6 Simple Blues Harmonica Riffs (That You Can Play Today!)

By Alex Paclin

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

Spoonful

Spoonful is a blues song by Willie Dixon that was first recorded in 1960 by Howlin’ Wolf. Called “a stark and haunting work”, it is one of Dixon’s best known and most interpreted songs. Later on it was covered by Etta James and Harvey Fuqua as a duet , and it was popularized in the late 60s by the band Cream. Dixon’s “Spoonful” is loosely based on “A Spoonful Blues”, a song recorded by Charley Patton.

The lyrics relate men’s sometimes violent search to satisfy their cravings, with “a spoonful” used mostly as a metaphor for pleasures, which have been interpreted as sex, love, and drugs.

C harmonica, 2nd position, key of Gm

-2 -3’ -2 -3’ -2 -3’  -2

Hoochie Coochie Man

Hoochie Coochie Man is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Muddy Waters in 1954. The song makes reference to hoodoo folk magic elements and makes novel use of a stop-time musical arrangement. It became one of Waters’ most popular and identifiable songs and helped secure Dixon’s role as Chess Records’ chief songwriter. 

The song is a classic of Chicago blues and one of Waters’ first recordings with a full backing band. Dixon’s lyrics build on themes of fortune and sex appeal. The stop-time riff was often used in R&B, jazz, and rock and roll songs.

A harmonica, 1st position, key of A

-2 -3’ -3’ 14 (octave)

Dust My Broom

Dust My Broom is a song by Robert Johnson recorded in 1936 in the series of his debut recordings. The song has become a blues standard, with numerous renditions by a variety of musicians including the most famous one by Elmore James made in 1951. It also has been selected for the Blues Foundation Blues Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. This version is sung by Etta James and harmonica is played by John “Juke” Logan*.

G harmonica, 2nd position, key of D

-2” -2 -3’ -2    -2” -2 -3’ 4 -4 -3’   -2 -2” -1 (x2)

Baby Please Don’t Go

Baby Please Don’t Go is often reported as the song that everyone who has played the blues has worked on, mostly while trying to get an authentic blues sound out of the music. The song seems to have its roots in a collection of slavery songs based around the “Long John” theme, that transmuted to become songs like Alabama Bound and Charlie Patton’s “Elder Green”.

C harmonica, 2nd position, key of G

3 -3’4 3 -3’4   -2 -2
3 -3’4 3 -3’4   -2 -2”
3 -3’4 3 -3’4   -2 -2
-2” -1 -2” -1 1    3 -3’4 4 -4 -4’ -3’ -2 -2” -1 -2

Routes

Routes is an instrumental composition by a French harmonica player Jean-Jacques Milteau released in 1995. Milteau himself became interested in the harmonica when he first heard folk and rock music (such as Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones) in the 1960s. He’s won the Best Blues Album award in 2001 for the album called Memphis. Jean-Jacques has a signature harmonica by Hohner and is an author of several books about harmonica. This track consists of twelve bar verse with a repetitive riff and a bridge.

G harmonica, 2nd position, key of D

-1 -2” -2 -3’ -2 -2 -2    -2” -2 -3’4-3-2 -2” -1 -2” -1 -3’ -2 (x2)
-1 -2” -1 -2” -1 -1 -1 -2” -2 -3’-4-3-2 -2” -1 -2” -1 -3’ -2

Skatoon

On Skatoon, Carlos del Junco plays in eclectic style with a juicy tone using overbending technique. As Carlos says, he likes to marry the gut wrenching sound of an aggressive Blues style with a slightly jazzier “roots music” sound. He studied with an amazing harmonica player – Howard Levy in the late 80’s, who also has influenced his music a lot.

No video available, sorry! If you find one please post it in the comments below!

C harmonica, 2nd position, key of G

-3’ -3 -2    -3’ -3 -3’ -3 -2  2 -1 -2 -2 -2 -3 (x2)
-4’ 4 -3’ 4 -4’ 4 -3’ 4 -3’ -2 -2” -2 -2 -2 -3
-2 -3’ -4’ 4 -3’ -2 4 -3’ -2 -2” -2 2 -1 -2 -2 -2 -3

Hope you enjoyed this list, let us know below if you have any personal favorites?

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