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How to Rock a Harmonica Solo

Learn how to rock a harmonica solo with this Howcast harmonica lesson from John Popper of Blues Traveler.


Hi, I'm John Popper, lead singer of the band Blues Traveler. I also play harmonica, and am arguably one of the best in the world. But thank God, there really never can be an actual best, but I'm damn good. I'm gonna teach you a few things about the harmonica.

Soloing is really about confidence and taking charge of a phrase. It's important to not see it as a harmonica thing. It's important to see it as a musical thing. People always see the difference between a harmonica and a saxophone. There isn't one. It's just different manipulations to make the same kind of sound. You want to make a statement. And, in fact, a good exercise that a lot of soloists do is sing your solo. If you can sing it, you can ultimately play it. Might take a little work to get there, but the important thing is to have the idea of the solo. You can learn all kinds of chops on this instrument, or any other instrument. But if you aren't thinking it, you won't say it. We had, again, that saxaphone teacher I was talking about. He had a great exercise for it. He would make us play a joke. And I don't mean we would play a joke on someone. We would actually musically tell a joke. It was the joke of the plumber and the parrot. Where the plumber's knocking on the door, and the lady was out. And the parrot goes, who is it? The guy goes, it's the plumber. And the parrot goes, who is it? And the guy goes, it's the plumber. And the parrot goes, who is it? And the guy goes, it's the plumber! And the parrot goes, who is it? And the guy goes, it's the plumber! And eventually he has a heart attack, and drops over dead right there. And the lady comes back from shopping, and goes, my God, who's that? And the parrot goes, it's the plumber. And that's, like an old joke. The trombone was the parrot, the saxophone got to be the plumber. And I got to be the lady going, my God, who's that? And, um, you would play the phrase of, iii. You play the frustration. You really try and look at the phrase of what you're saying. I think that's more important than any rudiment that you could learn. 'Cause if you learn the phrase, just like learning a language. That's really what music is. It's another language. If you learn to say what you're saying, you will figure out all kinds of interesting and unique ways to say it. You'll be instantly original that way. Try and have an idea to say, and you will always find a new way to say it. The way that I'm talking to the camera right now is just like playing a solo. I'm soloing right now. I'm be-boppin' my butt off, baby.

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