Learn to play awesome 12 bar blues harmonica solos | Fredrik Hertzberg | Skillshare

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Learn to play awesome 12 bar blues harmonica solos

teacher avatar Fredrik Hertzberg, Blues Harmonica player and teacher.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

21 Lessons (41m)
    • 1. Why take this course?

    • 2. Section 1: Course overview

    • 3. Section 1: Best practices

    • 4. Section 2: What is 12 bar blues?

    • 5. Section 2: Shuffle rhythm

    • 6. Section 3: Second position on harmonica

    • 7. Section 3: Solo example - second position

    • 8. Section 4: What is a scale? Blues scale outline

    • 9. Section 4: Solo example - blues scale

    • 10. Section 5: Quick primer on chords

    • 11. Section 5: Chord tones for the chords

    • 12. Section 5: Solo example - chord tones

    • 13. Section 6: Passing tones and blues notes, tension and release

    • 14. Section 6: Passing tones and blues notes for the chords

    • 15. Section 6: Solo example - passing tones and blue notes

    • 16. Section 7: The value of repetition and solo structure

    • 17. Section 7: Pauses and rests

    • 18. Section 7: Dynamics

    • 19. Section 7: Solo example - putting it all together

    • 20. Section 8: 12 bar blues variations

    • 21. Section 9: Where to go from here

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About This Class

Take the guess work out of playing great solos, learn solid techniques that improve your improvisation skills by 100%!

Playing great solos is probably the most desirable thing for blues harmonica players. It is deceptively easy to begin playing solos but to take it to the next level you need to understand how great solos are built up.

In this course you will learn how to play great blues harmonica solos over the 12 bar blues progression. You will start with very few rules for your first solos and add more musical elements as you become more profficient. Blues harmonica solos can have very free form but choosing appropriate tones that support the chord progression as well as creating tension and release, using repetition wisely, adding dynamics and rests make a big difference in how the solo is perceived.

If you want to become a great harmonica player and play great solos, this is the course for you!

Sign up today to start your journey to becomming a great blues harmonica soloist!

What are the requirements?

  • You should be able to play clean single notes on the harmonica.
  • You need a diatonic harmonica in the key of C major. Read this article for advice
  • Bending skills are not required but an advantage.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Play great solos that support the chord structure of the 12 bar blues.
  • Add elements to your solos that create excitement, such as repetition, dynamics and tension/release.
  • Understand what changes to make to your playing to play lesser comon variations of the 12 bar blues.

What is the target audience?

  • Beginner student who wants to learn to play solos.
  • Intermediate student who already can play some solos but wants to play more musically.


Meet Your Teacher

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Fredrik Hertzberg

Blues Harmonica player and teacher.


I have been playing blues harmonica since 1987 and I have been teaching since 2013. I love teaching harmonica and I think with a little bit of training and knoeldge everyone can become better.

