Jerry Portnoy

Lesson >

Hoochie Coochie Man

Opening Riff

The signature riff from Hoochie Coochie Man. A very simple riff played in 1st position. A harp in key of A. The original had Little Walter playing behind Muddy's vocal. We'll be doing more of the song later but let's get that first lick played correctly. Besides the high register blow bends ala Jimmy Reed there is some good 1st position stuff at the low end as well. We'll be going over some basic 1st position patterns in coming lessons.

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Key of A
Muddy Waters
Jerry Portnoy
A Harp
Little Walter

Print Print Chords & Tab

A harp in key of A.  

Loop 0:00 Jerry and Rick Playing the Inro to Hoochie Coochie Man

Loop 1:10 Breakdown of Riff in 2nd Position (D Harp)

Loop 1:34 Breakdown of Riff in 1st Position (A Harp)

Loop 3:12 Thoughts on Playing in 1st Position

Loop 4:26 Practice Loop

Loop 4:44 Closing Thoughts




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NP May 06, 2018

Hi Jerry, hello from Portugal,

Great harp sounds. I'm learning how to play with diatonic...a bit different from chromatic...:)

Thank you for sharing your experience 


Mel Shakespeare
Mel Shakespeare Dec 27, 2014

I may never pick up my guitar again...just kiddin'

Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Nov 06, 2014

Glad you folks are enjoying the site!

zapa Nov 05, 2014

Thank you for teaching! Hello from Finland !

redhededkewty Oct 30, 2014

This man is an amazingly good instructor, aside from being a living legend. Thank you for teaching, Jerry.

Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Aug 21, 2014

HI Paul,

I may do some of the songs you suggest. Glad you're enjoying the lessons!

Paul W
Paul W Jul 19, 2014

Jerry, thanks for this lesson and welcome back (and for bringing Rick into the fold...great stuff)! 

I'm thrilled you're teaching off of From the Cradle.  It was this CD that initially attracted me to Blues and wanting to learn harmonica back in '96.  Unfortunately it wasn't until 4 yrs ago that I actually picked up a harmonica, but better late than never.  In any case, 18 yrs later it's stil one of my favorites albums & how cool is that I/we can be learning from you on Sonic Junction!    Blues Leave Me Alone & Goin' Away Baby & variations on How Long Blues would all would make great lessons too...


pw Apr 22, 2013

Great description of straight vs. cross harp (Feb 2 posting).  Have been trying to understand that concept for awhile. 

Also, I grew up in Chicago on Taylor Street in the 60s-70s.  My mom loved the Maxwell Street Market!

Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Mar 27, 2013

Hi Letitrole,

I'm playing an "A" harp. 

Letitrole Mar 27, 2013

Jerry:  Thanks for the posting and lessons.  It must have really been something else to play with one of the best bluesman ever on this planet.  Man I love that Muddy Waters.  Little Walter was born about thirty minutes from where I live, his legend still lives on in Marksville, LA.  The question I have is, in the Eric Clapton video, were you playing a D harp or A harp?  Thank you.

Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Feb 02, 2013

An A harp is an A harp. If you play it in the key of A it is commonly called 1st position. If you play the same harp in the key of E it is called 2nd position or "cross harp". All regular ten hole harps are diatonic harps. Cross harp is not a different type of harp phusically, but merely refers to the key in which you play relative to the tuning (key) of the harp. Hoochie Coochie Man is played in the key of A. If you play it like Walter or the way I show it, we are playing it on an A harp in first position. If you wanted to play it in the same key (A) but wanted to play cross harp you would play it on a D harp.

I recorded this song with Muddy Waters on the I'm Ready album. There were two harps on this version: Big Walter played an A harp (1st position) and I played a D harp in cross or 2nd position. We're both playing in the key of A.

Steve Lee
Steve Lee Feb 02, 2013

I would like claraification if you will, regarding playing Hoochie Choocie Man with an A Harp.  Am I correct in understanding that I would be playing an " A" diatonic and not an A crossharp?  If it was in 2nd position, it would have to be crosssharp.  Give me some merit and a reiteration of sorts.   Thanks Jerry


Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Dec 03, 2012

Hi Allie,

Welcome to Sonic Junction. For all the lessons and exercises in basic technique that are found in the Masterclass section you will just need one harp in the key of "A". Once you get into trying to play the various songs, intros, heads and solos that are in the library of weekly posts, you will need more keys. Having an A, Bb, C, D, F, and G will get you through all of it.

Rich G
Rich G Sep 28, 2012

Thanks Jerry.  I have been wanting to better understand how to play 1st posiition blues on the low end of the harp.

daddyray (robbie)
daddyray (robbie) Sep 28, 2012

howlin wolf's sloppy old Sittin on Top of the World would be cool too 

this is a nice one....nuacnes 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Sep 27, 2012

Here's a good video to practice too.  Jerry and Eric in Hyde park 1996.  

I agree BK ... singing the notes works for me too ... and I do it mostly for guitar.  

This is going to be my first tongue blocking riff (I'm a beginner harp player).  Love it Jerry!

B---K Sep 27, 2012

Oh, thanks for this, Jerry!  I've been waiting for this for some time.

How about some Howlin' Wolf riffs too?  (Smokestack Lightnin' and Forty-Four for a couple of examples.)  I think I've got the basics of the them figured out, somewhat.  (Your 'Sing the notes and they will come out naturally' really does work after some time.)


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