Introduction to Blues Harmonica

Most people associate the harmonica with blues, music sounding like this


Blues is the most important harmonica style. Once you have learnt the basics, you will be able to play blues with musicians everywhere.

The basics are easily learnt. However mastering blues is a lifetime project, which starts today.

So far we have used a C harmonica, and played in the key of C, We continue with a C harmonica, but will now play in the key of G. As we explain how blues works, the reason for this change will become clear.

Our first task is to find a G note. A powerful one is the second hole draw note (2D), which sounds like this


Blues often needs loud and powerful notes. Try this exercise. Play 2D repeatedly, starting softly, and then becoming louder each time. It should sound like this


Practice until you can play this note cleanly, and with great power.

Many harmonica students have difficulty playing the 2D note to begin with. In particular, the pitch often sounds wrong. This is usually because the note has been "bent" down.

Bending is a skill you will soon learn, but for now, the aim is to get a clean 2D note. If you are having trouble, try a very light air pressure to begin with. Hopefully the note sounds, and is in tune. Once the note is sounding, then gradually increase the air pressure until you have a powerful note. Be patient, this may take a while.

Click here for more advice on getting a good two hole draw note.

When your 2D is working, then play it with this backing


then with accompanyment only


You are playing just a single note, the spaces between it are what make the music. This is called phrasing, and is very important in blues.

Listen again to the backing track. We discussed chords in a previous lesson. The backing here starts on a G chord, also called a one (or I) chord, because we are in the key of G. Can you hear where the chord changes? This new chord is a C chord. The backing ends by returning to a G chord. We will soon learn to hear these chord changes in blues. They are very important.

Blues harmonica is usually part of blues songs. It is common for blues harmonica players to sing as well. Try singing some blues yourself. Even just a few songs, sung in a basic way, will greatly increase your playing opportunities.

Click here for the next lesson.