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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Daily routine for making a progress?
Daily routine for making a progress?
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1 post
Jan 24, 2019
4:36 AM
Hey everybody!

I'm playing the harp for 5 years on and off (in a minute I'll explain the off part), know some theory, 1st 2nd 3rd positions, good bending level, some OBs, and I watched like a 100 of Gussow's and Ricci's YT videos.
When I'm working on a song for some time, I can master it to the level of small gestures and subtleties.


That's about it.
To be honest, when I have my harp with me and someone asks me to play something - I don't really know what to do. It's like have nothing. So I just mumble with the blues scale, but I don't really know what I'm doing.
And it's just frustrating.

When someone plays a rock song on the guitar I really don't know how to express myself. I know some harmony theory but can't really make it into action improvisation wise.

Can anyone relate??

Also, I really need ideas for daily routine practice and playing. Let's say I got 45 minutes a day - how should I juggle with them? Which scales should I run and how? How to improve my improvisation?

My goal is really modest. To have fun, to have some repertoire, and to be able to enter any rock/blues song played by a band or a single instrument.

Thanks a ton you guys!
Love ya
324 posts
Jan 24, 2019
1:20 PM
Isaac, welcome.

I think your problem is not unusual among players who are essentially self taught. While Adam and Jason’s videos provide a lot of helpful information, exercises and inspiration, those videos are not a comprehensive method for playing the harmonica and general musicianship.

The most comprehensive resource I am aware that would help with the things you mention is Bluesharmonica.com, Instructor David Barrett’s site. It is a pay website, but well worth it. The extensive lesson sections on solo harmonica, movement exercises, accompaniment, and improvising should give you all you need to get you where you want to go. A practice regimine would then be based specifically on the lessons you are working on at a given time.

Last Edited by LSB on Jan 27, 2019 1:54 PM
251 posts
Jan 25, 2019
4:05 AM
Though I haven't watched videos of those guys. I hit you tube quite a bit,then some online lessons.
I think the biggest up was finding a teacher in person,who was knowledge and someone I liked.
For the most part I practice one or two hrs daily though some times 3 or 4 hrs or occasionally I'll set aside a practice day.
Course that doesn't mean I'm a great player.It just might mean I'm a slower learner, doesn't much matter either way as long as I'm happy with the progress.
Big things I needed to learn..
Changes..play such and such till you hear the change..well of course had to learn what that meant.
Another one.
bend a note till you hit the bend right on the note...Course had to learn what that note sounds like,what does the note beside sound like etc etc.
Tape recorder was and is a huge step in hearing what the heck I sound liked,lots of times they are just 30 second recordings for a particular phrase or section,checking tonality, clarity,timing etc.

I think the biggest help would be if you could find a teacher in real life.
Other than that perhaps you are doing fine for the most part and just need to tweak things a bit.
Good luck with all
95 posts
Jan 25, 2019
9:15 AM
Just play against few 3-4min backing tracks. Try and isolate any cool riff/lick you come up with. Use your theory to work out the harmony against the chord.
Even if you're just matching root notes to begin with. It's helped me a lot.

Last Edited by Gerry on Jan 25, 2019 9:15 AM
5773 posts
Jan 25, 2019
3:59 PM
Hi IsaacMany,
I could go on quite a big trip about this and I will if you like but right now I will suggest pentatonic scales are probably the quick way to get you up and running.
If you put the work into practicing with pentatonic scales that you put into learning complete songs I reckon you’ll find yourself feeling far more comfortable with jamming fairly soon.
If you have some 1st, 2nd, 3rd position knowledge you probably already know a bit about the scales.

You can play major 11th/minor 2nd, major 12th/minor 3rd, Major 1st/minor 4th, Major 2nd/minor 5th with just standard bends and an overblow on 6. That’s accompaniment for 8 potential chord changes just on 1 standard diatonic harp, just from easily available pentatonic scales.

You don’t have to make a meal of it though.

Start with Major 2nd (which is also minor 5th in a way but don’t let that throw you) and practice it every day. Play it in patterns. You don’t have to spend a long time doing this, just do it every day for 5 minutes and make sure you keep at it for a couple weeks at least. 3 weeks might be better. You’ll definitely make progress in 3 weeks of daily 5 minute sessions.

When you get through the scalar practice each day, practice some licks from the scale, using a backing track. You could practice your scale patterns over BT too, or a metronome.

You should be able to find some cool major pentatonic licks to play.

I expect after three weeks of that you will have some stuff in your bag you can start using to play along with quite a lot of songs.

