Harmonica Lesson: Blues Harp Shuffle (Big Walter Horton)

By Alex Paclin

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

Big Walter’s Shuffle is one of my favorites. Memorable licks, notes played using the rolled R, fast tremolo effect, all of these and more define Big Walter’s style. (Tab and lesson details below the video. If you’re struggling with bends check out JP Allen’s How to Bend Notes page to get the basics down first.)

In the beginning, you’re going to play fast tongue blocking trills. If it doesn’t come easily for you then do it slowly and rhythmically, while increasing tempo. When there’s a tremolo effect do it with the biggest dynamic change possible, your air cup should be tight to allow it. In some verses, you have blow bends and practice them with tongue blocking. I’d recommend to do it on a low pitch harmonica first (easier to do) and then gradually raise its pitch until you can do fine on an A harmonica. This song has many verses, among them there is a theme played in the beginning, solos and returning to the theme.

Verses have a different base and usually a similar turnaround. If I had chosen to play that song just the pucker way (where I would get more control over the notes), I’d add more effects and would make phrasing more complicated by adding passing notes. Mixing tongue blocking and lip pursing would sound refreshing too. Go ahead and learn it, all the rest you need is in the video!

Big Walter Shuffle
Bb harmonica, 2nd position, Key of F

-3’ -3 -4 5 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 -5 -4 -3’     6
-3” -[1234] tongue blocking trill
-[2345] -[1234]        -[2345][3456]
-7 -7 -7 -7
9 -9 -8 -9 -8 -7 -6 6 -5 -4 -3’ -2

-3’ -3 -5 -5 5 5 -4      -3’ -3 -5 -5 5 5 -4
-3’ -3 -5 -5 5 5 -4      -3’ -3 -5 -5 5 5 -4 -4 5
-1 -1 -2” -2’ -4 -4 4 4
1 1 2 3 -3” -2
-2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2” -1 -1

-3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 -4 -5 5 4 5 -4
-3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 -4 -5 5 4 5 -4
-2” -2 -3’ -2 -3’ -3” -2 -3” 3 2 3 2 3 2
-3’ -2 -3’ -3” -2 -3” 3 2 3 -3” -2 -3”
-5 -5 5 5 -4   -3’ -3 -5 -5 5 4 5 -4
-1 -1 -2” -2’ -4 -4 4 4
1 1 2 3 -3” -2 -2” -1
-2 -1 1 3 -1 -1

-4 -4′ -4   -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 6
-3’ -2 -3’ -3” -2 -3” 3 2 3 2 3 2
-3’ -2 -3’ -3” -2 -3” 3 2 3 -3” -2 -3”
-5 -5 5 4 5 -4   -3’ -3 -5 -5 5 5 -4
-1 -1 -2” -2’ -4 -4 4 4
1 1 2 3 -3” -2 -2” -1
-2 -1 1 3 -1 -1

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

6       -5 -4    6 -5 -4 4 -3 6 6 6 6 6
6       -5 -4    6 -5 -4 4 -3 6 -5 5 -4 5
-1 -2’ -3” 4   -3’ -2 -2” -1 1 -2 -2
-1 1 3 -1 -1

3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3     3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3
1 2 1 2 1 2 3   -123
3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3
-4 -4 -3’ 4    -34’ -2 -2” -1 -2 -2
-1 1 3 -1 -1

-3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 5 -4
-3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 -3’ -3 -5 5 -4 4
5 -6 6 5 6 -6 6
3 -3 -5 -4 5 -5 5 -4 5
-1 -2’ -3” 4    -3’ -2 -2” -1 1 -2 -2
-1 1 3 -1 -1

9 9 9 9’ 9      9 9 9 9’ 9
9 -9 -8 -9 -8 -7 -6 6 -5
-3’ -2 -3” -2 2 -3’ -2 -3” 3
-3’ -3 -5 5 -4 -3’ -3 -5 5 -4 5
-1 -2’ -4 4   1 2 3 -3 -2
-2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -1 – 1

-123 -123 (repetitive)
-1 -1 -1 -2’ -4 4 4
1 2 3 -3 2
6 6 6 -5 -4 4 3 -3 -2 2 -2
-2 (tremolo)

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