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Beginner Chugging | ‘C’ Blues Harmonica Lesson + Free Harp Tabs

Hello! In today's harmonica lesson we're playing some chugging rhythms. Chugging is a great way for beginners to start making fun sounds, developing breath control and timing skills. I hope you enjoy the lesson!

What is Chugging?

Chugging is when you play chords in a rhythmic way. Chords contain three or more notes simultaneously. We'll be using holes 1, 2 and 3 for this purpose, both on the blow (exhale) and the draw (inhale). Chordal chugging can also be combined with single notes, as we are doing in this lesson. You can hear audio demos of each step in the above video (I am using a C diatonic harmonica).

Step 1 - Simple breathing

The first step is to breathe in and out on holes 1, 2 and 3. The tab is written like this:



Your aim is breathe in, out, in, out etc on a loop. You want each inhale and exhale to last the same amount of time, so that you are playing rhythmically. Take it nice and slowly and try to stay relaxed.

Breath Control

When you tried Step 1, did you feel out of breath or full of too much air? If so, you need to make sure you are getting an equal balance of air, i.e. not taking too much air in when you draw, and getting enough air out when you blow, otherwise you'll quickly fill your lungs and have to stop. Keep loose and relaxed as you play, try to drop your shoulders and remember that you're breathing, not heaving. If you are relaxed enough, you should be able to play this rhythm pretty much indefinitely (although the neighbours might have something to say about that!).

Step 2 - Articulating the notes

In Step 2, we're going to add a sort of shuffle rhythm to the notes we played in Step 1. While playing, flick your tongue to say "ah-duh" on the draw, and then do the same on the blow. This articulates the notes to give them a more rhythmic sound.

So we've now got:

-123 (AH-DUH)

123 (AH-DUH)

(Note: You don't actually need to verbalise the "ah-duh". It's just a case of moving your tongue to stop the airflow momentarily.)

Step 3 - Mixing up the breath

In Step 3, we'll add an extra draw breath without the tongue articulation, so that we have a draw with "ah-duh" then a blow with "ah-duh" and then a draw without "ah-duh". Here's the tab:

-123 (AH-DUH)

123 (AH-DUH)


Step 4 - Adding clean notes

At this point we're going to add in some single notes. (Check out my lesson on playing single notes if you haven't learned them yet.) In Step 4 we need to add two single notes: holes 3 draw and 4 draw. We'll add these two notes at the end of our existing pattern. Here's the tab:

-123 (AH-DUH)

123 (AH-DUH)


-3 -4

Step 5 - An extra note

For the final step we'll add an extra note on the end of our rhythm, a 3 draw note after the exisiting single notes. This makes a triplet - three notes per beat. The tab is as follows:

-123 (AH-DUH)

123 (AH-DUH)


-3 -4 -3

And that's it, you're chugging! I hope you've enjoyed this lesson. I'll see you soon for another one.

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