Online learning resources, be it courses, videos, written content, one-on-one coaching, apps, et cetera, provide fantastic opportunities to learn (and teach) how to play the harmonica and understand music more generally. Though nothing truly beats dedicated in-person harmonica lessons, there are plenty of excellent alternatives online.
Note that by “resources,” I'm not only referring to video tutoring and full-length courses (though these are arguably the best options). I'm also considering masterclasses, applications, videos and articles, and other online resources for learning how to play the harmonica.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these resources based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Reputation of the harmonica learning resource
- Quality of education in technique, theory, and learning real songs
- Organization and depth of learning
- Adaptability of teaching to individual students (one-on-one lessons are best here)
- The resource must be currently available
With all that being said, let's list out the learning resources.
The top 11 best online resources to learn how to play the harmonica are:
- iMusic School
- Harmonica Lessons
- Learn The Harmonica With Liam Ward
- Harmonica Breeze
- Play Harmonica
- Tomlin Harmonica School
In this article, we'll go through each of the above-mentioned resources to get a stronger idea of what makes them great for learning the harmonica. Whether you're a complete beginner or a successful professional, there is always something to learn! I'll include links to check out each option for yourself to learn more about harmonicas. We'll also consider a few “honourable mentions” worth considering.
ArtistWorks was founded by Patricia and David Butler in 2008. Currently, the headquarters are in Napa, California.
ArtistWorks is a platform that offers hundreds of lessons for a plethora of different instruments taught by handpicked professionals and masters of their instruments. Moreover, the video exchange platform allows students to send their teachers videos of their progress and receive a video response from the teacher. Furthermore, the video exchange platform is visible for all of the students on the platform so that everyone can learn from the mistakes and triumphs of each other.
The harmonica virtuoso teaching with ArtistWorks is Howard Levy. He conveys his Grammy Award-winning tone and style in a series of carefully-curated videos, which you can play in slow motion, and in a loop to better learn every bit of information. Furthermore, Howard covers all styles and techniques, adding some tongue blocking tips, bending and overblowing techniques, and lots of blues and folk tips.
If you are looking for a self-paced learning platform, ArtistWorks is the way to go.
TrueFire was founded by Brad Wendkos in 1991. Currently, headquarters are in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Just by looking at TrueFire's roster, you can immediately realize that the platform has some of the elite-level players in the world teaching lessons. Moreover, the Grammy Awards collected on the site's landing page are uncanny on the internet.
The harmonica side of the site is in charge of the legendary Annie Raines, a long-term harmonica play that absorbed all the magic of the Chicago sound and the best of the USA's country-folk roots.
The course is the result of over two years of hard work between TrueFire's team and this virtuoso player who came up with a blueprint of her own to teach the instrument. Thus, this course can take you from absolute beginner to mastery in a single resource. Moreover, Annie shares tips and details that all the years on the road have given her.
So, if you want to learn through a video course from one of the most renowned active players, this course is a must-check.
iMusic School was founded by Roland Pepe in 2007. Currently, the headquarters are in Corse, France.
iMusic School hired one of the greatest Nashville harmonica players to teach in their school. Charlie McCoy has played with artists the size of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Simon and Garfunkel. This curriculum vitae expands to include some European personalities such as Johnny Hallyday, Cliff Richard, and Eddy Michell. Moreover, he is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and a Grammy Award winner.
The wisdom, experience, and artistic sensitivity of this world-class musician were poured into 185 videos that can take you from absolute beginner to mastering the instrument. But that is not all since the site also offers a plethora of tools for musicians, such as step-by-step music theory lessons, scores and tablatures, and several interactive tools.
If you want a self-paced course taught by one of the best living harmonica players in the world, you have to check iMusic School.
JP Allen founded Harmonica.com in 2007. Currently, headquarters are in Honolulu, Hawaii.
JP Allen found in harmonica playing a companion to overcome the loss of a dear friend. That passion and drive took him to learn all the secrets of the instrument in a short period. Once a proficient player, he decided to pass it forward and help others connect to the instrument the same way he did in difficult times.
Although the man himself is retired from teaching after several decades of successfully instructing over 25,000 students, the heir to the throne, Luke, was chosen by JP from a roster of 50 teachers. Luke carries on the legacy of the school's founder, honouring his teaching system and passion for the instrument.
Nowadays, after over 3,000 5-star reviews and a proven method for beginners, Harmonica.com has established itself as one of the main options for aspiring harmonica players in the world. Thus, if you want to learn how to master your harmonica with the same method that made 25,000 students happy around the world, checking Harmonica.com is a must.
Harmoniclass was founded by Indiara Sfair in 2020. Currently, headquarters are in Brazil.
Indiara Sfair received academic music training at the School of Music and Fine Arts of Paraná, Brazil. Soon after, and because of her qualities as a musician, she participated in festivals in Seoul, South Korea, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Chicago, USA. Moreover, she gave a harmonica workshop at the Hohner Harmonica Masters in 2019 in Germany.
Apart from her work in the festivals and workshops, she has also worked alongside musicians the size of Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), and legend Nile Rogers.
With such a curriculum on the academic side and the experience in some of the most demanding stages in the world, her course, divided into two modules going step by step, works as a map leading any player from beginner to proficient in the shortest time possible.
