Whether you’re playing blues, country, or just along side a singer-songwriter, the vocal-esque timbre of a harmonica solo never fails to command an audience’s attention.
In his course, Harmonica Styles Guidebook, Steven Troch sheds light on the styles and techniques of eight legendary harmonica players: Sonny Boy Williamson II, Bob Dylan, George Harmonica Smith, Jimmy Reed, Charlie McCoy, Big Walter Horton, Sonny Terry, and Little Walter.
Here are seven free video harmonica lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Steve Troch’s Harmonica Styles Guidebook on TrueFire!
Harmonica Lesson – Sonny Boy Williamson II – Introduction
We’ll do a song in the style of Rice Miller, aka Sonny Boy II. SB2 stole his name from well-known harmonica player John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. He just took the name Sonny Boy to give his career a boost. Nowadays, it would be called identity theft.
Because of the many lies Sonny Boy told, his early life is clouded in mystery. But, what we do know is that Sonny Boy II wrote some classic blues songs with witty lyrics and his harmonica playing is outstanding. He plays with a rich tone and has great sense of rhythm and phrasing. Some of the licks we’re going to use are similar to the ones sonny boy played on a song called “99”.
Harmonica Lesson – Sonny Boy Williamson II – Performance
Follow along as I show you how I perform this blues number.
Harmonica Lesson – Sonny Boy Williamson II – Performance with Guitar
Here is a performance with a guitar accompanying me. This is so you can get a feel for the rhythm and what is happening harmonically.
Harmonica Lesson – Sonny Boy Williamson II – Breakdown
Now, lets take each lick step by step so you can see how Sonny Boy himself played through these tunes.
Harmonica Lesson – Tongue Splits – Concept 2
The tongue split technique allows you to play two different notes on each side of the mouth. Let’s take a look.
Harmonica Lesson – Blow Bending – Concept 3
Blow bending is a great technique to use when playing first position, especially with high notes.
Harmonica Lesson – Jimmy Reed – Performance with Guitar
Here we’re gonna do a song in the Jimmy Reed style. Jimmy Reed ranks as one of the most popular bluesmen of the 20th century. The success of Jimmy Reed were his lazy vocals and squeaky harmonica solos. Reed’s screaming high-notes on the harmonica worked really great with his bassy guitar.
“Less is more” is a concept Reed fully understood. He makes the space between the notes at least as important as the notes themselves. He was famous for his first position playing, done mostly in a rack. Simple and very effective. Let’s try something in his style.
Digging these free lessons? Check out Steven Troch’s full course, Harmonica Styles Guidebook.