing:

  • BandFox – Building the largest online directory of Musicians, Join or Start a Band.
  • Harmonica for Beguinners – Harmonica for beginners shows how to play the harmonica with simple easily followed beginner harmonica info.
  • BestPractice – An open-source audio time-stretching tool for Windows.
  • Harmonica Academy – Online harmonica lessons for those wishing to learn harmonica.
  • KouqinLinks.com – A large Chinese based harmonica link directory.
  • Bluesblast.com – Free Guitar Jam Tracks
  • Antoine Harmonicas – Custom Harmonicas by Antoine Hamel
  • Harmonica Company.com – The Harmonica Company – Hohner, Suzuki, Lee Oskar, Bushman, Shaker…
  • Modern Blues Harmonica – Hosted by Adam Gussow A website for blues harmonica players seeking to improve..
  • β-harps – Sydel Harmonicas – customized by Ben Bouman.
  • Atlanta Harmonica Lessons – private/group harmonica lessons in Georgia.
  • Cumberland Custom Cases – Offers hand-made leather diatonic harmonica cases, guitar straps and belts.
  • King of the Blues – Backing Tracks.
  • Harmonica Masterclass Company – Organized by David Barrett, harmonica teacher and writer. Bi-annual seminars in California.
  • SPAH – The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica.
  • Harmonica Lessons.com – One of the most popular Harmonica sites on the net.
  • Harmonica Store.com – Buy Harmonicas and accessories online.
  • Jon Gindick’s Harmonica Central – A great Player and Renowned Teacher of Harmonica.
  • Harmonica Boogie.com – An online Jam Session hosted by Rick Beall.
  • Cross Harp.com – The home of Dennis Cooper The Harmaniac.
  • Site 4

    BluesharpA website devoted to the history and lore of blues harmonica music

    This site has some lessons:

    first harmonica lesson  
    second harmonica lesson  
    third harmonica lesson  
    fourth harmonica lesson  
    fifth harmonica lessonand links

    BluesHarp and Blues related links

    and blues legends

    BluesHarp LegendsNEW! Courtesy of The All Music Guide to the Blues we have all new photos, bio’s and MP3 music clips of the Founding Fathers of the BluesHarp… the men who invented and defined the Blues Harmonica sound.

    and some further links on the site:

    The Little Walter Page at King Biscuit Time

    The Paul Butterfield Page at King Biscuit Time

    The Jimmy Reed Page at King Biscuit Time

    The Sonny Boy Williamson I Page at King Biscuit Time

    a William Clark tribute site

    So I think ,if you are an enthusiastic  beginner or an experienced player, you will find enough on these sites to excite and to extend your interest and playing.