You Ain’t Never Heard Blues Like This (Tongue-Blocking for Beginners)
I have been learning a style of music on the harmonica that has unlocked new doors for me in every aspect of my playing:
my rhythm and timing
It’s an old style of pre-war blues called the Fox Chase, it’s 100% suitable for total beginners.
Check out my short vid demonstrating here:
The Fox Chase is a GREAT way to get an intro to tongue blocking, and work on your breathing, tone, and switching back and forth between single notes and chords.
Even if this old-timey style of blues doesn’t appeal to you, I believe this groove is the EASIEST introduction to tongue-blocking - a great primer if, for example, you’re wanting to eventually get into Little Walter style blues grooves.
This is the foundation of it:
Blow SOFTLY on 3 using tongue blocking:
use your tongue to cover hole 1 and 2, and play hole 3 out of the right corner of your mouth
Lift your tongue off the comb and draw LOUDLY on -12 (you may also include -3).
So the tabs are: 3 -12 3 -12 3 -12 3 -12
Every time you play 3 your tongue is blocking holes 1 and 2, and then you lift your tongue off the comb to play the big fat -12 chord.
The secret is to make the draws as full and loud as you can using an “uh” vowel shape, and to play the blow 3’s more quietly.
What is Pre-War Blues?
Pre-war blues is the name given to all blues music that was recorded before World War II, which began in 1939. Many people lived a more rural life in those times; it’s not surprising to find much of pre-war blues has more of a country “hillbilly” vibe to it compared to later blues recordings.
Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson are a couple of the most famous pre-war blues artists. But in the world of harmonica one name rings the loudest from the period, “the harmonica wizard” himself, Mr. DeFord Bailey - one of the first artists to be recorded in Nashville, the first African-American artist to appear on the Grand Ole Opry. Check out Deford Bailey’s Fox Chase.
When I’m playing music with other people I always gravitate toward lip blocking, and when I’m playing by myself I mostly gravitate toward tongue blocking. IT’S SO MUCH FUN!!!