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1. Why take this course?: Did you want to become a great harmonica soloist? Are you beginning? Harmonica player wants to play solos? Or are you an intermediate player who wants to take your solos to the next level? If so, this is too coarse for you. My name is Fred Accounts by and I've been playing blues harmonica since 1987 and I've been teaching since 2000 and 13. For many years I was struggling with playing solos. Aziz. Well, us. I wanted to. It wasn't until I learned about known selection. The proper use of repetition rests, dynamics and solar structures that things started to really unfold fruit. These are exactly elements I will teach you in this course. Are you ready to become a great time, Monica player? If so, sign up and I will see you on the inside. 2. Section 1: Course overview: My name is Fred Accounts by, and I'm very excited that you've decided to take this course. I will start by giving you some background information on the 12 bar blues before we died into your first solo. If you're on intermediate player, this first solar is probably more or less the level you're currently playing at and the rest of the course. We will take a look at the blue scale soloing, using core tones, creating tension and release structuring your solos. And in the end will take a look at some of the variations of the 12 bar blues that you might come across. Remember to download all the supplemental material. So are you ready? Let's do this. 3. Section 1: Best practices: Oh, in this video, I want to give you some tips and best practices for you to get the most out of these course and to practice effectively. So tip number one practice often It is much better to do short sessions every day than to do one long session once week. If you can manage to schedule, say, 10 to 20 minutes per day, you're gonna make huge progress. I can promise you that spaced repetition is really the key to a lot of learning. Tip number two Set up your practice space if you can manage to find somewhere in your home where you can keep your harmonica house and keep everything ready so you can just start practicing without doing any setups. You're much more likely to succeed in keeping your schedule. Tip number three. Record yourself. If you record yourself every time you practice and then listen to afterward for a short review, you will probably notice much more of what you're doing when we play. We're not very well equipped to really hear what we're playing or here. What we're doing. Any mistakes will probably just go unheard. However, if you record yourself, there is No way you're gonna miss it. When you do the review, you will hear exactly what you did. And when you hear exactly what you dio, you have a much better chance off correcting it for a late decision. There are many great options for recording yourself. You can use your smartphone. You can use your computer or you can use good old tape recorder. Really Doesn't matter what use as long as you record yourself a review afterwards. Tip number four Don't rush. Take a much time as you need for every section. This is not a competition. If it takes a day, a week, a month, it doesn't matter. Take us much time as you need to absorb the material now, saying that the 1st 2 sections should probably be a bit quicker than the rest. But for the rest, I recommend a minimum off one week per section. If you follow these tips, I can guarantee that your progress will be more solid and you will enjoy it even more. 4. Section 2: What is 12 bar blues?: So what is the 12 Bar blues? Them? Well, simplest stated. It's a predetermined sequence of chords that last for 12 bars or measures. Each measure is normally four beats long. When jamming were playing a song, thes predetermined sequence is repeated over and over until the end. The cords that make up the sequence are three the tonic, the sub dominant and the dominant. A simpler way of stating this is the one chord, the four chord and the five chord. Using Roman numerals using Roman numerals is very smart because he can reuse your notations independently off which key you're playing in. This also means that you don't need to remember the dominant in every key To change the key , we simply change the harmonica and this course we will be working in G Major and a G major that one court is G. The four chord ISS see, and the five chord is deep. I tell you this for completeness, but don't sweat it. If you don't remember, you can always look it up later. So now on to the sequence of the courts would start with four measures off the one chord. We then changed to measures off the forecourt. Then we go back to two measures of the one court. Then we go for one measure to the five Court, one measure of the four chord, and we end with two measures off the one court and that completes the 12 bar Blues. Actually, it's not 100% true. That would end with two measures off the one chord. Normally in the last bar, we actually give it to the five chord, just briefly for one or two beats. That's what's called the turn around. And it's a signal to the rest of the musicians that we're going to repeat everything again . In the resource section, you will find a PdF outlining the 12 bar blues I suggest you downloaded and get familiar with it. Now that you know what the 12 bar blues progression is, you might wonder if it will make all your songs and all your jams sound the same. Well, the simple answer is no. By varying the key, the tempo, the groove, the start of the song and the end of the song. You won't even think about that. You're using the 12 Bar blues over and over again. the real power off the 12 Bar Blues is that you can communicate everything to your fellows musicians just by saying 12 Bar Blues, key of G Shuffle and then count them in. After that, they know exactly what to do. If you want to be a little bit more advanced, you can instruct the ban to start somewhere else than from their Bar one. There is additional information on how to do this in the resource section. 