You can apply the same principle to the minor pentatonic. Try 3rd position for some really pleasing results. If you also throw in the flat 5th you can get very blue.

The main thing is to resist the temptation of ‘learning’ songs. Learn your scales, learn your harp, and develop your repertoire of phrases.
252 posts
Jan 26, 2019
7:04 AM
Think I get what he's driving at,but of ourse you'll need to learn some songs.
I even go right for the beginner songs, gets pretty embarrassing if you can't play them.
5784 posts
Jan 27, 2019
4:26 AM
Oh well my apology if ive been obtuse. I gathered from the OP the main concern is a strategy for improvisation rather than expanded repertoire
Given thats the case, i think developing facility with pentatonic scales is probably the quickest route to get up and running.

major 2nd is where I’d start for the biggest bang to buck ratio.

then I’d go 3rd minor partly because its just great and lets you use so much of the harp.

the OP indicates there is already some fluency with 2nd minor or at least ‘the blues scale’ which usually means 2nd position minor pentatonic plus the 4 draw bend (aka the flat 5th). If thats not cutting it then i think its another good reason to pursue 3rd position minor pentatonic, which is easily enough ‘bluesified’ with the addition of the flat 5th

Learning more songs wont hurt of course, except perhaps insofar as time is limited so there needs to be consideration of how to get the best return on your investment
253 posts
Jan 27, 2019
6:35 AM
Great example of taking a simple song and making it interesting on the main forum with the Waltzing M thread.

on a different website a while back a fellow did a rough version of the same song and there was a big meltdown about it. Folks can get mighty touchy about stuff like that for sure.
50 posts
Jan 27, 2019
7:48 AM
My take from reading the OP is He has some skill and is looking for ways to put those to work with a band. The other part about improving his skills I can't comment on because I'm pretty much a rank beginner been playing about 2 years and just signed up with Dave Barret from advice I got here.
I do play in a band harmonica is second instrument and have sat in with a few bands on harp. What helped me the most was a seasoned player told me He always has an approach to what He's going play sounds simple right ?
Maybe I was just to dense to pick up on this. So now I won't play anything unless I have an idea in my head of what I want to add to the music. Where do those ideas come from ? For me I think it's listing to a LOT of music & playing another instrument for years. I'm just a hobby player but have FUN. I keep my stuff real simple (because I have too) and as I improve I bring it, but you can do some nice sounding harp parts in rock/blues without having the chops/technique of a pro. I'm not saying play sloppy or don't practice I'm just saying the OP can jam & have fun if He has an approach to what he wants to add to the music. I'm assuming He's going to jamming with local bar bands or friends were not talking touring with pros.
So go have some fun, you will fall on your face, run out of ideas 1/2 way into your solo, play shitty and hate yourself once in while but that will only make you learn from your mistakes and become a better player. Keep it simple sometimes 3-4 notes is all you need.
2 posts
Jan 27, 2019
9:10 AM
Hey everyone!

First of, thanks a lot for your advises - they are really helpful!
I'd reply each of you individually, but not such an option here..
So I'll try to mash all of your answers and hope it'll be clear.

What I am really asking, and I guess it's kind of embarrassing after 5 years of playing, is what you guys exactly do when you practice.
I've reached to a point where I really bore myself to death with backing tracks, pentatonic scales (I must admit that 90% of the times I use 2nd position), running up and down the scale, playing intervals..
Even when I'm improvising.. well.. it sounds ok using pentatonic but it's super boring and I find myself using the same notes and licks over and over again.
Memorizing licks & solos by heart - also great (though time consuming), but when I'm jamming they seem pretty useless (unless that exact song I've memorized is being played)

I want to develop my skills to a level that when something is played - I kinda know what to do. what key to choose, what position (for a start), then how to bring a value to the song. Where to use fills, how to solo.

I guess what I'm asking is pretty obvious, but I want to know the road to there. How should I structure my daily practice routine in the most effective way, and having fun during.

@LSB @Lou will bluesharmonica.com give me those tools? Build my repertoire, showing me how to practice scales etc.?

