How to play a slow blues on harmonica

Aug 17, 2016 | 12 Bar Blues, Advanced Beginner Harmonica Lessons

Today’s lesson is a slow 12 bar blues to show you how I would approach playing slow blues. You will need a harmonica in the key of C. We’re playing in 2nd position.

If you would like a free copy of the tab for it just click the button below.


We’re thinking about dynamics in this example. That means thinking about how hard you play. I’m consciously making the effort to play quite quietly and down in the lower octave, concentrating on low notes.

There is also quite a lot of time to think about how you can make one note sound different. I use hand wah on the 2 hole draw. This adds an almost vocal effect to the harmonica.

Another dynamic element I’m adding is a little bit of vibrato. This is where you warble the pitch a little bit using your throat.

Finally, instead of hitting notes straight on I am using inflections to make them sound more interesting. This means slightly bending and quickly releasing the note when you first play it. I use the vocalisation “kya” when I hit the note for this effect.

Call and response

I am a huge fan of call and response as a tool for improvisation. I’m using it a lot in this example. Over the one chord I have one very simple phrase which I then repeat with a slight variation. Similarly over the IV chord.


The turnaround deserves a little bit of time spent on it. Really slow it down and learn it so that you don’t have to think about it. You don’t need to improvise a turnaround. Have some good ones in your back pocket that you can just pull out without thinking.

Other techniques

Click here for lesson on hand wah.
Click here for lesson on warbles.

Audio clips of licks

Practice slowly with each lick individually below –

Backing Track

Once you have learnt each lick individually, try to putting them together over this backing track.

Thank you

Thank you so much for taking part in this lesson. I hope it was useful for you. If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it with your friends.

See you again for the next harmonica video!

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