5. Section 2: Shuffle rhythm: Oh, in the last lecture I talked about that we need to communicate the groove we want when we count off a 12 bar blues. The groove is the feeling we wanted the music. What I used in this course are known as shuffles is based on dividing every quarter. Note into triplet off eight notes. Then you admit the middle eighth note in the triple. The result is that the 2nd 8 note you play is delayed a little bit, so if you compare a straight eighth feel that would be one and 234 Teoh a shuffle. The shuffle would sound something like 123 more. I think the shuffle has a nice feel to it is very common in blue. So that's why I use it in this course. Just on a side note, please beware off that not old shuffles of loose and all blues or shuffles 6. Section 3: Second position on harmonica: now that we are going to play our first solo, some of you may be surprised that we are going to be playing in G Major. That is, the band or the backing track will play in G major. While we used to see heart well, shouldn't the band play in C major? Then? Using a C harp to play in G major is known as second position or cross hard. The reason that we use second position is that older notes that sound good in G major or easily accessible on a C heart. It's kind of like putting a cable on a guitar to make cords easily accessible. In some keys in the resource section, I put a document that outlines which harmonica to use to play in which key also which key you should tell the band to play in, depending on what harmonica you hold in your hand. You can play in other positions as well, but that's for a more advanced course. Now let's look at the dirty little secret off second position. So I guess I promised to tell you the dirty little secret off second position. The secret is also why second position is so popular. Are you ready? The secret is that basically, Anne note you will play in second position will sound at least. Okay, you will almost never be out of key. And that is a pretty good starting point. If you have a C harmonica in your hand and band is playing in G major, you can just start playing. No worries. The next video is of me playing a quick example. 7. Section 3: Solo example - second position: it's time for me to play an example for you. I'm going to use that. See how Monica, I'm going to use a G major jam track at 100 beats per minutes. You will find that in the resource section together with one version at 80 bpm and one version of 120 ppm. So you can practice at different speeds. I'm gonna play mostly around, holds 136 and I'm gonna try to use as many notes as possible just to show that second position is very versatile and very usable. So here goes. - When you practice, you will probably notice that the five chord that is bar nine is a little bit problematic. Not all notes you play will sound as cool as you would like them to do. And that's true. The five chord is a little bit of a special case, and at this stage there are basically two ways of handling that. One way is to never play any long notes. Just play a bunch of shorter notes, and that will reduce the awkwardness off the less matching notes for the five chord. Another way is to play just one long note that matches that court very well. And I recommend using either the four draw or the one draw, which are both the root note off the fight court. So that matches very, very well. Or you can use to six draw, which is the fifth off that chord, which is also a very, very nice note. Teoh Use now try this yourself with the backing track and see if it works out better for you. 8. Section 4: What is a scale? Blues scale outline: in the last section, we played solos with very few rules. It's a perfectly valid approach, but to increase the number of notes that fit better in your solo to the 12 bar blues is more common to base your solo on a scale. What is the scale you asked? Well, you can view a scale as a sequence of appropriate notes to play for a given key. It's basically the collection of notes you choose from first when you play. There are many scales to choose from, but the one we're going to use is known as the blue Scale. Before I show you the blue scale, let's talk a little bit about theory. The blue scale is based on the minor pentatonic scale. It's a scale with five notes, and to that scale we add the minor 50. The minor Fifth is a very blue sea, very dissonant note, which also gives it its power in the blue skin. What you need to remember is this pattern Hold to draw. Hold three drill half step end hold for Exhale four drill half step bend four draw, five draw and six Exhale. It sounds like this going upwards and if I played both up and down. It sounds like this, Uh, there is a pdf in the resource section off the blue scale, and I've also put the version there off the blue scale, across the entire range of the harmonica for the more advanced students. Now, if you can't bend properly, don't worry too much. What you can do is when you play that three draw, say, oy, that will give you a little bit of a skew and in the pitch. And that will emulate the band quite nicely. And it works fairly. Okay. On hold Fouras Well, before playing solos using the blue scale. Spend some time practicing it on memorizing it across the harmonica. And it will make a huge different. When you start playing your solos in the next video, I will give you a quick demonstration on me playing a solo using the blue scale 9. Section 4: Solo example - blues scale: Oh! 10. Section 5: Quick primer on chords: now a quick primer on cords for those of you who don't know what they are. Basically, if an instrument place to notes, arm or from a scale simultaneously, it's Blake Accord. Generally, people think off cords as consisting of three notes, the Root note, the third and the fifth. And in blues, we also like to include the flattered seven note to give it some extra blues character. In the next lecture, I will show you where the cord notes for the cords of the 12 bar blues are on the harmonica . 