Playing Blues Harp
The blues harp is very expressive, it can be powerful or subtle and has a distinctive sound that everyone knows but few have any real knowlege of. Hopefully I can give you an insight here and point you in the right direction.
As with anything to do with music one of the most important things to do is listen! Check out as many different players as you can and familiarize yourself with the sounds they’re making. Many of the players you’ll hear are using amplified harp which is a bit different to the pure acoustic sound, don’t be put off however, everything that is done amplified can also be translated to an acoustic version – just try to listen and figure out how both acoustic and amplified sound. Further on you might want to have your own mic and amp setup, which I will discuss later.
Players to check out
There are many great players out there, dig around and find players that you like. Probably one of the most well know classic blues players is Little Walter, he pretty much defined the amplified blues harp sound and is much copied still. Other notable players include: Sonny Boy Williamson, Paul Butterfield, Rod Piazza, Charlie Musselwhite, William Clarke, James Cotton, Howlin Wolf, Sonny Terry, Junior Wells, and the more contemporary; Howard Levy and Jason Ricci.
Playing the Blues
The blues is a very different discipline to a lot of other music, it’s origins come from Africa and it came out of the work songs, very much a kind of folk music which was never really notated or taught formally. The important thing to remember is that this is a form expression and is mostly improvised. That’s why it’s important to develop your own style, have your own licks and be your own voice, in fact this should apply across all genres of music! Try to be musical, not just a technical exercise, learn the building blocks and then start creating.
It’s important to jam whenever you get an opportunity, I’ll be uploading some blues backing tracks so you can jam along with at home.