Harmonica School lesson: Learn to play Big Walter Horton Style Boogie

In this intermediate level harmonica lesson, I’m going to teach you a cool boogie progression in the style of Big Walter Horton. In this exercise we’ll apply some tongue blocking features that provide a nice rhythmic sound formed of chords and melodies.

You’ll practice with me the licks and the chugging patterns that form the blues chorus sections and play them on the provided video tutorial.

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Walter Horton, better known as Big Walter (Horton) or Walter ‘Shakey’ Horton, was born on April 6, 1921. He was an American blues harmonica player. A quiet, unassuming, shy man, he is remembered as one of the premier harmonica players in the history of blues.

Horton’s harmonica style was more sweet toned and less dynamic than other harmonica players, his solos seemed to ‘soothe the soul’.

Intermediate level harmonica players should enjoy learning this blues harp boogie sequence, a great way to practice blues in 2nd position.

Today’s lesson I’m using a Hohner special 20, in order to perform this tune we use a A harmonica and we play in 2nd position. The song key is E, and in the included video on this page you’ll find the tab on which the harmonica holes are notated. Follow my indications and play after having listened to me! No talking in these harmonica lesson series, just playing, learning and having fun.

How to read the video lesson tab:

One plus symbol means to blow the harmonica hole. 

An apostrophe means to bend the note of a half-tone.

A double apostrophe means to bend the note of a whole-tone.

A triple apostrophe means to bend the note of three steps.

A dot before the notes means to use tongue blocking articulations.

^ means playing the note with a ‘dip’ bending.

R before a note means reaching that note with a glissando effect.

Sh means ‘shake playing’ or ‘warlbe’.

Ft means ’Flutter tungue’ techinque.

P means ‘Pull technique’.

V means ‘Vibrato effect’

Tr means ‘Tremolo effect’.

Song analysis: 

Playing difficulty level: Intermediate harmonica level.

Note bending skills: Draw bending on holes 2 and 3.

Lesson focus: Playing the blues scale, integrating blues riffs and melodic blues licks on the low end harmonica notes; Tongue blocking technique features like slaps and pulls, rhythmic harmonica playing.

Here is the tablature for this lesson:

2 .3 .4 .5+ .5 .5+ .4 .3

.2 .3 .4 .5+ .5 .5+ .4 .3

.2 .2+ .2 .2+ .2 34 2 2

.1 .2+ .2 .3’’ 34^ 34^ .2 .2+

.2 .2+ .2 .2+ .2 34 2 2

.1 .2’ ’ .3’’ .3 .1 .2+ .2 34’ 

2 .2 .2 .2 .2 2’’ 1 1

In today's lesson you learned how to play a Walter Horton style boogie. If you enjoyed learning this song with your harp, you might want to improve your harmonica skills: Have a look at our online harmonica school courses here.

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