a quick-start guide (with a FREE LESSON just below)
If you're a complete novice and you've ended up on this page, welcome! I'm going to teach you how to play blues on the harmonica. Not make-believe blues. Not lightweight blues. REAL blues.
(And if you're NOT a beginner, or if you'd simply like to begin your encounter with Modern Blues Harmonica on the homepage rather than this dedicated beginner's page, please hit THIS LINK.)
Nobody is ever too young, or too old, to pick up a harmonica and learn to play the blues. ALL of us, whoever we are, started from scratch. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing. We just KNEW that we were called to cup a harmonica to our face and express ourselves. We had that sad, crazy, wild, playful, hopeless, euphoric.....THING inside us. That blues feeling.
Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 30, only three years after meeting my 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, more than 25 years later.) I can help teach you how to play like this:
This website, despite all its riches, can't substitute for a flesh-and-blood harmonica teacher--somebody who listens to you play and offers feedback, guides your development in a hands-on way, etc. But my videos, tabs, jam tracks, and music can take you surprisingly 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. (I'm an internationally-known blues performer and a harmonica teacher with more than 25 years of experience ministering to players of all levels, including hundreds of beginners just like you.)
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. The reference standard for beginning players is a 10-hole diatonic instrument in the key of C:
SECOND, if you aren't already familiar with my teaching style, please take ten minutes and watch the following FREE video--one that I uploaded to YouTube back in 2008 as an enticement to beginners. It moves very quickly, sketching out the world of chords, melodies, and techniques that you will enter if you join me by purchasing the more leisurely and sequenced series of videos below. Don't let it scare you! I'm just trying to give you a sense of the journey that lies ahead:
THIRD, 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):
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 harp teachers
FOURTH, 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.
FIFTH, 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:
SIXTH, if there's one book I'd recommend to beginners, it's 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 currently the president of SPAH: The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica. BUY THIS BOOK!
SEVENTH, you may well have some additional questions. Please check out my Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page:
EIGHTH, when you're ready to move on and up from the beginner's lessons to the harder stuff, please visit the Store, where all of my digital lessons--beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, and advanced intermediate--are listed in order of increasing difficulty.
NINTH, and lastly, 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 (one hour and 45 minute) 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.
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:
ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS
If you're interested in BLUES HARMONICA TABS and BLUES HARP TABS,