How long will it take me to learn how to play the harmonica?
That’s the most common question I get as a blues harp teacher.And my answer is always the same:“How badly do you want it?”
A friend of mine--a harmonica teacher who runs another top website--claims that you can learn to play “some of your favorite songs” if you’re willing to jam along with his 7-minute videos only 3 times a week.
That’s 21 minutes a WEEK! No muss, no fuss.
I can't make you that sort of promise. But perhaps I have a different sort of competence in mind. I DO want you to have fun. But I’m also looking to transform you into a legitimate blues harp player.
If you can give me 21 minutes a day, five days a week, I can help you transform yourself into a blues harmonica player. (I’d prefer 30 minutes a day. Two 15-minute sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening, are just fine.)
I'll teach you how to make those funky, mournful sounds--those bends, wails, and warbles--that you've always wanted to make.
I'll break down everything--every song, every lick--into component parts. I'll explain slowly and patiently HOW the sounds are made. I'll show you how to keep a beat, and how to set melodies in motion.
I'll teach you how to honor the song inside you and share it with the world.
I won't hold your hand, but I WILL help you achieve your dreams.
You might end up getting up at a jam session and blowing people away. You might sit in with a guitarist, or a band. You might JOIN a band. Many of my students, starting from scratch, have done those things.
Or you might just relax at home, tooting on the harmonica and thinking "I can DO this! I'm actually playing the blues!"
Here are two of my students. Let them show you, and tell you, what I helped them achieve:
A PERSONAL ODYSSEY
Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 30, only three years after meeting my harmonica teacher, Nat Riddles, I was already beginning to achieve my dreams. Here's a Swatch watch ad I made in 1988 with Harlem guitar legend Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee. (Sterling and I are still a team as the duo "Satan and Adam," more than 25 years later.) I can help teach you how to play like this:
This website can't substitute for a flesh-and-blood harmonica teacher--somebody who listens to you play and offers feedback, guiding your development in a hands-on way. But my videos, tabs, jam tracks, and music can take you far, if you're willing to put in the work.
And the priorities I set--including the techniques and styles I introduce through my lessons and the list of Top-20 players I point you towards--can save you valuable time.
LEARN HARMONICA HERE? YES YOU CAN!
Just below, you'll find a number of useful resources that can quickly send you on your way.
FIRST, if you need a harmonica, please visit my "HARMONICAS for sale" page. Most beginning players should start on a 10-hole diatonic instrument in the key of C:
SECOND, think about purchasing my BEGINNERS SPECIAL, a collection of four essential videos for beginners, with tabs thrown in for free. They come as one easy-to-download zip file. You can reach the purchase page by clicking the link below. (And while you're at it, scroll to the bottom of the page that the link takes you to and look at the five-star raves from other beginners who have purchased the package and suddenly begun to realize their dreams). The Beginner's Special contains the following files:
§Shuffle Blues Rhythm
§Basic Blues Harp: Bending the 4 Draw
It you'd rather start out with a bigger bang for a few more bucks, try my BEGINNERS DELUXE. It includes all the materials in the Beginners Special plus the following videos, tabs, and jam tracks described below:
§Raw Beginners Start Here (video)
§Oh Susanna (video + tab)
§Counting and Playing 12-bar Blues (video + tab)
§Blues Harmonica Playalong Sessions (jam tracks + one-hour video on how to use them)
The Beginners Deluxe is a $48 value; I offer it for only $35, significantly less than comparable packages by other internet blues harmonica teachers
THIRD, if you'd like to dip your finger in the pond rather than plunging in, you might want to pick up one of the following videos and/or tabs for raw beginners. EVERY VIDEO requires no more than one harmonica in the key of C:
"Raw Beginners Start Here": For absolute novices. If you were my private student and you showed up for your first lesson, I'd spend most of our first hour together showing you the basics: How the harmonica is put together; how to hold the harp; how to play single notes; how to play your first scale; and how to troubleshoot several basic problems that raw beginners always confront.
[NOTE: If you want to supercharge your bends on all three crucial holes--2, 3, and 4 draw--you should visit my dedicated bending page]
"Counting and Playing Your Way Through a 12-Bar Blues": an extra-long (45+ minutes) and extra-important lesson for beginning players. In response to popular demand, I've done my best to demystify the 12-bar blues format and help you navigate your way through a foundational experience. This lesson contains one video and two FREE tab sheets!
Harp key: A and C
Video + tabs: www.tradebit.com/filedetail.php/3116406-Documents-eBooks-Music-Tutorials
"Tongue Blocking I": An introduction to one of the key techniques for blues harmonica players--the one that gives you the "big sound," including octaves, splits (such as the 25 draw), counter-rhythms, and a range of textural effects.
FOURTH, you'll need some jam tracks so you can take the licks and grooves I teach you and begin to put them into action. The jam tracks I offer feature a whole band in a music-minus-one format. You can find them HERE:
FIFTH, if there's one book I'd recommend to beginners, it's Blues Harmonica for Dummies by my longtime friend, Winslow Yerxa. Winslow isn't just a great player, but he's been teaching the harmonica at a very high level for a long time. Back in the early 1990s, as the publisher of a newsletter issued by his Harmonica Information Press, he was tabbing out Jon Popper's ridiculously fast solos--one of the many ways in which he served the harmonica community. He is the former president of SPAH: The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica. BUY THIS BOOK!
SEVENTH, when you're ready to move on and up from the beginner's lessons to the harder stuff, please visit the Store. You'll find all of my digital lessons--beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, and advanced intermediate--listed there in order of increasing difficulty.
EIGHTH, if you know by now that blues harmonica fascinates you and you want a low-cost megadose of information and ear candy to start you on your journey, think about purchasing this extended interview that I sat for with David Barrett of BluesHarmonica.com. It consists of twenty 7-10 minute videos that cover every element of the instrument, including my own journey from where YOU are standing to where I presently stand as a working pro. It comes in the form of a big zip file. Only $5! Read more and preview an entire video HERE.
NINTH, and lastly, if you have any trouble AT ALL, at any point, downloading and using my files, or if you're just apprehensive about the whole download process, please visit the following page:
----------->check out the LESSON PLAN for success<----------------
OH, AND ONE MORE THING: Here's a video uploaded by one of the thousands of students who have used my instructional videos and tabs. He's playing "Floyd's Hotel," one of the four lessons contained in the "Beginner's Special" above--and he's doing a damned good job. Have you always dreamed of playing blues harmonica? This can be you:
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ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS