Who are the best blues harmonica players for beginners to listen to and why?

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JP Allen

by JP Allen:

My favorite blues harmonica player for beginners has to be none other than:

Sonny Boy Williamson II
(He was also known as Rice Miller, Sonny Boy Williams, Willie Williamson, Willie Miller, Little Boy Blue, The Goat and Footsie.)

So why Sonny Boy II?
1) He plays simple blues harmonica licks. Sonny plays short, clean, crisp blues phrasings without too many notes so it makes them easier to learn than long “run on sentences”.
2) He has beautiful rhythm and great tone.
3) He plays acoustic harmonica, which makes it much easier to figure out what he’s doing. If you’re a beginner you may not be familiar with how the distortion of an amp effects the sound you are hearing, this can be very confusing.

There are so many great blues harmonica players. When I asked my good friend Adam Gussow how he would answer the question, “Who is the best blues harmonica player to listen to (and learn from?)”, these were his top three picks:

1. Sonny Boy II
2. Howlin’ Wolf
3. Dr. Feelgood Potts

I totally agree with Adam. Howlin’ Wolf is a great choice.

So what’s the secret to playing blues? Gosh… There are so many factors… but if you want to learn to play the blues and make it sound like the real deal, you’ve got to learn to bend them notes!

I hope the below free video helps you understand some of the secrets to bending.

Please be patient with yourself. Though what I shared in the above video is conceptually easy, if you haven’t worked through my simple harmonica method step by step, the above techniques will be difficult…

Before learning to bend, please develop your Deep Relaxed Mouth Position to the point it’s a good habit that comes naturally… or learning to bend will be a nightmare.

REST ASSURED, YOU CAN DEFINITELY LEARN TO BEND if you take your time and follow the principles in the above video. Just please please be cool to yourself while you’re learning.

Bending in tune with a fat bluesy tone is tough… and no one figures it out over night… But you can! And you will… just stick with it!

Thanks for giving me the honor of helping you along on your harmonica journey and please consider checking out my step by step method if you enjoy my teaching style.

I really believe that playing harmonica will bring a ton of fun and happiness into your life … so there’s nothing I’d enjoy more than helping you master this MASSIVE lil’ instrument.

CLICK HERE if your ready to get serious about being my harmonica student… and we’ll have some “serious fun” together.

I hope I’m not being too pushy… I’m just really enthusiastic about helping you learn to play harmonica. And even though I may not know you personally, I really do care about you and I know you’ll make the choice that’s best for you at this time.

So tell me. Was my above video helpful? And if your willing to make a comment below that shares who you think is the best to learn from, it will help a ton of people all over the planet… including me.

Your newly engaged to be married harmonica buddy,
JP

(Article by Contributing Writers: JP Allen & Joe Feeney)

Comments (65)

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    Rod Morony

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    Thank u very much. I have your bundle so am workn thru it all. How good is “Sonny Boy”
    Congratulations on your engagement, sounds like u r are soooo in love
    Cheerws

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Rod! jp

      Reply

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      George Morgan

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      JP I am 73 and had an interest in the Blues Harp for years and enjoy listening to a good player and I decided to try to learn.They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I am beginning to think that they are wrong.I am doing your free stuff and I am making progress. I think I am beginning the get the bending technique at least a little Thank you.

      Reply

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        JP Allen

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        Great news George! Keep it up! jp

        Reply

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    Paula K

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    Congratulations on the engagement! That is awesome for both of you. Wishing you all the best.

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      So nice Paula! jp

      Reply

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    Diego

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    What can we add to your joy? Blessings my friend. Here is what the Bible says about what is happening in your life: “He who finds a [true] wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks for the blessings Deigo! jp

      Reply

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    Patrick

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    I think the best blues harmonica player for anyone to listen to and learn from, regardless of level, is Little Walter. The others you mentioned were very good, but Little Walter was the best that ever lived. George Harmonica Smith would be another one. Also, for more of a down home blues player, Sonny Terry was my favorite. Joe Filisko is the best teacher out there for teaching that style, or any style for that matter.

    Cheers

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks for sharing Patrick! jp

      Reply

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    Barry

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    Congratulations on your engagement. Has she picked a date yet? My wife and I have been married 40 this past June! Learn to work through your problems together and find happiness in the simple things.

