The power of the Chord

Chords and Chordal Effects- By using chords (holes 1, 2, and 3) in a skillful way to make the harp sound bigger, more full, create contrast, and play tasteful accompaniment, we can add much more texture and nuance to the music. This is part of the tradition of Chicago blues and is found in many of the great and well known recordings. There are generally two ways to use chords when playing blues on the harmonica. The first is rhythmic chording characterized by its staccato and tight rhythmic discipline imitating a snare drum, a very percussive sound. Examples of rhythmic chording are the hard shuffle, ghost chording, chord bombs, hambone/clave’ and tramp grooves to name a few. The second is non-rhythmic and should be thought of as padding or something akin to an organ sustaining. Laying down a continuous wall of quiet accompaniment that follows the chord changes can be very tasteful. Examples of non-rhythmic accompaniment are the organ sustain, train whistle sustain, padding, shakes, and round rhumba chording. Listen closely to some of the classic Chicago blues harmonica recordings. You will hear the mixing of single notes and chordal sounds. The best playing incorporates these effects to create a more powerful overall sound. Playing tastefully behind other musicians when they are singing or soloing is another critical skill for any good harmonica player and part of the Chicago tradition. Chords are the easiest thing to play on the harmonica and something the harp does very well. If you can breathe you can play chords. If you can breathe with rhythm you can make music with them. Do you love the sound of the chords as much as I do?


I play chords a lot. Trouble is not always on purpose. It does give a much deeper sound and also helps get in or out the air in a hurry.


@toogdog I play chords a lot. Trouble is not always on purpose
Ha Ha, that literally made me laugh out loud. I can empathise.


I think this is called chugging. It was one of the first things I ever learned how to do under the guidence of my teacher, Todd Parrott, as the first song I learned with him had some it in. This isn’t just exclusive to Chicago blues, country players do it all the time, mainly Terry McMillan who was also a drummer and percussionist, therefore he did chugging all the time in country and gospel music, even in songs where he didn’t play any licks at all.
Here’s non-blues examples of Terry McMillan’s chugging in action:

This is not chugging, although some will characterize any chordal repeated pattern as chugging. No, these are specific chordal effects found in Chicago blues. Not saying they are exclusive to blues but they are heavily featured there and each one should be understood for it’s specific use and execution -in my opinion.