Play Sonny Terry style on Harmonica and dazzle your friends!
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Play Sonny Terry style on Harmonica and dazzle your friends!

Play Sonny Terry's style of Country Blues on the Harmonica. It's great fun for beginners and I will guide you through.
4.9 (51 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
615 students enrolled
Created by Ben Hewlett
Last updated 2/2015
Current price: $10 Original price: $200 Discount: 95% off
5 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • 5 hours on-demand video
  • 5 mins on-demand audio
  • 1 Article
  • 3 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Play blues harp like Sonny Terry
View Curriculum
  • You are going to need a C harmonica to get going plus harmonicas in A, G, and Bflat later in the course


If you ever wanted to learn to play the harmonica like Sonny Terry this new course is for you! Please enjoy the course and give it a review.

This course is all about learning to play in the style of Sonny Terry.

Many thanks to Wayne T. Helfrich for kind permission to use his pictures of Sonny Terry.

Each riff is written out for you with standard harmonica tab, onamatapoeic words, and standard western music notation.

You will find an mp3 included which has each riff played by me at full speed, half speed and medium speed to help you learn how to play it better.

If you do a couple of riffs a day this course will take a month to complete - or go for bust and do it in a weekend!

We start with learning 19 riffs that I wrote in Sonny's style as a preparation for you.

When you've done those follow through the sections and you may notice the challenge increases a little. Take it slowly and you will progress without too much pain!

This course is based on a book I wrote with Paul Lennon. I was recently teaching the whole book to a student in South Korea and enjoyed revisiting the origininal material we wrote and recorded in 2009 so much that I decided to make a Udemy course from it.

The whole book (30 pages) and audio (65 mp3 tracks) is included in this groundbreaking course a page at a time. The whole book and CD is also available if you message me.

A lot of people want to play the blues harp so if that's you come on in, you're in the right place.

I will hold your hand all the way through the videos with my 'infectious and humourous' (people tell me) style of teaching. You will feel like I'm right with you in a one to one lesson showing exactly you how to do it, and encouraging to to become confident and go it alone.

It's designed to be fun, friendly, easy for anyone to learn - even non-musical people! It is is designed to help you succeed and lead you on to the next in the series.

There are pdfs and mp3 downloads with many lectures so you can read the tablature and play along with the audio music written especially for learning harmonica.

Please be sure to visit the Questions area and Forum to interact with other students. It's a great way to learn more and helps you apply what the course gives you.

I check messages most days. If you want to arrange a call or skype please message me.

'Ben Hewlett is the UK's most respected harmonica teacher and most prolific author. He will lead you through the ins and outs of harmonica playing through a series of short video lessons. His teaching style is confident, practiced, humorous, skillful, knowledgeable and packed with information in bite sized chunks.

Ben is used to teaching all over the world at prestigious harmonica festivals and is delighted to offer his services to you.

His most recent gig was as one of the teachers in the Harmonica Masters Workshops 2014 where he taught along with Joe Filisko, David Barrett, and Steve Baker in Trossingen, the home of Hohner, it was an 18 hour workshop spread over a week.'

Who is the target audience?
  • This harmonica course is for people who would like to learn about the classic country blues style of Sonny Terry
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
Curriculum For This Course
51 Lectures
3 Lectures 05:16

Here's how the course works, please watch the video.

These play along harmonica lessons for beginner/intermediate harp players teach you traditional blues riffs in the style of the great Sonny Terry. One of the most enduringly popular harp players, everyone wants to play like Sonny – and we’ll show you how!

In this course I am teaching you how to play everything in the book that I wrote with Paul Lennon called Sonny Terry 2 Blues Riffs.

I have supplied the book and audio files - well, 90% of it - as downloadable documents and mp3s with each lecture.

If you feel you need the complete book/audio download just google ''

Yes I know it says '2' in the title. When we wrote Sonny Terry 1 people said it was too hard so book 2 is easier, book 3 (yet to be turned into a Udemy course) is a little harder and book 1 (also yet to be turned into a Udemy course) remains a challenge!

