Jerry Portnoy

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Lesson 4

Juke 4th Chorus. A harp in key of E. As in most things - a combination of tongue blocking, lip pursing, single notes, chords and octaves.

I mention a "rip" which, in this case, is a quick slide from the 1st hole draw to the bend in the 4th hole.

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
key of E
Jerry Portnoy
A Harp
Little Walter

Print Print Chords & Tab

A Harp in the Key of E.

loop @ 3:01 to practice the 4th chorus slowly


Little Walter Jacobs (1930 - 1968) changed the Chicago blues sound in 1952 with his instrumental "Juke", spending eight weeks in the #1 position on the Billboard magazine R&B charts.

The 4th chorus is from 0:59 to 1:23 on the timecode.




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michael Oct 20, 2013

Thanks for the feedback Mr. Portnoy

I guess what I had a hard time putting to words is the fact that you are adding lessons faster than I can absorb them. 

Only been playing for 12-14 years. Not exactly a gifted musician but I make up for that with persistence. 

Fuled by my love for the blues and the challenge of learning. 

8 weeks on Juke, starting to get it "right"...feels good. 


Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Oct 10, 2013

Hi Mike,

You should work your way through the "Masterclass" lessons to equip yourself with the foundation in technique that will equip you to tackle the songs that follow. Make sure you can get strong clear single notes by both lip pursing and tongue blocking and that you learn to bend your draw notes with precision.

michael Oct 07, 2013

Slightly off topic, but something I need help with.

I signed on to Mr. Portny's instruction a couple of months back. Realizing that what he is passing on took him years to master, I decided to start with the first lesson posted, then work up the list. Is that the best plan? In order I mean.

What I want to avoid is, jumping around so much that I don't have an actual plan. Jump from here to there, then wonder why I'm not improving?

My 6th week of learning "Juke". Any advise would be helpfull.



Rich G
Rich G Apr 04, 2012

Thanks Jerry,  very interesting.  It hadn't occurred to me that My Babe is based on This Train, but now that you mention it I can hear the similarities. Lately, I find myself switching between tongue blocking ang lip pursing without thinking about it, although I can't say it always works well.


Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Apr 04, 2012

Walter wrote most of the songs he recorded under his own name though his biggest seller, My Babe, was written by Willie Dixon based on the old traditional This Train. He was a fine singer though, in his case, his unique and extraordinary instrumental skills overshadowed his excellent vocals. I'm quite sure that he used both lip pursing and tongue blocking. I switch between them based on various factors: where I am on the harp, what precedes or follows a particular passage, what kind of sound or attack I want on the note etc. Often, I don't think about the technique - I think about the music and just let my instincts and muscle memory make the choice in the moment.



Rich G
Rich G Apr 04, 2012

Hi Jerry,

I have been working on this and some other songs off Little Walter's "His Best" album, and had some questions.  First, I was wondering if you knew if he wrote some his songs, on his own albums that is, I know he played with others such as Muddy Waters where he was doing other material.  Second, he was known, of course, as a great (est) harp player but was also a terrific singer.  Did he (or other well known harp players) ever struggle to be better known as singers?  The other thing I was struck with on Juke and other songs is how deep and full his sound is (same with Big Walter), and how good it is for me to try to get that sound.  I was also reading what you and Iceman were saying to Donald about tongue blocking - getting the harp deep into the mouth to get a fuller sound - and it made me wonder how much tongue blocking Little Walter did in general.  I know you said in this lesson that you are switching back and forth between lip pursing and tongue blocking so I assume that Little Walter was doing so as well.  
Thanks, Rich 

Rich G
Rich G Mar 31, 2012


I wonder if you could explain why you switch between lip pursing and tongue blocking at various points?  Thanks.


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