Hello and welcome to this week’s harmonica lesson. This is a general lesson for all levels of player and it answers a question I get all the time – How do you practice licks on the harmonica?

To play along with me, you will need a harmonica in the key of C but the principles apply whatever key you are playing in.


Six steps to practice licks

I have broken down lick practice into six steps for you to follow…

Step 1 – Listen to the lick

The most important thing to do when learning a lick is usually skipped. Before you even pick up a harmonica, you need to listen to the lick a lot.

Listen to it until you can hum, whistle or sing it from memory. Then you are ready to learn it.

Step 2 – Practice slowly

image of lick tab

Now that you are ready to start practicing the lick, make sure that you start slowly. It is also essential that you play with correct rhythm right from the start. Don’t think that it is ok to “learn the notes” then “learn the rhythm”. This will make the job much harder and inhibit your ability to memorise and play the lick well.

Step 3 – Gradually increase the speed

Once you can play the lick perfectly at a slow tempo, you can gradually increase the speed using your metronome.

Make sure that you don’t rush to play at a tempo that you are not comfortable with. Playing slowly will give you strong foundations.

Step 4 – Play it with a backing track

Once you have it up to speed, try playing it with the backing track. It is really important that you start the lick in a logical place.

For example, if the lick starts on beat 1 then you need to play it on beat 1.

Backing track

Step 5 – Practice it over different speeds and grooves

Once you are happy playing over one backing track it is time to experiment playing over different backing tracks and hearing what difference that makes.

Slow blues

Medium shuffle

Fast swing

Step 6 – Play in different keys

It is now time to experiment playing in different keys. You need to be comfortable playing everything on any key.

Quite often this will reveal weaknesses you have on certain keys. This is really useful information as it will allow you to plan your practice sessions to address these issues.

Step 7 – Use in context

The final step is making a conscious effort to use the lick in context.

Every time you play a harmonica solo or jam with some friends, make sure you use the new lick. This will cement it in your vocabulary if you do it within the first couple of weeks of learning the lick.

More licks to play with

Here are 7 licks for you have fun with;

Click here for the full lesson on 7 easy blues harmonica licks.

Do you want to sound really bluesy?

If you are struggling to sound really bluesy then you might be interested in my 12 easy 12 bar blues for beginners eCourse which will be starting on 10th April.

Click here for more information.

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!

Check out these other lessons…

Learn this KILLER Gussow Lick!

Learn this KILLER Gussow Lick!

In this video I'm going to show you how to work out what Adam Gussow is playing in this killer lick... https://youtu.be/JgMOfu-XwQw Click here to enrol in a FREE 4 Week Blues Harmonica Foundation eCourse Thank you

Learn Blues Harmonica