8 Awesome Harp Riffs (from Popular Songs)

By Alex Paclin

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

Love Me Do

Love me do is a first Beatles single, released in 1964 and peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the States. Harmonica was played by John Lennon, he starts off with a simple mixolydian riff which is followed by a riff that contains unbended notes that are out of C harmonica Richter tuning, so it was played on a chromatic harmonica. The second part of the riff starts off with playing over a D chord and then goes back to G mixolydian.

C chromatic harmonica, key of G.

Hook:
-6   6   -5 3 3 3 3
-6 -6 -6   6 6 6   -5 3 3 3
-6   6   -5 3 3 3 3
4 -4    3   3 3   3 3   3 4 -4

Bridge:
-3   -3 3 -2b
3 -2 2 -1

Isn’t She Lovely

A song from Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the key of life album which is about the birth of his daughter Aisha Morris. It features Stevie Wonder playing on almost all of the instruments. The riff plays a repetitive phrase which is g# a g# f# e and c# b each second time. Some of those notes sound as upper extensions of the chords that they played over, bringing color, especially when they are sustained.

C chromatic harmonica, key of E.

7b -7 7b -6b 6
7b 7b 7b   -7 7b  -6b 6   5b -4
7b -7 7b -6b 7b 6
7b   -7 7b  -6b 6   5b -4

Suicide Blonde

Wrote and performed by the members of INXS band featuring a sampled harmonica (at least from A and D harmonicas) that’s originally played by Charlie Musselwhite. The melody uses leaps from 1 to b3, to 4 and 5.

A harmonica, 2nd position, key of E (for live version)

-2 -3′ 4 -2″   -4 -3’
-2 -3′ -2 -3′ 
-2 -3′ -2 4 -2 -4 (repeat 8 eight times)
-2   6   -2 6 6 -2   -2   -2

Miss You

A single by Rolling Stones, peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the UK Singles Chart. This song features Sugar Blue on harmonica and rumor has it that he was found by Jagger busking on the streets of Paris. Most part of it is played over Am chord, but what makes it especially funky is the bass line that plays staccato eighth notes switching between downbeats and upbeats and usually switching chord tones that fall on downbeats.

D harmonica, 2nd position, key of A

-2″  -2  4  -3′  -2 -2″ -2
-2″  -2  4  -3′  -2 -2″ -2
-2″  -2  -3′ -2 (repeats…)

On The Road Again

This is a song by Canned Heat. A driving blues-rock boogie, it was adapted from earlier blues songs and includes mid-1960s psychedelic rock elements. Played on an alternate harmonica tuning that allows to play a b3 step in the second octave in the second position without an overblow. It moves to b3 and 4 once in 4 measures. Notice the drone in the background played on the Eastern string instrument Tambura, that gives the song it’s psychedelic vibe.

A harmonica, 2nd position, key of E

-2 (repetitive) -2 -3′ 4 \-2 -2

Mannish Boy

Blues standard by Muddy Waters that features a repeating stop-time figure on one chord throughout the song. Inspired by “I’m a man” of Bo Diddley and Willie Dixon’s Hoochie Coochie Man and is originally recorded with Junior Wells in 1955.

D harmonica, 2nd position, key of A

-23 4 3 -34′ -23

Have A Talk With God

A song by Stevie Wonder from a Songs in the key of life album (just as Isn’t she lovely) that became the best-selling and most critically acclaimed album of Wonder’s career. Features Stevie playing diatonic harmonica which is doubled creating a chorus sound.

Ab harmonica, 1st position, key of Ab

9   8 8′ 7 7      9   8 8′ 7 7
9   8 8′ 7  8’      9 9′ 8 8′ 7 7
9   8 8′ 7 7

Juke

This is a harmonica instrumental by Little Walter and one of his most famous songs. It’s a swinging shuffle that features long saxophone-like phrases. The opening eight bars of the song, or “head”, consist of a repeated six note phrase commonly and frequently played by jazz and swing horn players in the 1930s and 1940s. The much-studied and debated head that opens “Juke” was used most notably in Louis Armstrong’s 1941 recording “Leap Frog”. The riff goes up a major pentatonic.

A harmonica, 2nd position, key of E

-2 -3″ -3 -4 5 36 36

 

Tell the harmonica world what you think...

(Spamcheck Enabled)