Preview 05:01

Which harmonica to buy?
2 pages

Wait, let's watch Sonny in action - it's essential to do this first please.
Excersises to help you get into Sonny Terry's style without fear or pain.
8 Lectures 01:04:21

Riffs 1 and 2

You will be pleased to know we are starting really easy and very slow! You will absolutely be able to do this succesfully without any experience. Here are the basic building blocks of Sonny's style. I have constructed these excersises to prepare you for the real thing and that starts at Riff 20.

Easy start, say 'choo choo choo' and you're up and running. Riffs 1 and 2

Riff 2 and a lesson on tone.

As I started to play there was some fluff in my harmonica so I took the time to show you how I clean the instrument's mouthpiece and why it is not necesarily a good idea to clean the inside.

I also take the time to refresh on tone; the quality of the sound we are producing.

We all want 'fat tone'.

Not the guy who delivers the pizza, I mean sounding good.

I'll show you 6 ways to improve your tone.

Then we go into Riff 3.

Preview 08:40

Riff 4 is still easy and develops from Riff 3.

Riff 5 is a little trickier as it is syncopated but you will get it with a little practice.

The only way I can describe this is 'chack-chackachack'

Riffs 6-8 stay in the style of riff 5 so start off with that and gradually and progressively you will be able to play these. Use the slow version in the middle of the MP3 if you are sruggling and repetition is your favourite friend here.

Intriducing Triplets

Riffs 9-11 introduce the idea of 'hee-haw'. It makes no sense when you read it here so dive in and listen to the audio - all will become clear.

Learning how to expel air fast

Riff 12 introduces the idea of a 'hand-pop'.

A technique where the free hand (usually the right) forms a cup shape and claps the
harmonica and the other hand to make a popping sound. This movement is performed
swiftly by moving in and away from the harmonica - a bit like slapping your thigh or making a
‘high 5’!
I'll teach you how to do it here but there is an older version of ‘How to Hand Pop’ video on our YouTube page - YouTube/PaulLennonUK if that adds anything.
In the book you’ll find this technique used on riffs 12 - 19, 40, 52 & 53.

Introducing the 'Hand Pop'

Here we are building on the technique of hand popping and adding musical accents. These are the little arrows (like the signs meaning 'more than') that you see above the stave.

Exploring the hand pop in syncopated rhythms

This is the last set of excersises in the Sonny Terry style. They will by now have prepared you for the rigours to come! Riffs 20-60 are not excercises, they come directly from hearing Sonny play and analysing his style.

More experimenting with the hand pop in different rhythms
Simple Riffs in the Sonny Terry style
5 Lectures 42:11

This is a classic Sonny Terry Riff such as you will find in Mean old Frisco. Have a listen to the original and play along with Sonny. You'll find in in bar 5 as far as I remember.

Preview 09:50

Rif 21 is another way of playing riff 20. Here we use 2 draw instead of (in riff 20) 3 blow. Try both and see which you like. The breathing is the important aspect here. 22 - 24 are further extensions in this progression. Each riff takes you a little further into the Sonny Terry world.

Alternative ways to play the last one

Riff 25 is a further development on of the previous group. We are still extending the Mean Old Frisco riff.

'Do chicha di chucka'

Another riff in the Mean Old Frisco style but extended from the previous riff.

Adding 'Chickachacka'

Now we look at two riffs exploring syncopation - off-beat rhythms - and learn to play them in the Sonny Terry Style.

Adding off beat syncopation
Intro Riffs for Sonny Terry songs
5 Lectures 33:25

This is the intro riff associated with many of Sonny's songs - listen to Sitting on top of the hill, he often uses it there.

Preview 07:40

A variation of riff 29 - there are many variations as you will tell if you listen to Sonny Terry's playing.

Alternative to 29 adding a small easy bend

This intro riff has not only triplets but a small decoration with a bent note on the first one. You can play it with or without the decoration.

