Chugging - it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

Rhythm harmonica for blues, country, rock, folk, jazz - any music works better with a beat or groove. Swing it and see.
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Instructed by Ben Hewlett Music / Instruments
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  • Lectures 25
  • Length 2.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 4/2015 English

Course Description

This is an excellent course that will be extremely useful for anybody from total beginners to intermediate players.

All you need is a C harmonica (10-hole diatonic is best) - and your OPEN ears!

Each video lecture is acompanied by mp3 playalong tracks and the written music with standard notation, harmonica tabs and the words to say.

It starts very easy and will challenge you as you go on - but you will manage it, nothing impossible!

The idea behind it is to play' Rhythm harmonica'. Part of the role of a harmonica player is to provide rhythmic backing and that is what this course is all about.

When I was learning trumpet and tabla I realised that speaking the rhythms is a very good way of creating interesting sounds and rhythmic textures.

It also became clear to me as I was trying to teach people how to play like Sonny Terry that using words was a good way for me to explain it and easy thing for people to understand.

'Chugging' is all about saying, or rather whispering, crazy percussive words into the harmonica like 'choo chacka choo'. Just whisper Choo Chacka, Choo Chacka, Choo Chacka Chooooo into the harmonica and I think you will see what I mean, manage this well and enjoy the rhythm it produces.

You will also learn to play some train sounds.

Everybody likes to play a train whistle and here comes yours.

Exhale to prepare (not through the harmonica), grab holes four and five, breathe in, and articulate the word 'WOWW' as you do it.

As you breathe in try to 'chew' the sound by moving your tongue and jaw around a bit. Like 'wow wow wow'

Don't forget to pull the imaginary steam train whistle chord as you are coming round the mountain Casey Jones style.

It is starting small and simple but will get up to about 30 lectures. The advantage of getting it now is that it will have a low price and when the other lectures are added you will not have to pay any more! The more lectures it gets the higher the price will go.

What are the requirements?

  • All you need to do this course is a harmonica in C - diatonic ten hole is perfect, any make will be fine. No musical knowledge is needed - that's what I'm going to give you!

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Learning to play in RHYTHM is essential for anyone who wants to be involved in music. This course teaches you how to play in rhythm by articulating the sounds. All that means is that when you say bonkers sounds into the harmonica it comes out as a groovy rhythm.

Who is the target audience?

  • This rhythm harmonica course is for total beginners as well as experienced players. I've been teaching this method since 2000 and it works well for everyone so come on in.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.



People say 'Rhythm is the most important thing in music' and I agree.

Chugging is the art of whistering percussive words loudly through the harmonica (inhaling and exhaling) to create articulated rhythms.

If you were to whisper 'haaaaa' there's no rhythm - no chug.

No try 'tacka tacka tacka' and you experience the rhythm and the percussion.

And RHYTHM is what we're after here - articulated rhythm.


Yhis lecture is about the fine tuning of harmonicas. You might be interested right now or you might prefer to skim it and reserve it as a reference point.

When I first started chugging I had never heard of intonation although I had already been baffled by the flat note on draw 5 and even retuned some harps to get rid of it. Later I found out why I did that!

Section 1: Introduction to Chugging - what is it?


Just whisper 'choo-choo-choo' into the harmonica as I show you on the video (first out then in) and you will find this very easy and satisfying – a nice east start!


Choo Chacka Choo

Just whisper Choo Chacka, Choo Chacka, Choo Chacka Chooooo into the harmonica as I show you on the video (first out then in) and I think you will manage this well and enjoy the rhythm it produces. If you find that the playalong track is too fast you can always practice it without the track to begin with.


Have a go at this phrase - Doo chicka chacka chicka.

Say it over and over.

Whisper it slowly and loudly breathing out twice then in twice.

Now play with the backing track.

Introducing the idea of triplet feel.

Follow the video and demo mp3 to whisper the phrase into your harmonica so you get chugging on this 12/8 groove.


Sublte difference to the precious lecture with completely different music.


Bit of a tongue twister but have a go! I sometimed wonder who writes this rubbish and then remember it was me.


Try this one as I teach it on the video but if it's too fast you can miss out bits until you get it. Try saying 'took, tack, took, tack' to make it easier at the start.


Nice easy groove. Listen to beautiful music that is written for it.


Have a go at this phrase - Drr agga lugga do.

Say it over and over.

Whisper it slowly and loudly breathing out twice then in twice.

Now play with the backing track.


Another nice groove. Get lost in the music!


'Chicken Tikka'. Whisper this into the harmonica for a fantastic groovy rhythm.

If you can say it you can play it. In fact it's easier to play than say.

This lecture has the most amazing backing track for you to play along with. You will enjoy sitar, tabla, shruti drones and a special bonus - me playing three-part Baroque trumpet!

Later in the course I'll be showing you how to play the trumpet part on your harmonica but for now just play the rhythm and see if you can keep going for the entire track.

Use the additional resourses so see it written down, hear instruction and most importantly play along with the backing track we wrote specially for this chug.


Here are some ideas for using the right hand - or I should say the 'free' hand. Right handed players should generally hold the harmonica in their left hand leaving the right hand free.

Lefties should try both ways and see which works best for you.

Section 2: Train sounds

This is a fantastic warm up and tone producing exersise which I learned recently from Joe Filisko. Best on a G harp he says but you can do it on any harp.


For the first one I want you to whisper the word 'ZZ-acka', first out then in through your harmonica. It is like the steam produced by a steam train as it is departing.

The second one is very easy when you do it slowly and slowly is how you should start. Say 'Tikka' breathing out and allow the air to come back in as you say 'Hoo'. You don't really need to pull the air back in because the act of pushing air out on Tikka will lower the air pressure in your lungs and demand air to be replaced.

Try a few 'Tikka Hoo's and then gradually build up speed.


Tikka hoo extended and the fourth train sound added.


Train whistle.

Everybody likes to play a train whistle and here comes yours.

Grab holes four and five, exhale to prepare (not through the harmonica), breathe in, and articulate the word 'WOWW' as you do it.

Now do the same thing but on holes three and four.

As you breathe in try to 'chew' they sound by moving your tongue and jaw around a bit.

Don't forget to pull the imaginary steam train whistle chord as you are coming round the mountain Casey Jones style.


Nice easy bluesy groove with surprise ending


The hardest track of the lot. Seems like the easiest.

Bonus 1- C major pentatonic scale
Bonus 2 - Cand G major pentatonic scales
Bonus 3 - Extending the pentatonic scales.

Here are the tunes if you would like to play along.


Well done - you can now get your certificate! You have just moved up a level in your harmonica playing.

People say 'Rhythm is the most important thing in music' and I agree.

This concludes Get Chugging but you should practice this stuff over and over.

After that have a look at the chugging style of Sonny Terry - you will find it in my 'country blues course' here on Udemy.

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Instructor Biography

Ben Hewlett, Professional Harmonica Instructor since 1996 CTABRSM, NHL

  • Wow, over 12 thousand students - you could be next!!

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 have Celtic music courses for you.

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 


'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.


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.

Recently I have become 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.

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