Tongue-Blocking Blues Shuffle Lesson

Bluesy Shuffle Groove (in 8 Levels)

Wanna learn a legit tongue-blocking blues groove? Whether you’ve never heard of tongue-blocking, or you’re a tongue-blocking fanatic I’ve got something for everyone in this vid.

The tension between harmonica tongue-blockers vs. lip-blockers
reminds me of the tension between Mac vs PC users.
Everyone has their own legitimate preference,
but the former always
to the latter!

First of all, let me tell you a fact about LEARNING HOW TO PLAY SINGLE NOTES:

:small_blue_diamond: FOR MOST PEOPLE: lipping comes easier and faster (lipping is simply drawing the corners of the mouth close together to isolate a note)

:small_blue_diamond: FOR .1% OF PEOPLE: tonguing comes easier than lipping (tonguing is playing out of the right corner of your mouth, using your tongue to block the notes to the left of the note being played)

This was my own personal experience, and that of my friends, but I’ve also seen it corroborated countless times. Having taught thousands of people, only a handful have found it easier to learn how to isolate notes using tongue blocking.

Yet vocal tongue-blocking advocates in deep dark corners of the internet chastise lippers saying “you’re not a REAL harmonica player if you don’t tongue-block!”

The truth is that there are great harmonica players who are primarily lip-blockers, and great players who are tongue-blockers:

Primarily Lip-Blockers

:small_blue_diamond: Lee Oskar
:small_blue_diamond: Buddy Green
:small_blue_diamond: Charlie McCoy
:small_blue_diamond: Terry McMillan
:small_blue_diamond: Howard Levy
:small_blue_diamond: Todd Parrott
:small_blue_diamond: Adam Gussow

Primarily Tongue-Blockers

:small_blue_diamond: Big Walter Horton
:small_blue_diamond: Sonny Boy Willamson I
:small_blue_diamond: Sonny Boy Williamson II
:small_blue_diamond: Little Walter
:small_blue_diamond: Deford Bailey
:small_blue_diamond: Rod Piazza
:small_blue_diamond: Joe Filisko

These aren’t exhaustive lists, but should be enough players to illustrate that either technique can yield wonderful results.

In fact, here are some of the unique strengths of each technique:

LIPPING :kiss:

:point_right: Enables use of articulations (like TaKaTa, Doo, Yuh, DeeDee)
:point_right: Easier to play bends more quickly with more precision
:point_right: Easier to play fast runs, especially in higher register
:point_right: Faster to learn how to isolate notes
:point_right: Easier to learn how to bend

TONGUING :tongue:

:point_right: Enables regular chordal vamping for accompaniment (self or other)
:point_right: In my experience it’s easier to control volume of “dirty” notes
:point_right: Enables playing non-adjacent notes simultaneously, “Splits”
:point_right: Easier to make big jumps using tongue switching
:point_right: Enables chordal vamping techniques:
:arrow_right: Slaps
:arrow_right: Shimmers
:arrow_right: Flutters

By the way, I give an introduction to all of those techniques :point_up_2:t3: in my Beginner to Boss course.

I’ve got plenty of gigs and studio sessions as a harmonica player who’s primarily a lip blocker for 28 years.

Then 4 years ago, I started learning tongue-blocking and it has opened up another WHOLE WORLD of harmonica playing for me. (Like the killer groove I teach in this vid.)

The reality is that now I love BOTH techniques. :kiss:+:tongue:

Tongue-blocking is really fun for playing rhythm stuff behind other people. I am a guitar player, and I like the feeling of playing rhythmic chordal grooves behind singers or soloists, and tongue-blocking provides me, as a harmonica player, with a similar feel and sonic palette.

Tongue-blocking is also really fun for truly playing solo with no jam track or backing band because you can emulate a bass line with chordal accompaniment, as I show in this vid.

**But peer pressure sucks.**:no_entry_sign: So don’t be swayed by vitriolic haters on the world wide web!

If you’re a beginner who’s just learning lip blocking and you don’t wanna be overwhelmed, then you can skip this video right now. You can always come back and check it out later, when it sounds fun!

The more techniques you learn, the more colors on your palette to choose from in order to fully express yourself on your instrument. :art:


:point_up_2: There’s the key. :key::notes::heart: