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Blues Harmonica For Dummies

ISBN: 978-1-118-25269-7
384 pages
August 2012
Blues Harmonica For Dummies (1118252691) cover image


The fun and easy way to play blues on the harmonica

Blues harmonica is the most popular and influential style of harmonica playing, and it forms the basis for playing harmonica in other styles such as rock and country. Blues Harmonica for Dummies gives you a wealth of content devoted to the blues approach—specific techniques and applications, including bending and making your notes sound richer and fuller with tongue-blocked enhancements; use of amplification to develop a blues sound; blues licks and riffs; constructing a blues harmonica solo; accompanying singers; historical development of blues styles; and important blues players and recordings.

The accompanying audio CD features all the musical examples from the book, plus play-along exercises and songs that let you hear the sound you're striving for.

  • In-depth coverage of major blues harmonica techniques
  • Blues song forms, improvisation, and accompanying singers
  • Information on blues history and personalities

If you're intrigued by the idea of understanding and mastering the compelling (yet mysterious) art of playing blues on the harmonica, Blues Harmonica For Dummies has you covered.

CD-ROM/DVD and other supplementary materials are not included as part of the e-book file, but are available for download after purchase

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Table of Contents

Introduction  1

Part I: So You Wanna Play Blues Harmonica?  7

Chapter 1: Connecting with the Blues 9

Chapter 2: Getting Your Harmonicas Together 17

Chapter 3: Deciphering the Code: A Blues Guide to Music Symbols 31

Part II: Doin’ the Crawl: Your First Harmonica Moves  55

Chapter 4: Breathing Life into the Harmonica 57

Chapter 5: Moving Around with Single Notes 73

Chapter 6: Creating Blues Harmonica Licks and Riffs 87

Chapter 7: Progressing Through the 12-Bar Blues 99

Part III: Beyond the Basics: Getting Bluesy  121

Chapter 8: Working with the Low and High Registers of the Harmonica 123

Chapter 9: Modulating and Punctuating Your Sound 137

Chapter 10: Enriching Your Sound with Textures 149

Chapter 11: Bending Notes: A Classic Part of the Blues Sound 169

Part IV: Developing Your Style  207

Chapter 12: Playing in Different Keys on a Single Harmonica 209

Chapter 13: Working Your Blues Chops in First Position 217

Chapter 14: Accelerating the Blues with Third Position 229

Chapter 15: Playing Blues Chromatic Harmonica in Third and First Positions 241

Chapter 16: Playing Blues in Minor Keys 259

Chapter 17: Groovin’ with Non-12-Bar Blues 271

Part V: Taking It to the Streets: Sharing Your Music  281

Chapter 18: Developing Your Blues Repertoire 283

Chapter 19: Blues Harmonica Amplification: Making a Big Noise with a Tiny Little Thang 297

Part VI: The Part of Tens  313

Chapter 20: Ten Things to Know about Sharing Your Music with Others 315

Chapter 21: Ten Important Periods and Styles in Blues Harmonica History 325

Part VII: Appendixes  333

Appendix A: Tuning Layouts for All Keys 335

Appendix B: About the CD 341

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. End-User License Agreement  349

Index  351

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Author Information

Winslow Yerxa is a widely known and respected harmonica player, teacher, and author. He has written, produced, and starred in many harmonica book and video projects, and provides harmonica instruction worldwide. In addition to teaching privately, he currently teaches at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, California.

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Press Release

September 28, 2012
Play the Blues.

Whether you're just beginning to act on your curiosity or you're a seasoned player looking for the next stage in your musical growth, Blues Harmonica For Dummies® offers solid information and advice. You'll get step-by-step descriptions, pictures and diagrams, tablature, and a CD that contains all the musical example songs and other music that you can play.

For some blues harmonica history, here's an expert: 

Ten Important Periods and Styles in Blues Harmonica History

Early Harmonica History in the United States

At first, harmonicas were made by hand by part-time workers in semirural areas of Germany, and production was low. The Hohner company later grew to dominate the world harmonica market and, by 1900, was pumping out more than 3 million harmonicas a year, with the lion's share going to the United States. By the mid-1880s, Midwestern music publishers were producing harmonica instruction books, attesting to the instrument's popularity. Early recordings from the turn of the century include a few harmonica performances from such artists as Professor Dickens, Arthur Turelly, and Pete Hampton, the first African-American harmonica player to record.

Prewar Rural Blues Harmonica

During the early 1920s, the still-young commercial recording industry began to focus on recording and marketing regional and ethnic music, including the music of the rural South. Some of the notable early blues harmonica performers of the period include Daddy Stovepipe, George "Bullet" Williams, Kyle Wooten, and DeFord Bailey, who was the earliest star of the pioneering country music radio show The Grand Ole Opry.

Traveling Life and the Migration North

Many of the southern musicians of the early 20th century roved from place to place. Legendary blues singer Robert Johnson is the best known of the legion of restless sufferers of the "Walking Blues" (to quote one of his song titles). In the South, black musicians gravitated to towns that offered relaxed racial attitudes, nightclubs for gigging, and radio exposure. Detroit and Chicago were also two of the biggest destinations.

Memphis and Early Urban Blues

In Memphis, Beale Street was the center of musical activity, and blues musicians there developed a ragtime-influenced style called jug band, named for the large whiskey jugs that players blew into to create trombone-like bass lines. Jug band music and repertoire later influenced 1960s rock bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Lovin' Spoonful (and its harmonica player, John B. Sebastian).

The Prewar Chicago Style

The giant figure in the nascent Chicago blues movemnet was John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson (usually referred to as Sonny Boy I). From 1937 until his death in 1948, Sonny Boy made more than 100 recordings as a featured artist and almost as many as a sideman.

The Rise of Amplified Blues Harmonica

Amplification did more than make the harmonica louder; it changed the sound of the harmonica itself, just as the development of the electric guitar in the previous decade had started to change both the sound of the guitar and what players did with it. Most of the great blues harmonica players of the 1950s adopted and exploited amplification to forge a new style, with Little Walter leading the way, both as a solo act and as an accompanist to Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers.

The Postwar Chicago Style

The one blues band that exemplified the new style (integration of electrified guitar, amplified harmonica, simple drumming, and down-home piano) was the Muddy Waters band, with Muddy on slide guitar and vocals, Jimmy Rogers on rhythm guitar, and Little Walter on harmonica.

Regional Harmonica Styles

Some of the better-known regional companies highlighted blues harmonica and promoted early rock-and-roll. This combination later influenced the adoption of the harmonica by rock artists in the 1960s, who heard blues harmonica alongside the latest hits. Chess Records in Chicago did more to promote blues artists and harmonica players than any other independent label. Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters -- who featured a series of excellent harmonica players -- all recorded for Chess. In addition, Chess launched the rock-and-roll careers of both Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

Rock, Blues, and the 1960s

Young Caucasian males started taking up blues harmonica, giving us such artists as Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite, Rod Piazza, Kim Wilson, and others. Young British musicians started emulating the blues records they heard, resulting in such British rock bands as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, and Led Zeppelin.

Modern Blues

Musicians worldwide have been bitten by the blues harp bug. Here are a few artists: Junior Wells, John Popper, Paul deLay, and Bobby Rush.

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