Adding decorations to the triplet

Another intro riff here. It uses scoops and triplets to great effect. Remember what I say in the video about how you can play it clean or dirty as well as puckered/tongue-blocked.

Introducing the 'scoop'

For the final intro riff we have a nice rythymic riff which propels to headlong into the song.

Putting a bend into a group of 4 fast notes
Use your 'A' harmonica here
3 Lectures 21:40

Ok, we enter a trickier phase now. Try playing the riffs nice and slow and you will be able to manage them. Don't forget to study the words I have written down on the pdf, it should help you get it.

Introducing the idea of 'chickowa-ha' - expelling air on the 'ha'

Again, take this easy, learn the words, speak the words and get used to it before putting on the video.

More work on how to expel air fast in your playing

Last of three riffs in the 'chick-a-wa' rhythm. Take it easy as you learn this one.

How to play a sequence of bent note, straight note, chord
Pick a bale of cotton
5 Lectures 28:52

Now comes a series of riffs based on the Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee version of 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'

Jump down turnaround

This is the chorus part of Pick a Bale of Cotton and I've brought in aspects of the Leadbelly version (with the Golden Gate Quartet) which you can find here Beautiful pulsed rhythms here as you will see in the video.

Chorus 'Oh Lordy'

Back to the verse in the Leadbelly version. It has amazing pushed rhythms at the start and in the middle. Check it out.

Pushed notes

Riff 40 uses the 'hand pop' that we learnt in riff 12. If you take it steady you will be able to play this slowly and with lots of repetition.

Off-beat hand popping

This is the last of this section of riffs. It is really nice and rhythmic and you'll enjoy playing it.

Syncopated rhythms
'A' harp needed for this section
6 Lectures 42:37

This next section takes you deeper into Sonny's style. Here we are going to need chords and single notes all mixed in together. Try tongue blocking and puckering to see which work better for you. I would recommend the TB method really as it's so useful and creates so many posibilities in your playing.

Basic groove

Riff 43 adds notes and swaps some around when you compare it to riff 42. It is essentially the same but with extensions.

Alternate way to play using 2 blow

Riff 44 encourages you to learn to play a big jump. Going from a 123 chord to a 6 blow is not easy and learning this now will give you an extra skill. Sonny uses 4 draw 6 blow a lot so it's useful to get this down.

Starting to prepare for the rigours that are coming up next

Riff 45 starts with a 3 draw slightly bent and after a normal 'chucka' and a typical (for this section) 5blow 4draw you get another 'chucka' and another plaintive 3 draw. Breaking id down as we do on the video will help you understand it clearly.

5blow to 4draw transition

Riff 46 is getting close to the end gesult which you will find in riff 47. We are learning the next extension in preparation so go slowly and practice it before moving on to the next.

6 blow to 234 draw

This is the last in the section and the culmination of a lot of work leading up to it. Learn it well and use it as a showstopper riff to impress your bandmates and the audience!

Final riff in this section utilising what we've just learnt
Ending Riffs. 'G' harmonica needed here - nice and low!
12 Lectures 01:14:34

I love these outro riffs - and where better to put them but at the end of this course!

Fast ending with syncopation

Here's a couple of very very fast ending riffs you need to learn. One has a sung note in it. I don't mean Pavarotti - it sounds more Bruce Lee.

As 48 but with additions of singing and a top D

This classic ending riff will stop any band on a sixpence.

Don't forget the 2draw bend and the hand pop to finish it off.

Adding a long slow bend

Riff 52 reverts to single note playing but remember you can play it 'dirty' as Sonny often did.

Single note classic Sonny Terry ending

Another classic. This riff is used but Sonny a lot but not only by him; a variation falls at the end of half the songs by Rice Miller - Sonnyboy Williamson 11. You will even hear the great William Clarke using a variant in his hit 'Pawnshop Bound'

The most famous outro phrase

This one starts with a nice steady rising ramp triplet on beat 4 leading you to three plaintive 3draws which are played flat and bent. Release them up to pitch for the desired effect.

Triplets and scooping

Here's your chance to sing a bit! Sonny did a lot of 'whooping and hollering' and whilst we haven't covered too much of it this time I may do some more later for you.

Time to sing some more

A fast and furious chug with hand pops is another great way to stop a band in its tracks - I'll show you how in riff 56.

Fast challenging rhythm with off beat accents

Great phrasing is a must for musicians and this ending riff has tones of it. You can rattle this one out at speed and bring the house down.

Call and response phrasing

Another cracking good riff to end your songs with.

Upbeat and off beat

Here's Sonny's 'doodleoodledoodleoodle' ending riff explained and a brilliant ending from 'Calling my Mama' which is a good way to end this course.

'Doodle-oodle' and 'Calling my Mama'

That's it - you're done! Time to do a Udemy review and get your certificate. Look for the green cup and Udemy will send you one when you press the button.

If you want more Sonny Terry I have enough prepared material for 2 more courses like this. Or would you prefer some Sonnyboy Williamson 11 riffs?

Preview 00:37
Backing tracks for you to practice what you've learnt
4 Lectures 05:26

Use these backing tracks which are specially written for you to practise the Sonny style but with a contempory or even rock backing. Sonny did an album with Johnny Winter near the end of his recording career and that sparked the idea for these tracks.

4 Backing tracks for you to play along with

Thanks so much to Madcat Ruth for letting us use this track. You will want to check him out after hearing this track if don't already know about him.

It's Blues Time!

Peter Madcat Ruth is a Grammy Award-winning virtuoso harmonica player based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. But Madcat doesn't just play blues harp: he also sings and plays ukulele, guitar, high-hat, jaw-harp, penny-whistle, kalimba, banjo and other folk instruments from around the world.

Madcat's repertoire of styles includes Blues, American Roots Music, Folk Music, Jazz, and World Music.

Madcat tours with The Madcat Midnight Blues Journey, Chris Brubeck's Triple Play, and The Big Joe Manfra Blues Band, as well as doing solo performances.

Special Bonus from the world famous Peter Madcat Ruth (with his permission)

This is to help you understand and learn where all the notes are on your 'C' harmonica

Chromatic note layout
1 page

About the Instructor
Ben Hewlett
4.6 Average rating
1,400 Reviews
16,591 Students
69 Courses
Professional Harmonica Instructor since 1996 CTABRSM, NHL

Wow, over 16,000 students - you could be next!!


Please note I am your HARMONICA SPECIALIST - that is my main focus.

Please see my copyright policy at the bottom of this page.

I always give current students a 75% discount on everything so if you take one course you are 'in my exclusive discount club' which means I will tell you every month what's new and where the discounts are.

Here's how my courses are categorised in terms of subject, purpose and content. 'Instant' courses are simple tunes; 'Learn Harmonica' is the harmonica encyclopaedia for everyone; 'Bones of the Blues', 'Get Chugging', '101 Blues Riffs', and '60 Sonny Terry Riffs' are the video taught versions of books I've written (you can google them) and the others are all about different techniques. 

I also now have a few Celtic music courses for you. My interest in sound and travel has also led me to do some live workshops on English conversation and pronunciation (in Vietnam) and I have written some Udemy courses on that subject.

If you see a course you want but don't have the cash you can talk to me. If you are a student or not earning much I will support you with a lower price, but if you are doing ok you can support me - how's that?

*Ben is the Chairman of the NHL - National Harmonica League in the UK

*Professional Harmonica Instructor since 1996

*Lousy at speelling - getting worse actually so tell me if you see a typo pleese

*Ben qualified as CTABRSM in 2002 (Certificate of Teaching - Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

*Certificate of Music Workshop Skills (Goldsmiths University of London) in 1995

*Accredited Diatonic Harmonica Teacher 1993 - HTAB (Harmonica Teachers Accreditation Board, supported by Lee Oskar Harmonicas, the National Harmonica League of UK and the International Harmonica Organisation).

