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The musical instrument that is versatile and yet compatible with most of the musical genres at the same time is only a harmonica. In this free lesson, I’ll teach you to play 6 really melodic licks or riffs which have claimed their deserved space in modern ‘pop’ music long ago.

To go along with the suggested exercises in today’s lesson, I’ve created some melodies that essentially follow the singing pattern of modern songs one way or the other. Pop music being mainly cherished in the form of sung songs; the licks we usually play for this musical genre exhibit the same impact.

Harmonica lesson: learn 6 great harmonica modern pop licks and riffs

Like always, you’ll find videos with interactive lessons on this page so that you may play the riffs together with me on the backing tracks. Today, using a C harmonica, we’ll practise to perform in second position as it not only supports playing such tracks but executing musical phrases as well. We’ll mainly use the notes from the G major and pentatonic scale besides some other notes that shall be accompanied with the bending technique.

Let’s now analyze the exercises as usual:

The first lick starts with a triplet and an octave that requires to be played on the D note. In beats 2 and 3 of measure one, the other two triplets shall be played so that they end on note G: i.e. the root note in this key. On measure 2, we’ll just hold the G a bit longer; long notes are a typical trait to be observed in such kind of music style as we are usually trying to imitate the singer’s performance.

Harmonica lesson: modern pop licks and riffs tablature 1

In lick 2, we’ll play 3 fast notes in beat 1 which is a D octave again. In measure 2, we’ll play a double-note combination on holes 3 and far draw with a ‘dip’ on them. Then, there shall be a triplet and a shake that shall last til the lick ends.

Harmonica lesson: modern pop licks and riffs tablature 2
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Exercise 3: Here, we’ll start playing 4 sixteenth fast notes that preceed a ‘dip’ on a double-note combination. We’ll play a D octave again, whereas in measure 2, we’ll perform a couple of triplets.

Harmonica lesson: modern pop licks and riffs tablature 3

In lick 4, starting with a quick four-notes sequence, that goes more high on the harmonica extension, we’ll reach hole 8 in the triplet that shall be played in measure 2.

Harmonica lesson: modern pop licks and riffs tablature 4

In exercise 5, we’ll run a descending scale played with a series of fast sexteenth notes starting from hole 6 draw and ending on hole 1 draw. In measure 2, we’ll execute a ‘dip’ on a double-note combination and thereafter, a triplet. The lick ends with a sustained A note, on hole 3 with a whole-tone bending.

Harmonica lesson: modern pop licks and riffs tablature 5

In the last lick, we’ll play a nice F sharp, on hole 2 draw, bending it of a half-tone.

Harmonica lesson: modern pop licks and riffs tablature 6

In the following video, you can practise the whole harmonica licks sequence:

These are the 6 cool licks from pop music that can be executed on harmonica. I encourage you to explore different musical styles while learning to play harmonica continues, it will really improve the way you’re already performing with it.

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