How to improvise with blues harmonica | Easyharp Tips

how to improvise with blues harmonica

Hello blues harmonica friends, today I try to give some tips about improvisation playing blues with your harmonica.

Improvisation…what is improvisation? Well, you know, if you love blues harp and you are playing alone, just relax and start blowing your harp, do it for fun and anything comin’ out from your instrument will be fine, even if you don’t know exactly where you are going with your music.

But, if you are playing with another instrument, a guitar for example, or maybe a complete band, you have to consider that the whole music should be fine, not only yours…you are not playing alone anymore, now you are playing music with other musicians. So, I think is important, in that contest, to start listening all other instruments before playing yours, you have a lot of choices playing, but the musical background can make the difference: feel part of the band!

Then, always consider the musical structure you are playing. If are trying to improvise on a twelve bars blues, you can start building your phrases with a regular length; for example, start with a four bars phrase, repeat it three times and it will work fine (4x3 = 12 bars). Then you can try to make some changes on your phrase, for example repeat the same phrase two times and make a variation the third time (4x2 + 4 = 12 bars).

Ok, but which notes to play? Well, if you don’t know which notes to choose building your phrases, start with a scale. Basically, playing blues, you can start with two scales: major pentatonic scale and blues scale. If you are trying to improvise on a major tune, both of them will work fine, but if you are playing a minor tune use the blues scale only. Scales are not the truth, but will help you a lot creating and exploring different musical phrases. So, take your harmonica, choose your scale, have a clear idea of which notes you can play, but not abuse them, I mean start using only few notes of that scale, for example three notes can be enough, and try to play a nice simple phrase with few notes on a regular length.

If you have problems playing regularly, begin tappin’ your foot when you play! 1, 2, 3, 4, … tap it every quarter…1, 2, 3, 4…want to play a long lasting note? Try to make a 4/4 bar lasting note and then use other notes, maybe with a shuffle feeling, and try to make a regular 4 bars phrase. And remember: music is not only playing, but is also not playing! Silence is part of the music and must be part of your playing. So, in a regular 4 bars phrase, leave some free space and use it to breath and think about your next phrase.

When you give yourself some improvisation restrictions, you are just making a choice among endless possibilities. Make your choice and try to change it sometimes.

These are just some suggestions. Best thing is always not to think when you play, just feel the music and feel free; but I think that experimenting improvisation restrictions, in particular when you are studying, can help you evolving your personal language. You know, sometimes less is more.

Playing is like speaking: when you improvise, you have the possibility to tell something, try to make it comprehensible.

And remember that playing is fun, so I wish a lot of fun playing your blues harmonica!


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