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How to Play a Harmonica Solo

Learn how to play a harmonica solo from music teacher Marcus Milius in this Howcast video.


Hi, my name is Marcus Milius. I play harmonica. I got a degree at the University of Southern California, a Bachelor's of Music, in Jazz Studies - Chromatic Harmonica. I play and teach harmonica here in New York City, and I'm happy to show you what I do. How to play a harmonica solo can refer to two different things. It can mean your solo or improvisation, that you play with a backing band. So to play a solo you wanna be familiar with the Blue's Scale and other scales and simply you'll be improvising. Make up any riff and repeat it over and over again. And as it goes through a Twelve-bar blues it starts to build some tension and then you can add some variety. So you might take something as simple as creating a rhythmic pattern on one note, like a Two-drop. Something like the rhythm from Lester Leaps In. So as long as you got that rhythmic phrase then you can start changing the notes. And uh by keeping the same rhythmic phrase. And right there you got the same rhythmic phrase repeated but you're changing the notes. The other thing you can do is keep the notes the same and change the rhythm so. Those are the notes. Change the rhythm. And that's how you build a harmonica solo. The other way at looking at a harmonica solo is solo playing. So, playing without an accompanying band. You want to take a simple melody and add more cords to it. So if you have um, a simple folk melody, for instance, like Oh Susanna. You want to add some cords to it. And if you have a simple Blues riff you can add some cords in between it. The Hoochie Coochie Man riff. If you play that with a band they're filling in all the rest of the music, the drums, the bass, and the guitar. But if it's just you by yourself playing solo then you want to add in a cord in between. So just try some different things out.

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