11. Section 5: Chord tones for the chords: Oh, so let's map out the core tones on the harmonica. Remember, we're working in G Major, and we're using a C heart first. The one chord it consists off G be de. And if that is the root note, the third, the fifth on the flat seven. You will find G on to draw. Three. Exhale, six Exhale and nine Exhale. You will find B on three draw and seven draw. You will find D on one draw, four draw and eight draw. You will find F on to draw hold step end five draw and nine draw. Do you notice something there? All drone notes. With the exception off the six draw and the tendrils or court tones, that's good to know. The four chord consists R, C, E G and B flat. Again, it's the route. The third, the fifth and the flat seven you will find see on one Exhale four Exhale seven Exhale and 10 Exhale. You will find E on to Exhale. Five. Exhale an eight Exhale. You'll find G on to draw three. Exhale six Exhale and nine Exhale and you will find B flat on three draw half step band and not very commonly used. 10. Exhale Whole step bend. Notice something special here as well. Well, old Exhale notes are core tones. The five chord consists off. D have sharp a and See again. It's the root note, the third, the fifth and the flat. Seven. You will find D on one draw, four draw and a TRO if sharp on to draw half step bend and nine. Exhale half step in a on three draw whole step, then six draw and 10 draw see on one Exhale four Exhale, seven Exhale and 10 Exhale. The five chord is definitely the trickiest for this cord. You need to find what works best for you to utilize all the possibilities. You need strong bending skills, but as you can see, there are options, even if you don't bend at all. Now I recommend that you memorize where the court tones are on the harmonica before moving on to playing solos. Using court tells the next video is a me play. An example. Playing a solo using Onley Court tells 12. Section 5: Solo example - chord tones: - the flat seventh off. Each chord often serves a specific purpose is often used to mark that the chord changes coming. So if you play the one chord just before going to the four chord, you complain to flat seventh off the one court, then it. That serves as a signal to the other musicians that now it's time to change chords. That's a good way to communicate. I will now play an example where I play just the root note in the riff and then, before going to the new court, played a flat seven. - Now a quick question for you if you listen to the solos you played using the blue scale and the solos you've played in this section, has any thought popped into your head? It wouldn't surprise me if you thought that the blues solos that you played using the blue scale sounds blues here and a bit cooler. The reason for that is that the blue scale will let you play a lot of notes that create tension towards the cords, whereas when you played on Lee using court tones, you don't create much tension at all. With the exception for the flat seven in the next section, we take a look at how we can create tension and then releasing that tension at the same time as we take advantage off, the court tells. 13. Section 6: Passing tones and blues notes, tension and release: as mentioned in the last section. Staying completely within the cord will make you play something that is 100% musically appropriate. But it may not always have that excitement we're looking for. It can also feel a bit limiting. To fix these, we can add passing tones and blue notes. A passing tone is usually a tone from the scale that is not a court tone. We use it to give ourselves MAWR options as removed between or quarter tones. Blue notes are notes that are a little bit in this harmony with accord being played and therefore create some tension in the music. Introducing this tension and then releasing it by going to more stable core tone is part of what introduces emotion and excitement in the music. It can be tempting to play too many blue notes, and if you do, you will sound like you're kind of playing in the wrong key. Too much tension equals no excitement. The best way is to use mostly court tones, introduced a few passing notes and just a few blue notes. Teoh spice things up. Next we look at what options we have for the different chords 14. Section 6: Passing tones and blues notes for the chords: Oh, so let's look at what options we have for records. For the one chord, the court tones are basically draw notes, so we have the root note on to draw. We have the third on three draw. We have the fifth on four draw, and then we have a flat seven on five drawer or to draw whole step end. So what we can use as passing tones are the Exhale notes. Just remember that three Exhale, six Exhale and nine Exhale are actually route notes. When it comes to blue notes, we can use the flat. Third, that's D three draw half step bend. You can use the flat five, which is the four droll half step back. And of course, we can use to flat seven, which is the to draw a whole step band or five. Drop for the four chord old chord tones, with exception for the flat seventh our exhale tones. So we have to use drone notes, as are passing tones, but I would recommend you Teoh stay away from three draw and seven drawn because they are a little bit too happy a little two major for the forecourt when it comes to blues. When we look at blue notes, we have the option off the flat seven, which is that three draw half step end. And the only other option we have is the flat five, which is to draw half step bend for the five chord. Staying within the chord often adds enough excitement. Since then, we're using tones that are not used by the other chords for passing tones. Most of the Exhale notes worked fine. The Blue note options you have are to draw Hold Step Ban, which is the flat third, which is also available on five Draw. You can also use three drawer 1.5 tone band, which is the flat five, which also find on six draw half step bend. And, of course, you can use Exhale one for seven and 10 which are the flat at seven. The five chord is a tricky one. 15. Section 6: Solo example - passing tones and blue notes: Oh, in this example, I will use court tones and I will use passing toes to move between my court tones. I will also use blue notes, especially from the blue scale, and hopefully this will give us the best of both worlds. 