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Barry, I will remember your advise. jp

      Reply

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    thebugleboy

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    Congratulations JP!
    Has your intended been featured on one of the free lessons yet?
    Great video, especially at the end when he pops the harp in his mouth sideways and keeps on keepin’ on (oops, showing my age here).
    And way to go Joe with your contributions. A real “Snappy” guy who has plenty of good helpful comments on our forum.
    Great advice y’all (as usual).

    BB (thebugleboy)

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks for your input BB…jp

      Reply

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    Edward Brien

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    Hey JP congratulations on your engagement,and up and coming wedding.
    I agree with you that Sonny Boy is the best to start with, I purchased is greatest hits and have been learning a lot from breaking them down and playing them over and over.
    I agree with you that his mastery lies in his use of less rather than more to punctuate his songs.
    Others I am sure are helpful to, but to be honest no one has gotten me farther along than you.
    thank you very much
    Sincerely Ed Brien

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Wow, thanks, it feels really good to hear that Ed. jp

      Reply

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    wilbert

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    Congradulations I wish you all the best with your new wife to be. I have been married 44 years and I dated 2years before marrying my lovely bride. I am still very much in love and work hard every day maintaining my marriage. I am still disabled and haven’t acquired the funds to take your course but am amazed as to what I have learned with your free tips. I affirm our good LORD’S blessings on you and your finance. Wilbert

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Many thanks for the blessings Wilbert…and congratulations of 44 years! jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    kalpesh

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    which chromatic model best forever? suzuki or hohner??

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Both are good for a long time if you take care of them. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Montez

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    What about Junior wells?

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Joe Feeney

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    Ten Miles in your bare feet, Do you run on the street or
    the beach or both.

    I’m doing 4 miles…4 times a week.

    Actually started running in order to help my breathing while
    playing harmonica. (can’t hurt).

    Joe

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Right on Joe, love running! jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Josh Hedstrom

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    Excellent blues!

    BTW, congratulations! Hope you and the girl live happily ever after!

    Peace Out!

    –Josh Hedstrom (burning thunder)

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks for the blessings Josh, jp

      Reply

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    Paco

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    They are awsm, pure and raw. But i want to know about players who play acoustic which not only have single notes but also chord’s sounds. I dont like wa wa sound much. Can u tell me some?? Because i think beauty of harmonica nt only lies in single notes but also in chord’s notes.

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Hey Paco, to name a few…Bob Dylan, Neil Young, JP Allen, Hal Walker. jp

      Reply

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    Greg

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    Is he using a 14 hole diatonic with the extra low octave for this song?

    Reply

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    Paco

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    Thank u, jp

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Your welcome Paco. jp

      Reply

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    Phillip Kleinsasser

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    Hi JP
    Good luck in your biggest adventure yet to come. Been married 11 yrs now. In love more every day.
    PS: who is playing at your weddintg?

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Phillip…still in the planning phase.
      jp

      Reply

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    whiteman2

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    JP
    That is some real soulful harp! Thanks a bunch for sharing that and congratulations on your engagement. I’m coming to Oahu April 6th 2012 to perform a wedding of my niece and her fiance at a ranch somewhere on the north side of the island. My wife and I are really looking forward to it!
    God Bless,
    Whiteman

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      If you get to Kauai, look me up. jp

      Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Thanks Whiteman, Look me up if you get to Kauai. jp

      Reply

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    whiteman2

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    JP
    Thanks for the invitation! My brother lives on Kauai so I would have two good reasons to visit.
    Whiteman

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Great Whiteman, hope to meet you. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Arlene

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    JP,

    I am in love with Harmonica now and I am enjoying your lessons every now and then. One person told me that you are the best mentor every one can have. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and hope to meet you someday.

    Arlene

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Wow.. What an honor! Thanks Arlene, I hope we could meet some day also. Till then Happy Harpin’ JP

      Reply

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    Whiteman2

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    I finally purchased your lessons and have really been enjoying them.You really go the extra mile to make it simple for anyone to learn. Thanks again

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      I’m so glad that My Lessons could help you! That’s great News 🙂 Happy Harpin’ jp

      Reply

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    jim crain sr.

