In this lesson, I’m gonna show how to play the melody of “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver – in 3 levels, from beginner to boss:
LEVEL 1 I’ll teach you how to play the single notes.
LEVEL 2 We’re going to add in some hand wah to shape the tone.
LEVEL 3 If you know how to bend, we’ll add in some bends to make it even more expressive.
Not only is this gonna be great practice for your harmonica technique, but it’s also a beautiful melody that people are really going to enjoy hearing you play alone, with a jam track, or with a band.
John Denver originally recorded it in the key of A, and we are going to learn it on the harmonica in 1st position, which just means that you’d need an A harmonica to play along with the recording. But for this lesson we’re going to do it on a C harmonica, since that’s the key that most people start with.
Level 1 – Harmonica Tabs
To play this level you’ll a harmonica in the key of C and you’ll also need to be able to do Play Single Notes.
Okay, here are the harmonica tabs for Take Me Home Country Road:
The first note is 4, and the easiest way to find hole 4 is to start on 1 and count as you slide over.
You’ll notice as you play this melody that you never have to move more than one hole to the left or the right, which is one of the reasons that this song is so fun and easy to play. There is some coordination to work out with when to blow and when to draw, but once you get it worked out, this is a nice melody that can bring joy to you and those who hear you for years to come. Once you’ve nailed the melody with single notes, then it’s time to add some expression to your playing…
Level 2 – Adding Hand Wah
In this level, we are going to add some hand wah to shape the tone of the notes. In order to do this, you will have to understand what we call “The Closed Cup Grip.” Here’s a great lesson on How to Hold a Harmonica.
You’ll notice a pattern in the phrases of this song: 2 short notes followed by one long note:
“Take Me Home” 4 -4 5 = Short Short Long
“Country Road” 5 4 -4 = Short Short Long
And then we get to “West Virginia” and “Mountain Mama” it’s 3 short notes followed by one long note.
So what we’re gonna do with the hand is one wah per short note, and then a flutter on the long sustained note, like this:
It’s amazing how much life this technique breathes into the song. Now it’s starting to sound more expressive.
If you are playing nice clean single notes consistently with ease, you may be ready to start learning how to bend. Check out my lesson on how to Bend on Harmonica. If you know how to bend, follow me to level 3 and let’s see how to add even more expressiveness to this song.
Level 3 – Adding Bends
Bending adds soul to melodies because it emulates the way the human voice can wail and cry. On holes 1-6 we can only bend the draw notes, and the best place in the melody to add bends is on the long notes. There are two places in this melody where we have a long draw note, on “road” and on the second half of the word “belong.” Like this:
So now we can put it all together with the bends and the hand wah’s and really play this melody like a total boss:
Congrats on learning how to play this awesome melody like a total country boss. If you have any questions, drop a comment below. Keep that melody flowing, yee haw!