Rules for Great Blues Harmonica Practice

As we all know, becoming a great harmonica player takes practice. Lots of practice. What suprises me sometimes is that how little thought some people put into how they practice. When I became serious about blues harmonica quite a few years ago I quickly found out that I was time constrained. It wasn’t because of lack of interest I wasn’t practicing 8 hours a day, it was simply because I had so many other obligations. Work, family, house, garden etc etc. You know how it is. This led me to thinking about how I could make the best use of the time I actually practiced.

Some time ago I took the time to record a few YouTube videos I chose to call “Hertzberg’s rules of practice”. It was my way of collecting the ideas I had developed over time that made my practice better than when I started. It turned out to be 9 rules for some reason, I don’t know why. Now I thought it would be a great time to summarize them here in this article. For full explanation of the rules watch the videos.

1. Quality & quantity
More is not always better, it has to be good as well. Rule #1 video.

2. Consistency is king
Improvements fade if they are not maintained. Rule #2 video.

3. End with a positive feeling
What happens after the practice is also important to end on a positice note. Rule #3 video.

4. Have your gear ready
Don’t waste time when you practice! Rule #4 video.

5. Set your intentions
If you know what you want, everything falls into place. Rule #5 video.

6. Record and review
We don’t always hear what we play when we are playing. Rule #6 video.

7. Make performance practice realistic
The way be pratice is the way we default to under preassure. Rule #7 video.

8. Check relaxation
The more relaxed you are the less you will fight yourself. Rule #8 video.

9. Let the metronome rule
Staying in time is much more difficult than many people think. Rule #9 video.

If you follow these rules I can guarantee you that your blues harmonica practice will be much more efficient. Not only will your progress be quicker but you will also likely spend more time practicing. Everything adds up!

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Blues Harmonica Solo Course Live on Udemy

Everything moved quicker than I expected my course is already live on Udemy. I am very excited about this.

The course is for beginnig and intermediate harmonica players who want to improve their soloing skills. The course covers everything for simple 12 bar blues solo strategies up to startegies that include supporting the chord progression, dynamics, solo structure and creating excitement. This is what you need to take your solos to the next level and really integrate what you play with the music.

If you want to become better at playing blues harmonica solos, this is the course for you.

You will find the “Learn to play and improve 12 bar blues harmonica solos” course here.

If you sign up to my mailing list I will send you a coupon giving you a 75% discount valid until August 31st 2017.

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Working on blues harmonica course for Udemy

Forr the last month I have been working on a course to publish on Udemy. The reason I have chosen to go with Udemy is their great support in putting together courses. Now I have been able to focus on the material I want to tech rather than designing web pages. Hopefully everything will be up and running within a few weeks. I am very excited about this!

Harp on!

Friday night session at HMW 2016

After the instructor concerts Friday night at HMW 2016, there was a short session with a great band. I hadn’t really planned to play anything but I couldn’t resist playing with such a great band. I was very happy afterwards. Getting practice as a blues harp player is very important. Earlier in the week I had played in Joe Filisko’s class.


The band:

Guitar: Kai Strauss
Bass: Thomas “Gaz” Brodbeck
Piano: Christian Rannenberg
Drums: Bernhard Egger

Become a better blues harp player

If you ever get the chance to play on stage with professionals I suggest you take it! The experience will make you a better blues harp player. Just know that the first couple of times it will be quite intimadating. However this is how all great performers start. You have to practice to become good. To make things less intimadating I suggest you pick an occasion where you are surrounded by friends. Also make sure that you are prepared. Just knowing the song you are going to play is not enough. You need to prepare for the situation as well.

Joe Filisko’s has said:

If somebody asks you to play. Always say ‘Yes’ but always be prepared.

I think this a good quote to keep in mind. You never know when a good opportunity presents itself. If you are not prepared when it does, you will kick yourself later. As you become more familiar with the situation you will need less preparation. On this occasion for example I hadn’t planned to play. The opportunity however was too good to pass up.

Playing in class at HMW 2016

In order to grow as blues harmonica players we need feedback. We cannot develop in a vaccum. At HMW 2016 I took the opportunity to play in Joe Filisko’s class. It is always a challenge to play in front of so many great players but well worth it. I got some great feedback so now I know what to work on.

Study song

The song I played is my own version of a Sonny Terry tribute based on Joe´s study song “Chasin´ lost Sonny”. The study material is a collection of phrases often played by Sonny Terry. It is a great piece for anyone interested in Sonny Terry´s playing style. The challenge is to catch the sound of Sonny Terry and to not be too predictable.

Blues harmonica heaven

If you don´t know about Harmonica Masters Workshops in Trossingen you really need to check it out. I have been coming to the event for many years and it keeps getting better. It is a great opportunity to develop you blues harmonica skills and meet great people. Every day is packed with hours of workshops and in the evening there are concerts and jam sessions. I have taken the opportunity to play on stage a couple of times. I have also played in class on a couple of occasions. You choose yourself how much effort you put in the classes vs the bar.

A lot of the participants come back year after year. I have made many great friends in Trossingen. The only thing we hate is that every fourth year the event is replaced by the World Hamronica Festival. WHF may be even bigger but for us harmonica nuts it is simply an interuption. In 2017 the WHF will take place instead of HMW but I will be back in 2018. Maybe I will meet you there? If you plan to come, let me know!