Friday, July 9, 2010

Blues Harmonica Tips From Ronnie Shellist

To play or not to play

unsure of when to lay back when playing a solo?

Playing too much and stepping on everyone's toes? Well, even if you are you might not know it. Here are some easy to remember rules you can follow when playing with others:

1.) Never play over the vocals. It's always best to lay back and not play at all in my opinion. Sometimes a tasteful very quiet melody or long note is OK. In general, playing nothing while somebody is singing is my preference.

2.) It's also important to lay back significantly during other solos. Quiet and simple rhythm comps on the 123 draw chord are fine. I hear many players honking away at the same time as another solo is going on and it really detracts from the music. So, keep it simple and play softly if you do play outside of your solo.

3.) Less is more. If you start a solo off with everything ya got, where can you go from there? Exactly, nowhere. So, start simple and hold some long notes and play some tonal based sounds or rhythm lick to get into the groove. Take your time and enjoy the journey of your solo. Most players move around too much in my opinion, always trying to say something. Let the music play YOU. Don't try to play IT.

What's new at

lessons, packages, and harmonicas!

Yes, has been refreshed. From the home page, to the lessons and more! I have added the "Complete Package" for those of you who are looking to pick up every single lesson, jam track (50 tracks in all on the site), and my blues CD "Chicago Sessions". If you purchase the Complete Package, mention this newsletter and you will receive a complimentary 30 min lesson with Ronnie. Simply email him at to set up the lesson after your purchase. Want to purchase this package right now? Click here.

I have also added the "Ultimate Blues Jam Tracks" package to the website as well. This is a must buy for anybody who is working on their chops. The level of talent and quality of the tracks is superb on these full band electric backing downloads. There are 3 CD downloads in all: 30 tracks. This package can be found by clicking here and heading to the Jam Tracks Tab. If you're looking for more blues licks, the "Song Ending Blues Licks" lesson is a perfect download now available on the site. This lesson can be found by clicking here and heading to the Intermediate Tab.

Lastly, there is also now a Harmonica tab where very soon you will be able to purchase harmonicas. I plan on creating a one stop shop for every harmonica player out there. Please stop by and check it out:

Tongue Blocking vs Puckering

what's your approach?

First let me say this: I learned to play single notes by puckering, you know making the big kiss shape with your lips to create a pin hole in order to play just one note at a time. So, it wasn't until I was year and half into my playing that I really started messing with tongue blocking single notes. Here's the thing. If you're not putting your tongue on the harmonica at all, then you're really missing out.

Certain techniques,as you may already know, require that you do so: octaves, tongue flutters, tongue warbles etc. So, what about single notes? Well, there is a different tone and attack when playing single notes with tongue blocking. For example, I just love playing tongue slaps which requires tongue blocking. A tongue slap is when you play a chord just before or as you slap your tongue on the harmonica to play one note. It gives a very nice percussive effect to your playing.

For me it's a split deal. I play all of my bends with the pucker method. Aside from that, I tongue block and pucker about 50/50 mixing mid riff from a block to a pucker. So, I guess the message here is: Don't avoid tongue blocking all together! It truly is crucial for blues harmonica and other styles of music as well. To learn more about tongue blocking, book a SKYPE lesson with Ronnie by emailing him at

I have awesome things on the horizon coming your way soon. My 3 "Bite-Sized Instructional Videos": Amplified Harmonica, Mastering Nuances, and Putting It All Together will be released by the end of the month. To be notified when these videos are released, simply email me at and put "Bite-Sized" in the subject line. Thanks for tuning in!


Ronnie Shellist


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