3 Hardest Harmonica Licks (That I Almost Can’t Play)

By Alex Paclin

Written by Alex Paclin on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles

The topic today is 3 hardest harmonica licks or riffs, that I almost can’t play!  All of the licks are by Howard Levy.

1. The Sidewalk Blues

F Harmonica
Key of C
2nd Position

-3 -3 -4 -5 -6 5 -5 -6 -7 7 8 9 9’ -9 8 -8 7 -7 -6 6
5 -6 6 5 -4’ -3’ 3 2 1 -1′

The hardest part in this lick are those arpeggios, that are hard to play clean at original speed. I prepared a couple exercises that will help you master this licks it and many other similar ones that involve arpeggios. Here is the first one. Play 3 -3 -4 -5 and you move it up a hole until the top of harmonica. Another one is in 3/4 measure: -3 -4 -5 5 6 7 -7 -6 -5 5 4 3. Play it with metronome at the speed that is comfortable for you and in which it sounds clean, that’s very important. Also one spot you may sound sloppy on is going from a -4’ to -3’. Cos the cavity in front of your tongue should be smaller on -3’ my tongue moves forward and my jaw moves up, so I’m switching the position of those in order for bends to sound right.

2. Abm funk (A flat minor funk)

C Harmonica
Key of Ab

-4 -5 -6 7 -6 6* -7 -6 -5 -4’ -4 -5 -6’ -5 5 9

It’s from Howard’s “Out Of The Box” harmonica course. The lick occurs at the end of the solo. I’d suggest to break this lick in parts and practice them separately starting from slow tempo finishing with an original one.

Start with this:

-4 -5 -6 7 -6 6* -7

Then:

-7 -6 -5 -4’ -4

Then add 6 blow.

And the last part:

-5 -6’ -5 5 9

If you are struggling with that leap you can also practice 5 9 separately in comfortable tempo.

3. Evanston Tango

C Harmonica
Key of F#

-4’ -4 -4’ -3 -3” -3 -3” -3”’ -2’

Also from “Out Of The Box” harmonica course. The lick is during the main theme. The hardest thing about it is separating those bends, cos they are all on -3 played quickly. 

I’d recommend to treat the -3”’ differently from the previous bends. Start practicing this part -4’ -4 -4’ -3 -3” -3 -3”, where you play bend on the 3rd hole just by moving your tongue -3” -3 -3”. And then for whole and a half tone bend drop your jaw and you automatically get a -3”’. So you play control a whole tone bend with a tongue and a whole and a half tone bend with a jaw. That makes it easier to play it precisely. On the -2’ you again raise your jaw quickly. Then add -3”’, and then -2’.

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