Learn Blues Harmonica, pt 1

Want to learn Blues Harmonica? – Here’s the first of several tips to help you on your way…

1) Open Your Ears

Learning to play an instrument that you can’t really see while you play is not the easiest thing! When I first picked up the harmonica – I mean the very first time I tried to play – I thought a song or melody would just come as soon as I blow into the harp!! That may sound silly, but WHY did I think that? I probably thought that because whenever I watched someone play harmonica, I didn’t see anything happening really asides from them holding the harmonica up to their mouth, and them blowing in or out enthusiastically.

One of my first thoughts when I was told I’d be getting a harmonica as a gift was “I can learn blues harmonica. It looks so easy, I just blow into this thing!”. Of course, after trying to play it for 10 seconds, I realized it wasn’t going to be that easy!

One thing to keep in mind while you learn blues on the harmonica (or any style of music for that matter) is to feed your ear good music & especially good harmonica music! Your ear will help you along as you learn to get better on the instrument. Also, if you keep feeding your ear with great harmonica playing to listen to, it will help guide your playing style to go in that direction.

You’ve heard the term “garbage in, garbage out.”…well this holds true to learning music as well. Keep your ears on a steady diet of the greatest blues harmonica recordings you can get your hands on. This will help train your ear for certain things as you begin to learn blues harmonica, and will continue to help guide your style & technique as you progress.

I recommend to my students to have a good portion of their practice time dedicated to just listening, so your ear can begin to learn as well. Some of this learning by ear will be sub-conscious, and some of it will help you with notes/licks/songs you are trying to learn on a daily basis. The important thing is to keep feeding your ear good blues harmonica as you learn blues harmonica.

(to be continued…)

- Dennis Gruenling

Dennis Gruenling can be found on DennisGruenling.com or here on BadAssHarmonica.com. 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 (NYC metro area).