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    Congratulations on your happy event. I’m sure you have an angel just like my Rosie. We can’t wait to meet you in July. Counting the sleeps every night. I so look forward to your emails. There is so much to learn and so little time. Thank you for all of your help my friend. jim and rosie crain sr.

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Looking forward to our time together. warmly, jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Preston

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    Congratulations on getting married. My wife and I have been married for 38 years now, and we love each other more than when we first met. Wishing you the best.

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Preston, but she called it off a while back. Dating a wonderful lady now, my heart is full. jp

      Reply

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    Bruce Proulx

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    JP congratulations, I’ve been married for 30 years and it takes work to get through the tough times but it but it pays off in the long run. Kind of like learning to play the harmonica, you reach times where you think you’re never going to get good at playing it. But if you stick to practicing, and working at it no matter how you sound it pays off in the long run.
    Now I have to agree with you about Sonny Boy, he seems to make more with less, and repeating it to get his grove on so to speak. I like his style it is very simplistic which seems like it would be somewhat easy to learn. Though I am new at learning the harmonica, and love your videos that you teach or ones that you present to us I am inspired by you and your enthusiasm and what you’ve done for those that want to start learning the harmonica and those that are well versed in playing this instrument.

    Thank you,
    Bruce Proulx

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Bruce, I appreciate all your comments, regarding the wedding, she called it off a while back. Dating a wonderful lady now, my heart is full. jp

      Reply

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    Julian

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    Well done on your engagement, JP! Fab! Really enjoying your lessons. I’m from the UK, and my favourite Blues harp player, and long time musical hero, is John Mayall. I’d love to be able to play “Brand new start” from his The Blues Alone album. Too much for me at this stage of my development, but maybe one day!!

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Julian, but she called it off a while ago. John Mayall is one of my favorites….inspired me all along. Have fun on the journey. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Stanislav

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    Yes, of course Sonny Boy Williamson is an inspiration to many who start playing the harmonica, the problem is that he uses many kinds of keys not just “C” and many people can’t afford to buy that much keys so they stick more to the likes of Little Walter (12bar) or Howling Wolf- also an mazing player with a great voice

    Reply

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    Elaine

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    Hi JP, congratulations on your engagement. my husband and I have been married 10 years on oct. 6

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Thanks Elaine, but she called it off some time ago. I am now dating a wonderful lady and my heart is full again.
      jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Robert

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    If she called it off, be glad, she was probably doing you a favor.

    After I took up guitar I let the harmonica go. I noticed you play both. I may get me something to hold my harmonica and try that too. Thanks for the idea.

    Robert

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Doug

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    Congrats on the engagement, enjoying working through the gypsy course and Happy Harping 70 lessons in.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Jan-Pavel

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    very cool! I have recently been asked from another harmonica “bender” player if I have already started to learn bending. Now I’m going toward that bending soon. thank you and CONGRATULATIONS and lots o Happiness and beauty.

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Lots of Happiness, beauty and bending back to you Jan! jp

      Reply

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    Simon Simons

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    JP most of your free stuff is the same,you spend 20mins explaining something that takes 1min to understand.
    If I buy your dvds how do I know you wont just waffle on?

    Ive done a lot of your lessons but I cant really play anything even a scale?
    Watching youtube there are some great teachers who show you riffs and how to jam along!!
    Ill keep doing your lessons as the basics are so important!Regards Simon.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Well, it’s true I do get excited about teaching and sometimes talk too much…you are welcome to try my lessons out and see how you like them, you can return them if you are not satisfied, no questions asked. By the end of the lessons you will be playing riffs and songs and have a solid foundation in the harp. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    let down

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    You don’t seem to answer any of my posts?
    I realize your bisy but a whole week?

    Reply

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      JP Allen

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      Sorry trying to keep up. jp

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jose

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    What a great song and love his tone! What model of harmonica did SBW use? All I can make out is the word “Echo” on the coverplate. It’s also nice seeing the old music performances in B/W. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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    mike coates

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    I just wish Allen Wilson lived longer. He was amazing. Everyone should hear him with LJ Hooker in Boogie Chillen No 2. on the album Hooker n Heat.

    JP I so dig your attitude to learning and life.

    Mike

    Reply

    • Avatar

      JP Allen

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      Thank you Mike, and thanks for posting. jp

      Reply

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