101 Blues riffs - learn how the harmonica superstars do it

Improve your musical skills and increase your blues repertoire now. Knock your audience out and amaze your friends now!
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Instructed by Ben Hewlett Music / Instruments
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  • Lectures 55
  • Length 6.5 hours
  • Skill Level Intermediate Level
  • 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 1/2015 English

Course Description


Do you ever feel you play the same stuff on your harmonica over and over? I've felt that at times and to get my mojo back I study other players and see what they do to see if it will work for me.

You need 101 Blues Riffs - and here they come!

This course will increase your musical vocabulary; it will teach you how to play riffs in the styles of De Ford Bailey, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Sonnyboy Williamson 2, William Clarke, JJ Milteau, Brendan Power, Big Walter, Charlie McCoy, Charlie Musselwhite and more...

By learning these riffs you will be a much broader musician and able to impress your audience and bandmates.

Every riff is written down as harmonica tab and normal music notation on a pdf and I'll play it for you at different speeds with a click track as well on an mp3.

All you need is a 'C' diatonic harmonica and you're away!

I'll walk you through every riff in order before moving on to the next one.

If you want to free up your playing and explore the styles of some of the most successful blues harp players you've come to the right place!

What are the requirements?

  • You should be familiar with the layout of the 'C' diatonic harmonica, be able to play single notes, bend a little, play chords and do a little 'chugging'.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Play blues harp like the harmonica superstars. Learn amazing riffs as played by the great blues harmonica players and make them your own!

Who is the target audience?

  • This harmonica course is for intermediate players who can bend notes a little but want to increase their musical library. Do you feel you always play the same thing over and over? This course will teach you top riffs in th style of famous players. It's probably not for you if you can't get single notes or if you can't yet bend notes.

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.



This course teaches you 101 Blues Riffs.I know the intro lecture says only the first half is done but now I've finished it and you have all 101 riffs as originally planned.

I've taken 101 blues riffs - five Blues Riffs from many of my favourite players, and in some cases (like 'chugging') from my favourite techniques - and I've organised them in a way that will enable you to learn them easily.

Each riff is written down in harmonica tab and standard notation as well as played several times at different speeds on the attached mp3s for you to play along with.

Not only that but I will also walk you through each riff slowly and help you learn it step by step.

After taking this course will have the skills necessary to jam with your friends or at a jam session and have something interesting and musical to say as you play.

So jump in and enrol now but don't forget - there's nothing to loose - if you don't like it just ask for a refund and you don't have to do it immediately as you get lifetime access!

Which harmonica to buy?
2 pages
Download the whole book here
Section 1: Five Simple Chugging Riffs

Nice easy start. Here are two chugging riffs you can use in many swing rhythms - i.e. most Blues

I'll give you the whole book here as a download:



Three more chugging riffs using triplets, rests and dramatic gaps.

Section 2: Five De Ford Bailey Riffs

Let's take a look at the wonderful De Ford Bailey. The first riff (in this lecture) shows you his straight 'Charleston' style and his melodic playing. Note the 4draw - 6blow motif which you will see more of in upcoming lectures.


Two syncopated riffs with the first spanning the octave.

The second introduces a trill that he uses to emphasise a note.


Last two De Ford Bailey riffs - now search for his recordings and see what you can learn!

Section 3: Five Sonny Terry Riffs
Sonny Terry riffs part one
Sonny Terry riffs part two
Sonny Terry riffs part three
Section 4: Five Little Walter Riffs
Little Walter Riffs part one - Night Train Style
Little Walter Riffs part two
Little Walter Riffs part three
Section 5: Five Sonnyboy Williamson Riffs
Intro to Sonnyboy Williamson Riffs
Sonnyboy Williamson Riffs part two
Sonnyboy Williamson Riffs part three
Section 6: Five Mannish Boy Riffs
Mannish Boy Riffs - same as Hoochie Coochie Man and many others
Section 7: Five 'Ending' Riffs
Classic endings part one
Classic endings part two
Classic endings part three
Section 8: Five William Clarke Riffs
William Clarke Riffs part one
William Clarke Riffs part two
Section 9: Five JJ Milteau Riffs
JJ Milteau Riffs part one
JJ Milteau Riffs part two
JJ Milteau Riffs part three
Section 10: Five Brendan Power blues Riffs
Brendan Power blues Riffs part one
Brendan Power blues Riffs part two

Well done - you made it - now get out there and blow the back of the thing!

See you on the next course!

Section 11: Tongue-blocked riffs

'TB' ing is a great way to play. Trad prewar blues players pretty much all did it all the time. So if that's your thing it's essential to learn so have a go now.

Tongue-blocked riffs part two
Section 12: Big Walter Horton Riffs

Walter 'Shaky' Horton was another outstanding player - please google him and listen or watch the footage. He's in the street market scene with John Lee Hooker in the Blues Brothers film. He is often said to have had the best tone of all; maybe his huge hands helped.

Section 13: Charlie McCoy Country blues Riffs

Ah, the wonderful Charlie McCoy! Still active and touring at the time of writing so go and find him and get to a concert. I just tried to book him for a gig 8 months away but he's booked and busy. Maybe the following year.

Charlie McCoy Country blues Riffs part two
Section 14: Howard Levy Riffs

There's no-one like Howard on the diatonic. He's in a class of his own. Having said that he's not really a blues man - although he does sing and play the blues very well. It's essential you check him out - just google. He also doesn't use riffs - all his playing is unique every time he plays it seems, so these are just some cool phrases I picked out.

Howard Levy Riffs part two
Section 15: Rod Piazza Riffs

Rod is active and busy and a fine exponent of the west coast swing coming down the line from George Harmonica Smith amongst other influences. Search him out and see what you think please

Rod Piazza Riffs part two
Section 16: Third position Riffs

Third position is so easy - just breath in!

Third position riffs part two
Third position riffs part three
Section 17: First position Riffs

First position needs some hard work - lots of bending. Look at Sonnyboy Williamson II or Kim Wilson on 'Trust My Baby' for a perfect encapsulation of first position blues riffs.

Third position riffs part two
Section 18: Fast and Flashy Riffs

Get ready for a challenge but take it steady and you'll be fine!

Fast and flashy - part two
Fast and flashy - part three
Section 19: Jazzy Riffs

Sometime it's great to learn from non harmonica players. I asked Paul Lennon, my co-author, to write some generic jazzy riffs for me to teach. Tell me what you think of them.


A couple more jazzy riffs here and finishing up with a marathon Sonny Terry Whoopin' riff - enjoy!

Section 20: Extra resources
1 page

Here's a 12 bar blues for you to practise your new riffs with. I'll play a few and then you're on your own. I'll also give you a written version so you can see how it looks.

1 page

Here's a chart so you can see where all the notes are.

1 page

Here's a little about the artists we looked at for both parts to this course.

Artist Biogs part 2
1 page
Techniques used in riffs without a artist's name
1 page

Well done, you made it!

Now get out there and play your memorised 101 new riffs to amaze your audience - and yourself.

You are now much improved player than you were before taking this course so give yourself a well deserved pat on the back and thanks for being one of my students.

Please do a quick review now and tell your friends to put the word around that this course exists!

Ben Hewlett

Extra Learning Resources
2 pages

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Instructor Biography

Ben Hewlett, Professional Harmonica Instructor since 1996 CTABRSM, NHL

  • Wow, over 11 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 spelling - 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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