Slightly More Advanced Warm-Up Exercise

Hi everyone!

Simply playing the major scale of your harmonica’s key (for example the C Major scale for a C diatonic blues harp) is actually a pretty good warm up as well as being a good way to practice the -2" (hole 2 draw full-step bend) and -3" (ditto for hole 3). Why? Because most people can hear whether or not they are accurately hitting the proper tone frequencies (and if they are not sure then they can always compare the tones they are playing with the ones you can produce online using a site such as:

However, this exercise does get boring (rather quickly ) and it only includes -2" and -3" but does not include the really important -3’ (hole 3 draw half-step bend, aka the β€œblue 3rd”) or the important -4’ (the flat 5th, or bV). So what I suggest is using the sequence that I give below because:

  • It includes not only -2" but also the really important -3’ and -4’.

  • It is a 12 bar blues pattern that is (hopefully) not so boring.

  • It can be kept interesting by playing various rhythms, etc.

So here is my humble suggestion for warming up, practicing several important blues draw bends, and doing these in a manner that will (hopefully) not be so boring that you soon stop doing it!

First of all, several explanations about the notation style I use because we do not have the ability to write proper music scores here on the forum.

As indicated above something like -3’ means draw on the third hole but do so with your tongue positioned to produce the half-step bend (which on a C harp would be a Bb tone). Similarly for -4’ (which on a C harp is the C# or Db tone). For -2" see what I wrote above (it is the tone F on a C harp).

Also, I indicate blow notes with a β€œ+” sign (i.e. +4 means to blow into hole 4).

Next, and this is the most difficult part to explain without using a proper music score, each line below represents 2 bars of 4/4 music (which means each line lasts, or is played, for 8 beats). Each tone is an 8th note except for the notes that have β€œ/” or β€œ//” appended to them – they are notes that are extended, or played, for a longer duration than the other notes.

The β€œ//” means to hold the note until the end of bar and actually is about 2x longer in duration that the note that has β€œ/” appended to it (which also should be played until the end of its bar).

Finally, all of this should be played with a heavy β€œswing” feel to it. If you do not understand that, then just play each note equally with two notes played per beat (except for the extended ones with β€œ/” or
β€œ//” appended to them).

If this is too complicated, then just play everything with a steady rhythm – eventually you will get tired of doing this and will start to experiment with your own rhythm – and that is GOOD, so do it!!

Also, begin SLOWLY and try to eventually play with as much EMOTION and FEELING as you can before you increase your playing speed!!! I’m sure @Luke will agree with me here!

OK, so here (FINALLY) is the 12 bar warm-up:

-2" -2 -3’ +4 -4’ +4 -3’ -2 -2" -1 -2" -2//

-2" -2 -3’ +4 -4’ +4 -3’ -2 -2" -1 -2" -2//

-3’ +4 -4’ -4 -5 -4 -4’ +4 -3’ -2 -3’ +4//

-2" -2 -3’ +4 -4’ +4 -3’ -2 -2" -1 -2" -2//

-4’ -4 -5 +6 -5 -4/ -4’ +4 -3’ -2 -3’ +4/

-2" -2 -3’ +4 -4’ +4 -3’ -2 -2" -1 -3’ -2//

If all of the above is too much to get going for you, then play only the first line. It is quite nice in its own way. Or try playing only the third line. You get the idea, I’m sure.

Let me know how you find it to be, and if it helps you in any way. But most of all: Have fun! :sunglasses:


– Slim

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This is great stuff @slim! Thanks for posting this.

Out of curiosity, do you usually start playing on beat 1, or do you phrase it with a pickup coming into the top?

This is some great blues vocabulary.

Thanks again.

Good lookin’ out!


Hey @Luke !

Glad you like it. To be honest, I do all sorts of things with that β€œ12 bar warm-up” – it just depends on my mood, what it is that I want to warm-up/practice, etc. For example, I often change the end of line one (or the last line) so that I practice the -2’ as well. The line then looks sort of like this (it is difficult to show the correct rhythm at the end without using proper music score notation :laughing: – but I’m sure that you can pretty much automatically do it :sunglasses:):

-2" -2 -3’ +4 -4’ +4 -3’ -2 (very short pause – like an 8th note rest, then:) -1 -2" -2’ -2

The last four notes begin with the -1 off beat, then -2" on beat, -2’ on beat and -2 off beat (the last three being played very β€œdeliberately”, if you know what I mean).

Take it for a spin! :notes:


– Slim

1 Like