Using her course, she has successfully taught over 1,500 students worldwide how to master the harmonica. Moreover, the course offers over 150 exercises in 27 classes that are 100% online and that can be accessed freely for 2 years after enrolling.
If you want a self-paced course full of riffs, licks, exercises, and animated tablatures, Harmoniclass is the way to go.
Dave Gage founded Harmonica Lessons in 1999. Currently, headquarters are in Los Angeles, California.
Dave Gage is not only one of the most experienced harmonica instructors in the world, with over 10,000 hours of private lessons taught; he is also one of the most sought-after harmonica players in the world.
He has shared the stage with musicians from bands like The Police, Devo, and Black Sabbath, to name a few. Moreover, he has worked as a consultant for brands the size of Lee Oskar and Hohner. But perhaps what he is best known for is because he can play the harmonica utilizing a technique called tongue-switching. Tongue-switching is a technique that allows him to play as fast as Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani and also emulate sounds by guitar greats such as Stevie Ray Vaughan.
So, intending to help others in their path toward being proficient harmonica players, he founded HarmonicaLessons with 45 hours of harmonica lessons, instant harmonica feedback, live lessons, jamming tracks, songs to play, and a cataract of techniques that can take the resources of any harmonica player to the next level.
If you want a self-paced course that can help you build a broader vocabulary as a player, checking Dave's free beginner videos is a must.
Learn The Harmonica With Liam Ward
Liam Ward founded Learn the Harmonica. Currently, headquarters are in Gloucestershire, England.
Liam Ward has played and recorded all over Europe and also in the USA to critical acclaim. He's a session musician, masterclass teacher, contributor to several musician-oriented magazines, and long-time teacher. He decided to share his knowledge and experience with fellow musicians through a YouTube channel that currently has over 150,000 subscribers and his website.
It is a true hub for harmonica players to learn to play the instrument from the basics to proficiency. Moreover, the “free tab” and “free lessons” tabs offer players various free resources to get started with.
That being said, as soon as you subscribe to the Premium Lessons, you have access to many specific courses to develop skills such as bending, tongue-blocking, solos and licks, blues improvisation, and much more.
So, if you want to taste the kind of content you can expect from this virtuoso player's site, you can just take the free beginners' courses and, if you like them, perhaps sign up for the premium side and take your playing to a different plateau.
Harmonica Breeze was founded by Ami Luz in 2008. Currently, headquarters are in Israel.
After teaching guitar for over 30 years, Ami Luz began a proficient harmonica player and decided that it was another musical passion he wanted to share with the world. Therefore, he set up his beginner-oriented course to critical acclaim (he is the author of several courses, lessons, and masterclasses for guitar).
Since he is an author, an instructor, and a musician, you can acquire his instructional books and take the virtual lessons available on the site. Some may want to go further in their learning and sign up. For others, the free access is enough.
So, if this is the kind of dynamics you want your lessons to have, checking out Ami's free resources is a must.
Ben Hewlett founded Play Harmonica. Currently, the headquarters are in London, England.
Ben Hewlett has taught over 45,000 students around the world using his tested-and-true method to go from beginner to mastery in 90 days. Plus, he is the vice president of the HarmonicaUK community and was also featured on BBC Radio and shared gigs all over the world with numerous musicians mainly in blues, rock, and pop.
On his site, Ben has divided all lessons into three different levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced with a code colour of green, yellow, and red, respectively. Thus, you can choose your appropriate level or learn your way through from green to red in 90 days as promised by Ben.
But that's not all, since once you sign up for a membership, you get access to live workshops, master class events, and many song tablatures.
Tomlin Harmonica School
Tomlin Leckie founded the Tomlin Harmonica School in 2010. Headquarters are in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The numbers in Tomlin Leckie's curriculum as a player and teacher are phenomenal. He has not only shared the stage with some of the most prominent names in music, but he has also taught successfully 170,000 students how to get their way through the harmonica.
With those credentials, he recruited the most talented faculties and created one of the best online schools to learn harmonica in the world. Plus, the Tomlin School often receives illustrious visits from the harmonica world in the shape of guest faculties. Names like Liam Ward, Elin Oberg, Joe Filisko, and Adam Gussow are frequently part of these invitations.
Furthermore, Tomlin responds to videos and weekly Q and A sessions with students giving important feedback to those on their way to mastery and specific feedback to those trying to master a certain technique.
If you want an online resource, run by a legend with a handpicked group of notables, and star guests, checking the Tomlin Harmonica School is a must.
Harmonica123 was founded by Ronnie Shellist. Currently, the headquarters are in Denver, Colorado.
Ronnie Shellist is, first and foremost, one of the most sought-after players in the blues harmonica world. He has played with BB King, Robert Cray, Charlie Musselwhite, and the Neville Brothers among many others. Moreover, his YouTube performances collect over 10 million views and have inspired thousands to pick up the instrument.
The site offers several ways to access the information: downloading material, webinars, and also streaming classes. Moreover, you also get access to Zoom classes with Ronnie to cover specific skills, techniques, jam, and learn how to play over blues.
Speaking of which, the school offers open jams to practice scales and perfect improvisation skills every week. Likewise, the seminars feature some of the greatest harmonica players in the world sharing their secrets exclusively to Harmonica123 students.
If these resources meet your needs, you can trust the skills of Ronnie as a player, teacher, and manager. Furthermore, just check his website out and try the free lessons to get a taste of what his teachings are.