*Ben's teaching business 'HarpsCool' is proud to be 'IN PARTNERSHIP WITH HOHNER'

'Ben Hewlett is one of the UK's most respected harmonica teachers and the UK's most prolific author on harmonica tuition. He will lead you through the ins and outs of harmonica playing through a series of short video lessons. His teaching style is confident, practiced, humorous, skillful, knowledgeable and packed with information in bite sized chunks. Ben is used to teaching all over the world at prestigious harmonica festivals and is delighted to offer his services to you.'

'You'll know Ben better as a harmonica teacher but he also studied Irish Drum - Bodhran - and tin whistle in the 1990's with the now very famous Steafan Hannigan and Marc Moggy from Renegade Rhythms. He got so into Bodhran playing he bought an expensive tuneable drum from Marc and it works better than ever to this day. Ben has played Bodhran in bands and sessions for years and even has a Senheiser bass drum microphone embedded into his drum. Check out his Bodhran teaching on Udemy'


I would recommend using 'Transcribe!' for slowing down and changing the key on my backing tracks - it's free as a trial and well worth a look in my opinion. I also heard Capo is worth a look.


Join/subscribe/follow/friend my FB page to get notifications of live Facebook workshops.

I have been teaching people to play harmonica since 1996 as a full time job. I have started tens of thousands on their way to play the harmonica and I can tell you - it sure beats working!

I believe I was the first person to be a full time harmonica teacher in the UK, there are still very few of us - so there's plenty of room if you want to come and join me.

For the last few years I have been the Chairman of the National Harmonica League (NHL) which supports the UK harmonica players community.

Much of my time is spent writing books with Paul Lennon on how to play the harmonica, there are 20 or so with loads more in the pipeline - we have so many ideas it never stops.

I teach children near home, and with my team at HarpsCool where the team and I give 300 children weekly harmonica lessons.

My YT videos, and their success and feedback, are the reason I am teaching on Udemy; there are millions of hits on the youtube sites and thousands of subscribers. People are kind enough to say how clear the teaching is, and how it's helped them to understand aspects of harmonica playing - at last!

I run workshops at major harmonica festivals including SPAH in the US, the Bristol International Harmonica Festival in the UK, the World Harmonica Festival in Trossingen, Germany - home of Hohner, and the Harmonica Masters Workshops also in Germany.

I even use the harmonica in team building events for many international companies.

Cruise Ships have been part of my teaching life since 2002 and the combination of teaching, performing and travelling is quite a blast. Who knew teaching the harmonica would take me to the Caribbean three times, Africa, Russia, Scandinavia, and Atlantic Europe.

You will often find me performing in various venues and going to jam sessions, and I love playing with interesting groups or sitting on a number when the opportunity arises - that's one of the wonderful things about the harmonica, you can have it in your back pocket and join in with people wherever you are.

So you are in extremely competent and safe hands, so do yourself a favour and try one of my courses - in fact have a free lecture or two to suck it and see - that's a harmonica joke by the way.


Respect and thanks to all the artists for writing and performing these amazing songs that you want to learn.

The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Research, Education, Libraries and Archives) Regulations 2014 (extracts)

I quote:

 "Not more than 5% of a work may be copied under this section by or on behalf of an educational establishment in any period of 12 months, and for these purposes a work, which incorporates another work is to be treated as a single work. 

Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of private study does not infringe any copyright in the work.”


Any recordings used in my courses represent less than 5% of the entire work and are already in the public domain on YouTube.

Any written transcriptions are written by me or my team to promote the work and the artist and to facilitate students who want to learn more about their music.

Any audio backing tracks are written and recorded by me or my team to promote the work and the artist and to facilitate students who want to learn more about their music.

If you are a copyright holder and feel I have used too much of your work please contact me on or 07973284366 and I will remove whatever you feel is inapropriate without question.