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Blues Theme 101 in Cross Harp

Blues Theme 101 is the most basic theme in blues.  Thorough familiarity with it on both ends of the harp will provide a good foundation and basis for doing your own blues improvisations.  It is so familiar virtually everyone is familiar with it, and it is very often appropriate to include bits of it in many blues songs.  Click here to hear it in Real Audio.

For a description of the symbols, see the section on Action Notation for Tab.
 

I
Bar 1
Bar 2
Bar 3
Bar 4
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
2.2
3.3
4.4
5>.5>
5.5
5>.5>
4.4
3.3
2.2
3.3
4.4
5>.5>
5.5
5>.5>
4.4
3.3
The dots (.) after the numbers mean to hold the note a little longer and swing the rhythm.
IV
I
Bar 5
Bar 6
Bar 7
Bar 8
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
4>.4>
5>.5>
6>.6>
6.6
7>.7>
6.6
6>.6>
5>.5>
2.2
3.3
4.4
5>.5>
5.5
5>.5>
4.4
3.3
 
V
IV
I
V
Bar 9
Bar 10
Bar 11
Bar 12
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
4.4
6>.6>
5.5
4.4
4>.4>
5>.5>
4.4
3.3
2.2
3.3
4.4
5>.5>
5 5>
4  4_
_4  
The underscore (_) at the end just means to tie the notes together.

 

The first thing to notice is that there are no bent notes in there!  The most basic blues theme doesn't even have to stay in the blues scale.  This lack of bends makes it a great 12 bars for beginners to practice.  You can make it a little bluesier by bending all the 3 draws down 1/2 to the flat 3rd.  Another thing you can do is to replace the 7 blows in bar 6 with the 6 overblow, which is the same note as the 3 draw bend, but over the IV chord it is the flat 7, which is really needed to match up with the 5 draw flat 7 over the I chord, bar 2.

A variant of Blues Theme 101 moves the phrase over the IV chord in bars 5 and 6 down an octave and makes use of two of the hole 3 draw bends.  Here's how that goes:
Blues Theme 101A - bar 5: | 1>. 1> 2>. 2> 3>. 3> 3". 3" | 3'. 3'  3". 3"  3>.3> 2>. 2> |

Of course the 2 draw can be used instead of the 3 blow since they're the same note.
Blues Theme 101B - bar 5: | 1>. 1> 2>. 2> 2. 2  3". 3" | 3'. 3'  3". 3"  2. 2  2>.2> |

Blues Theme 101 – Cross Harp High

You can also play Blues Theme 101 in the high octave, still in cross harp (2nd position).
 

I
Bar 1
Bar 2
Bar 3
Bar 4
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
6>.6>
7.7
8.8
8>.8>
9.9
8>.8>
8.8
7.7
6>.6>
7.7
8.8
8>.8>
9.9
8>.8>
8.8
7.7
The dots (.) after the numbers mean to hold the note a little longer and swing the rhythm.
IV
I
Bar 5
Bar 6
Bar 7
Bar 8
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
7>.7>
8>.8>
9>.9>
10.10
10'.10'
10.10
9>.9>
8>.8>
6>.6>
7.7
8.8
8>.8>
9.9
8>.8>
8.8
7.7
 
V
IV
I
V
Bar 9
Bar 10
Bar 11
Bar 12
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
8.8
9>.9>
9.9
8.8
7>.7>
8>.8>
8.8
7.7
6>.6>
7.7
8.8
8>.8>
9 8>
8 8_
_8  
The underscore (_) at the end just means to tie the notes together.

Once you can play the "Blues Theme 101" in 2nd position on both the low end and high end of your harp, you'll be well on your way to playing the blues.  This theme is probably better to practice than scales, certainly for blues, because it will help you learn to play under the chords and get your ear attuned to where the changes are.