Thank you all!
325 posts
Jan 27, 2019
9:42 AM

The short answer is yes. The long answer, where I explain in depth, requires more time than I have at the moment, and is probably unnecessary. Spring for 1 month of membership to the site and and start watching the lessons on the topics I mentioned in my first post.
51 posts
Jan 27, 2019
1:26 PM
I'm not sure as I just started with my lessons, I'm using the site to gain the ability to play what I hear in head. With your skills you mention I think all you need (to have some fun at a jam) is an approach, you can take/borrow/steal licks or part of licks from the harp pros, & use sax, guitar riff's, bass lines ect. from songs you like & work them into what the band is playing. Down the line after some Jamming and lessons you will be creating your own licks.
Right now I'm the wrong guy to comment on having fun with practice, I just started the TB lessons and it feels like I've never played a note before it's very frustrating & humbling. The fun of playing with band is what is keeping me motivated. You will defiantly get structure with those lessons no doubt about that.
326 posts
Jan 27, 2019
1:53 PM
Hang in there with the Tongue Blocking Lou, it’s gets easier!
1697 posts
Jan 30, 2019
6:43 AM
There's so many things you can work on and so many different ways you can work on it. I think the only thing that remains consistent in my practice routine is that I keep practicing daily (mostly).

I think for success you need a daily practice routine scheduled in your day that you (mostly) consistently sit down and focus on harmonica.

It's majorly helpful to have an idea what you will work on that day.

A teacher can help you figure out where your gaps are but if you don't have one try to seek out something you don't feel strong at. For example, can you play a few choruses of solo harmonica without a band/recording? Can you play all your bends tongue blocked & lip pursed? In pitch with a piano (or something)? Can you take a piece of pre-written music and play it along with a metronome in time without errors? Did you hear a solo or song that you liked? Can you use your ear to figure out what notes they're playing, practice it up to speed, and play it along with the recording? Can you arpeggiate the chords along with chord changes of a blues song? Can you do it over a classic rock song too? Can you play along to a blues song recording or backing track in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th position? What about a major song in 12th? Just some ideas...



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Last Edited by RyanMortos on Jan 30, 2019 6:48 AM
510 posts
Feb 01, 2019
6:46 AM
Some of the best advice I ever saw on the forum came from Iceman. I'd advise using the search function to find it in his words, but it basically consisted of, every day at the same time, spend five or ten minutes practicing one specific thing you want to improve (until you reach your goal, then move on to anotherm riff, stanza, song, or technique).

Do that for a week or two on one specific thing, and see how far you'll get. I think you'll be very pleased.
The Blind Doughboy Music Factory

Backwoods luthier specializing in resonator guitars
The Blind Doughboy Music Factory

Backwoods luthier specializing in resonator guitars
5803 posts
Feb 02, 2019
4:37 AM
I guarantee it works.
That’s how i learned blowbending
1st position and 3rd, to the extent i can play in those positions.
Numerous songs

It’s a great method because its regular, focussed and brief. You can do more, you almost certainly will, but by itself it is enough to progress in whatever aspect you choose to focus
53 posts
Feb 24, 2019
7:21 AM
Hey Rontana, I tried that out & it works ! After I read you post I recorded myself playing a very simple TB 12 bars, did the above & recorded it 2 weeks later massive improvement. Didn't reach my goal but I'm on my way.
5830 posts
Feb 25, 2019
1:56 AM
Great news, Lou!
The best thing about the Iceman method I think, is that 5 minutes is so approachable and it’s such a short time that you will break the goals down into small pieces.
I found it hard to procrastinate about a 5 minute session whereas commitment to an hour, say, is a bigger deal and so likely to get derailed for many people.. so it will often not happen at all and then there is no practice and no progress.
5 minutes might not be much but it’s enough to make progress.

When learning a challenging song, I just play every chance I get.
Right now I’m working on something which is maybe the most challenging song I’ve attempted. Mainly it involves playing a chromatic every day to memorise the lines in “Fast Large One”. One chorus at a time, and then playing through as far as I’ve come, going back over lines where I’m error prone. I’m halfway in.
This is a very fast tempo for me; 190bpm. At times I’m slowing it to 50% to hear the lines. It’s a bit slow to play at that tempo but 70% is not to slow to play along.
Learning it all by ear and memory. Probably should tab it out as I go. Would be a good exercise and I don’t know if any tab exists otherwise.
I find it rather like learning words in a language I don’t know. The listening is quite intense, then the memorisation of notes and rhythm is just drilling it. Not much bending. When I can leave a chorus from morning and then play it from memory again in the evening, I spend another day making sure I can recall it at will, then move on to acquire the next.
12 choruses seems a lot, but I know I’ll get it if I keep plugging away. I may never perform the song on stage; it’s a big challenge for drummers as well. But I’m learning a lot about moving around the chromatic.
512 posts
Feb 25, 2019
7:19 PM
Hey Lou . . . glad it worked for you. I've no doubt you'll get where you want to go
The Blind Doughboy Music Factory

Backwoods luthier specializing in resonator guitars

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