How to Play the Blues Harp

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Harp Players on YouTube (and MySpace)

YouTube has got to be the greatest gift available to harp players.

Not only can you see some of the truly great players going back to Sonny Boy Williamson but you also have free access to some really impressive instructional videos from some great teachers as well as some really impressive contemporary players. Roll your mouse pointer over the "Your Guide to YouTube" menu bar above to home in on your special area of interest.

Blues Harp Players (in no particular order)

Junior Wells with Buddy Guy and the John Mayall Bluesbreakers including Mick Taylor on his signature number "Messin' with the Kid"

Kim Wilson

Monster tone, fluency, and drive with the best tongue flutter in the business - all characterise Kim Wilson's playing - look out for the signature leg raise as he squeezes out a key note. (Some viewers mistakenly suppose he is squeezing out something else)

Here is a whole bunch of links starting with my favourite:

You're Going to Miss me When I'm Gone Check out the guitar solo as well and compare this with Bharath's version - both good but this has the edge with Kim's superb tongue flutter.

Early in the Morning with some great piano playing as well.

Another Early in the Morning with Kim swapping harps from a C 2nd position to a G in first position a la "Trust My Baby" in front of a very enthusiastic crowd. The top end playing is particularly effective - specially when his harp seems to get into an argument with the hecklers in the crowd. Lots of top Leg Raising here as well.

Fflat - another tour de force.

Big Time Playboy with WC Clark and Angela Strehli.

Bharath and his Rhythm Four

Little Walter lives on in the shape of Canadian harp player Bharath Rajakumar supported by the Rhythm Four. His version of Walter's "Blue Lights" on his MySpace is a real treat for Walter fans as are the rest of the numbers to be found there.

His YouTubes are an education. Here is a good example. He is lucky to have a fine supporting band in the Rhythm Four who keep the Walter sound faithful - no flash, just beautiful solid support for Bharat's great harp playing

Here is their channel and here is another example.

Here he is playing with 95-year-old blues legend Pinetop Perkins on "They Call me Mr Pinetop"

Notice how Bharat has picked up the Kim Wilson leg raise.

Mark Hummel plays a good straight-ahead Kim Wilson-style harp with lovely octave work and tonge warbles. Here he is with the Blues Survivors and here he is again at the Ringwood Library. I got thrown out of my local library for just whistling! The same library here plays host to Kim Wilson and Charlie Musselwhite as well as Mark Hummel.

Charlie Musselwhite's performances have been uploaded by a number of YouTube contributors so that we can appreciate his impeccable top end. Here is " Gone too Long" from his Delta Hardware CD.

Here he is at the Iron Horse Cafe.

Sonny Boy Williamson II. There is a wealth of SBW material on You Tube.

Here are my personal favourites:

Your Funeral and My Trial. A particular bonus of seeing Sonny Boy playing these numbers is that some indistinct phrases on the records are clearer when you can see his lips move.

Nine Below Zero with Memphis Slimon piano, Matt Guitar Murphy, Billy Stepneyon drums and Willie Dixon on bass in front of an audience of college professors and their wives.

I'm a Lonely Man

Getting Out of Town with Hubert Sumlin on guitar. Some lovely twinsets in the audience. Big Walter Horton fans will notice how Sonny Boy nicked the opening bars of Walter's Swing for the closing bars of this. (Or maybe it's the other way round - examples of "borrowing" can be found everywhere in blues history)

James Cotton. Although he seldom if ever sings nowadays, his harp playing is still superb as this slow blues track shows

William Clarke had huge tone and a huge voice as well as a unique octave warble which can be heard to good effect at 4 mins 44 seconds into this clip of him playing Blowing Lke Hell at Larry Blake's Club. He was also a master of the Hering 16-hole chromatic as was his mentor Little George (Harmonica)Smith who's mastery of a 16 hole chromatic is strongly in evidence in this clip of "Leaving Chicago". Makes my eyelids tingle!

Swedish harp player Hakan Ehn (see instructional videos on YouTube) does a very good harmonica boogie with some slight borrowing from Paul Jones's rendition of Flatfoot Sam. I don't think Paul is going to complain.