Come back to this theme often.  Use it to practice your new techniques.  Play it with feeling.  Improvise around it, using it as a home base to return to if you run out of ideas.  Don't hurry.. incorporate it into your musical memory.  Be able to play it low or high, low and high, backwards and forwards and inside out.


Blues Theme 101 in Straight Harp

This theme position is much tougher in straight harp (F on an F harp) than in cross harp (C on an F harp), especially on the bottom end because of bends needed. Come back to this only after you’re thoroughly familiar with it in 2nd position.
I
Bar 1
Bar 2
Bar 3
Bar 4
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1>.1>
2>.2>
3>.3>
3".3"
3’.3’
3".3"
3>.3>
2>.2>
1>.1>
2>.2>
3>.3>
3".3"
3’.3’
3".3"
3>.3>
2>.2>
The dots (.) after the numbers mean to hold the note a little longer and swing the rhythm.
IV
I
Bar 5
Bar 6
Bar 7
Bar 8
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
2".2"
3".3"
4>.4>
4. 4
4#.4#
4. 4
4> 4>
3".3"
1>.1>
2>.2>
3>.3>
3".3"
3’.3’
3".3"
3>.3>
2>.2>
 
V
IV
I
V
Bar 9
Bar 10
Bar 11
Bar 12
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
2. 2
4>.4>
3".3"
2. 2
2"
3".3"
3>.3>
2>.2>
1>.1>
2>.2>
3>.3>
3".3"
3’3"
2 2_
_2  
The underscore (_) at the end just means to tie the notes together.
 
Blues Theme 101 – Straight Harp Middle

This position is pretty accessible, but does require the 6 overblow (6#).

I
Bar 1
Bar 2
Bar 3
Bar 4
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
4>.4>
5>.5>
6>.6>
6. 6
6#.6#
6.6
5>.5>
4>.4>
4>.4>
5>.5>
6>.6>
6.6
6#.6#
6. 6
5>.5>
4>.4>
The dots (.) after the numbers mean to hold the note a little longer and swing the rhythm.
IV
I
Bar 5
Bar 6
Bar 7
Bar 8
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
5. 5
6. 6
7>.7>
8. 8
8’. 8’
8.8
7>.7>
6. 6
4>.4>
5>.5>
6>.6>
6.6
6#.6#
6. 6
5>.5>
4>.4>
 
V
IV
I
V
Bar 9
Bar 10
Bar 11
Bar 12
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
6>.6>
7>.7>
6#.6#
6>.6>
5. 5
6.6
6>.6>
5>.5>
4>.4>
5>.5>
6>.6>
6.6
6# 6
5>5>_
_5>  
The underscore (_) at the end just means to tie the notes together.
 
Blues Theme 101 – Straight Harp High

This is the easiest position from which to play the theme in 1st position, but it breaks down a little over the IV chord in bars 5 and 6 because the highest notes are not available.

I
Bar 1
Bar 2
Bar 3
Bar 4
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
7>.7>
8>.8>
9>.9>
10.10
10’.10’
10.10
9>.9>
8>.8>
7>.7>
8>.8>
9>.9>
10.10
10’.10’
10.10
9>.9>
8>.8>
The dots (.) after the numbers mean to hold the note a little longer and swing the rhythm.
IV
I
Bar 5
Bar 6
Bar 7
Bar 8
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
9. 9
10.10
10>10>
10.10
9. 9
10.10
10>10>
10.10
7>.7>
8>.8>
9>.9>
10.10
10’.10’
10.10
9>.9>
8>.8>
The theme changes over bars 5 and 6 because high notes are missing.
V
IV
I
V
Bar 9
Bar 10
Bar 11
Bar 12
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
1 &
2 &
3 &
4 &
9>.9>
10>10>
10’.10’
9>.9>
9. 9
10.10
9>.9>
8>.8>
7>.7>
8>.8>
9>.9>
10.10
10’ 10
9>9> 
_9>  
The underscore (_) at the end just means to tie the notes together.