Blues Harp Lessons, pt 1

If you want to seek out where to get some good blues harp lessons, take some of these things into consideration…

1) Seek out a qualified teacher

OK, this one is obvious, but much easier said than done. So let me break this down even further, to help find your way to some GOOD blues harp lessons.

What to be careful of…

There are so many guitar & piano teachers around. You can basically go to any decent music store and find your way to some good guitar or piano lessons, and probably a few other instruments as well…but to find decent blues harp lessons? Forget it, it’s not that easy unfortunately. There are some music stores who have connections with good harmonica players, but you don’t see it that often. Many times what happens is (if you do happen to find harmonica lessons available at a music store) is that you will get someone who “also” teaches harmonica, usually a guitarist. Now I am sure there are some very good players out there who do teach guitar, and I’m also sure there are a few decent teachers out there, but this has not been the case with the majority of my experience, nor that of my students’ experience while trying to find some blues harp lessons. I have had students tell me they have taken a few lessons from a local music store, and after a few lessons, the instructor tells them things like “Harmonica isn’t my main instrument really, but I can still show you a few more licks maybe.” Meanwhile, the instructor already got paid in advance and started the student off with some bad information and worse habits!

Who is qualified?

If you want to learn to play good or great blues harp, you want to learn from as good of a teacher as you can find. Why is this? Most people think “if I’m just starting out, I don’t need lessons from a pro, I can just get started and if I keep playing and I get better, then I can search out a better teacher”…but let me explain what happens all of the time. If you get some “beginning” blues harp lessons from someone only qualified for “beginner’s” lessons, you will likely be learning a few things that can turn into bad habits down the road…I see it happen ALL of the time unfortunately!

Part of what makes learning & teaching this instrument different than other instruments (and more difficult) is for blues harp lessons, you can’t see what you’re doing. You want to find an instructor not only who can give you a few licks to play or teach you how to “pucker” a few single notes or melodies, but you want to learn good blues harp habits & technique from someone who can tell you what the varied techniques on the instrument are and how to work on them correctly. I’ve seen many students who come to me after some blues harp lessons from another teacher and we have to go over several techniques to “unlearn” bad habits and learn better (correct) habits. This obviously becomes frustrating for the student and takes time away from learning, but will at least get them on the right path. Moral of the story – take lessons from the best teacher you can find.

How to find a good teacher…

With the internet nowadays, there are many ways to help you find some good blues harp lessons, and good harp instructors. Actually, almost too much help – meaning there seems to be so many people claiming “harp lessons” when they don’t even qualify to give lessons (hello bad habits & bad information), or when the lessons are more talk and not much of a blues harp lesson content anyway.

Websites like Coast 2 Coast Music, which specialize in harmonica products have a section on harmonica instructors, and may be of help. Also forums like Harp-L and Modern Blues Harmonica may help, but it’s always best to get some research done on your own to find out how well they teach or look for some student testimonials.

I personally have been teaching for close to 20 years at Music Schools, Harmonica Festivals, Harmonica Conventions, Jam Camps, Masterclasses, and many years of my own private lessons. And I have worked hard at teaching myself first, working at understanding what you need to do to get better on harp, and then worked on how to communicate this to others. I travelled this road myself first, and I have also studied all the past masters of blues harmonica so I can play better blues harp, and in turn teach better blues harp lessons.


(to be continued…)

– Dennis Gruenling

Dennis Gruenling can be found on or here on He teaches blues harmonica around the globe, including in the NY/NJ area and online, performs all over, and also hosts the blues radio show “Blues & the Beat” on WFDU – Teaneck, NJ on Thursday afternoons.