16. Section 7: The value of repetition and solo structure: So far, we haven't talked about how to structure on solos. We have just played what we felt like. This is quite OK, but to really play solos that captivate our audience, there are a few elements to add. The first element is repetition. Often, harmonica players don't want to give the audience as much repetitions as they like were often caught up in trying. Teoh, think of a new rift to play rather than to repeat the one we just played. Think of it this way. If you just played something great, why not give the audience a chance to hear it again and enjoy it even more? When you repeat something, you tell the audience this is important and it will have a greater impact. One great way of using repetition is to use the pattern. Play something played again, play something different, come back to what you originally played. This is how many popular songs so structured for the simple reason that it works and it gets people interested in practice. This is what you do at the start of the round of the 12 Bar blues you played to bar Riff, then you repeat it now you played something across the entire one chord. When the four chord comes, you play a different riff. Then, when the one chord has come back, you play the same riff that's originally played. Then to finish it off, you play something. What is known as a 541 turn round riff, I have put a PdF in the resource section with a couple of suggestions for a 541 turnaround riffs. Another pattern you can use mimics the structure of many blues lyrics. First you hear a lyric line them, that lyric line is repeated and the round is finished off with another lyric line that rhymes with the 1st 2 The way to do it is to play a four bar riff over the one chord. Then you repeat exactly that four bar riff over, Therefore, and the one chord, and you finished the round off with a 541 turnaround. If you want to go all out on repetition, you can play a one bar. If the two bar if or a four bar if and simply repeat it as many times as you need to complete the 12 bar blues, it actually is more exciting than it might sound, especially if you follow it up with another round, which is one of the other patterns I mentioned before. There are other patterns for repetition you can use, but these three will give you a good start. 17. Section 7: Pauses and rests: Oh, now let's talk about an element of soloing. Many players forget what I'm talking about. Our ports is and rests in our effort to deliver as much excitement as possible. In our solos, we often tried to cram as many notes as possible into our souls. What we forget is that what we don't play is just as important as what we do. Play by leaving a little bit of space by living rests in the riffs. The notes we do play become more important. The music also lives in the forces somewhere. You play your civil owes. Don't be afraid, Teoh. Leave off a beat or two. It will make you sound so much better. 18. Section 7: Dynamics: Mm. The use of dynamics is probably both the easiest and the hardest element to implement to make your solos exciting. Using dynamics is basically just changing the volume you play at throughout your solo. If you play at the same volume all the time, it will eventually be boring to remember. To change the volume while you play, you really have to be mindful. What you can do is use cues in the music to remind yourself. For example, if you change the volume every time there is a chord change, you will automatically introduce dynamics in the music. You can also change the volume within the riff to highlight certain points. Players sometimes forget to use dynamics simply because it's such a simple concept. However, if you do, you really lose a powerful, too. 19. Section 7: Solo example - putting it all together: Oh, in this example, I will try to bring everything together. I'm going to use repetition creating structure for the solo. I'm going to use, um, pulses and also a little bit of dynamics to show you how everything works together. 20. Section 8: 12 bar blues variations: in this video, I want to cover a few 12 bar blues variations you might come across. The first variation is 12 Bar Blues. No turnaround. It is a minor tweak compared to what we've seen before. Basically, it means that they're Ban does not play the five court at all in Bar 12. In that situation, you might want to leave off the turnaround riff at the end. Typically hold to hold one whole one. The second variation is known as the quick Change. What happens is that the band goes to the four Chord already Bar two and then switch back to the one chord in Bar three. Everything else is kept exactly the same. This changes the feeling off the round a little bit, and it's an opportunity for you to throw in. Some one court tones already more to the last variation I Want to cover is known as 12 Bar Blues Long five Chord. What happens here is that in both not Bar nine and Bar 10 we played the five chord instead of the standard five chord full of by the four chord. In this case, you're probably better off not using the standard fight for one turnaround riffs and simply play core tone from the five chord during Barn in Anbar 10. By some accounts, this is the original version of the 12 Bar Blues, but it's not very common today. So now we've covered three variations of the 12 bar blues, and I also want to mention that you can come across basically any combination of these So you can. You can come across a 12 bar blues with a quick change, no turn around and a long five chord. It's all in a day's work. Basically, now it's time to wrap things up. 21. Section 9: Where to go from here: Oh, first I want to congratulate you on finishing this course. The time and effort you have put in here has equipped you with all the tools you need to become a great harmonica player. However, the journey doesn't stop here. I want you to continue practicing with the jam tracks and practice all the concepts we've talked about this course, and before you know it, it will have become internalized. You don't even have to think about it when you play. That's when you really consent your creativity free. If you're not already doing it, I recommend that you go to jam sessions in practice. The things together with other musicians playing with other musicians is a great learning opportunity. And why not join the band? Also, consider taking a course on music theory. It will really help your understanding on music. Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Feel free to contact me if there's anything I can do to help you, Bye for now,