What is “BadAss Harmonica”?

There is a blues sub-culture that is full of amazing people and powerful, passionate music. How do I know this? – because I’ve been part of this culture for years and many of these people are my friends. I am first and foremost a blues musician & performer, with a vast knowledge & respect of the history and tradition of this music…as well many other things related to blues harmonica, especially vintage microphones! I love this music and I love to learn, and this is why I love to teach, perform and do my radio show.

Here at BadAssHarmonica.com, I want to get you connected with the juiciest harmonica blues from the past & present, and give you the inside scoop on what’s new in my own performing and recording career. I’ll give you resources to inspire and focus your efforts to master this instrument…and help you find YOUR place in this scene and to make your journey more informative, fun, and exciting!!

Teaching experience:

  • over 20 years of private students & group classes/workshops
  • Turtle Bay Music School
  • David Barrett Harmonica Masterclasses
  • SPAH Harmonica Conventions
  • Buckeye Harmonica Festivals
  • Garden State Harmonica Festivals
  • Jon Gindick Harmonica Jam Camps
  • Joe Filisko’s Blues Harmonica Class
  • Augusta Blues Week
  • Euro-Blues Blues Week (UK)
  • Gitarrentage-Shorndorf (Germany)
  • Natchel’ Blues Network Harmonica workshop

blues harmonica, blues harp, harmonica lessons, harmonica microphones, blues radio history

I’ve decided to not follow the “forum” layout and philosophy here for several reasons:

  1. I want this site to be mostly educational, informative, and a place where I can share what I do in both the performing AND teaching arenas. Many people have their own opinions (including myself!), and are rightly entitled to them. However, there seems to be so much mis-information on the harmonica and it’s applied techniques out here on the “web”. I want to try to have as much useful information as possible, without letting the opinions get in the way of the facts…even my own. I will talk about my opinion on some topics as well, but when I do I will present it as such.
  2. I COMPLETELY value the feedback and suggestions sent in, and will take each & every one into consideration. I will take questions (I have a Q&A’s page here), and want to create an environment where any questions relating to blues & roots harmonica can be asked, and intelligently answered. And if I don’t have a sufficient answer, I will do my best find one for you.
  3. While almost ALL of the people online are completely respectful of one another in a forum or community setting, things can get heated most when people offer their strong opinions on certain matters. At the same time, I am not here to preach what is “best” or what is most conducive to this site, but I will do my best to provide clear, truthful information and instructional materials (soon) on blues & roots harmonica playing and it’s techniques…as well as other related information.

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(click for Dennis Gruenling’s discography INCLUDING harp key/position info!)

About Dennis Gruenling:

Dennis Gruenling has been laying down some of the best blues & roots harmonica on the East Coast for almost 20 years. After receiving his first harmonica as a gift, he had heard his first blues record and was immediately hooked! He already was a life-long music fan (having grown up on country & western and big band/oldies), and had a record-buying addiction, but this took him in a whole new direction. Before long, Dennis was tracking down all the harmonica and blues records he could find, and tried to learn everything he heard.

Dennis Gruenling on blues harmonica, blues harp, harmonica lessons

Having spent some time in New Orleans in 1992-3, Dennis came back home to New Jersey and quickly gained a reputation as a rising star on the local blues scene working as a sideman in several different settings. By this time he was not only learning the classic harmonica songbook note-for-note (Little Walter, Big Walter, George Smith, James Cotton, etc…) but was also learning from his growing record collection of  blues/swing/jazz saxophonists  (Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, Willis Jackson, Red Prysock, etc…). This was totally inline with his musical vision and he started putting together his dream band that would incorporate harmonica & saxophone as a mini-horn section. Ever since his self-titled debut with that band (Jump Time) hit the streets in 1999, Dennis has been pulling in countless fans and numerous accolades from critics & musicians around the world for his swinging, highly original harmonica sound, and top-notch band. Dennis has pushed the boundaries further for the sound of blues harmonica, taking from the best traditional harmonica techniques, but also pulling from horn influences from the 40’s & 50’s, and pioneering a whole new sound and direction for the instrument.

Dennis Gruenling on blues harmonica, blues harp, harmonica lessons, recording sessions

Along the way, Gruenling has shared the stage with many top names in the blues & roots world, such as Pinetop Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Homesick James, Nappy Brown, John Mayall, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Little Sammy Davis, A.C. Reed, Mick Taylor, and Jimmy Dawkins, as well as contemporary blues masters such as Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, Rick Estrin/Little Charlie & The Nightcats, Kim Wilson, Rusty Zinn, Steve Guyger, Greg Piccolo, and Mark Hummel.

Dennis Gruenling on blues harmonica, blues harp, harmonica lessons, teaching & having fun

Dennis has also been teaching blues harmonica for over 18 years now, and is in demand as a private instructor, or as part of numerous harmonica workshops and conventions that appear across the country (and around the globe). Some of the workshops he’s been part of include teaching for Jon Gindick’s Harmonica Jam Camps, David Barrett’s Harmonica Masterclass, Guitarrentage-Schorndorf (Germany), Euro BluesWeek (UK), SPAH Harmonica Festival, Buckeye Harmonica Festival, Turtle Bay Music School (NYC), and Joe Filisko’s class at the Old Town School of Folk Music (Chicago)…in addition to doing his own 1-on-1 lessons and group workshops.

Dennis Gruenling on blues harmonica, blues harp, harmonica lessons, performance shots

Dennis Gruenling has been published in Real Blues Magazine (“George ‘Harmonica’ Smith” 2001) and in the American Harmonica Newsletter (“George ‘Harmonica’ Smith – West Coast Legend” series and “Amplified Harmonica” series). As if this isn’t enough to fit in one schedule, Dennis also has been hosting his own blues & roots radio show on WFDU (Teaneck, NJ/NY Metro) every Thursday afternoon – “Blues & the Beat”.

When Dennis isn’t teaching (online, in person or at a workshop) or recording & performing (with his own band, or as part of several different projects he regularly participates in: David Malachowski & the Woodstock All-Stars, Dave Gross Band, Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones to name a few), or doing his radio show on WFDU, he may also be customizing or re-building some vintage bullet microphones for some other top players…or trying to catch some sleep if it’s after 4am!