Who & What I Teach

Who I Teach
I’m happy to work with both kids and adults. Prior to my first harmonica teaching gigs in 2009, I taught guitar for a decade, and in my years as a private music instructor, I’ve enjoyed working with folks from just about every age group.

What I Teach
I teach folk, rock, and blues on the diatonic harmonica. We approach songs and exercises using numerical tablature rather than sheet music, since I find students learn faster with it. And because I prepare most of our material myself, I can easily take requests and tailor our curriculum to fit your tastes. We also learn how to play by ear, improvise, and jam with others. As you get better, we’ll progress to more advanced techniques, as well as practical music theory for the harp. I’m also a big fan of playing duets using two harmonicas, or guitar and harmonica.

I love teaching harmonica to kids. All they have to do is breathe to make music, it’s pretty brilliant. Just as with adult students, we start with rhythm and move quickly into recognizable melodies. We also do some singing, play rhythm games, and get up and move around. My youngest student this past year was 5 years old, and I’m up for playing music with younger kids if they’re interested. Parents are always welcome either to sit in on lessons with us or drop off and pick up.

Coffee Shop Jam
Once or twice a year, I offer my students an informal performance opportunity that I’m calling the Coffee Shop Jam. I set up my PA system at a small local venue, and invite students of all levels to share a little bit of what they’ve been practicing. It’s an optional event, but I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from participants who found it to be an inspiring experience and a great goal to work toward.

My Favorite Artists
My harmonica heroes include Howard Levy (jazz), Deford Bailey and Sonny Terry (country blues), Brendan Power and James Conway (Irish), and I first became interested in the harmonica because of Bob Dylan and two early Beatles tunes that featured harmonica intros, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me.”

Speaking more generally, I’m also a fan of Sting, The Police, R.E.M., The Smiths, The Cure, Jeff Buckley, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Pat Metheny, Thelonius Monk, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Tori Amos, Leonard Cohen, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, Ani DiFranco, New Order, Depeche Mode, John Fahey, Kelly Joe Phelps, the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Pierre Bensusan, Richard Thompson, lots of pre-WWII blues guys like Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Bukka White, Skip James.

This list is meant to give you a sense of where I’m coming from, but we’ll work on whatever you’re interested in.

Chromatic Harmonica
If you’re interested in classic jazz melodies, bossa nova, and the trickier Beatles tunes, you’ll probably want to pick up a chromatic harmonica at some point. You’ll eventually be able to play all that stuff on the diatonic if you really work on your bends, but the chromatic is amazing at opening doors for beginners instantly. You just push the slide button on the side and voila, there are those mystery notes that you can’t play on the diatonic! I’m strongest as a diatonic player and teacher, but I dabble in chromatic harmonica and can certainly get you started with it.