Rick Estrin

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Crawlin' Kingsnake

Chord Rhythm

Hey, Rick Estrin, back here at Sonic Junction with the first lesson of this Crawlin' Kingsnake. This week I'm gonna help get you prepared for the meat of the song by showing you a couple of the recurring chordal and rhythmic devices that keep coming up in various ways throughout the song. There'll be tongue slapping, some "dirty" or distorted notes, and some probably new, breathing and rhythmic patterns. This will probably turn out to be the most important lesson in the series because we'll be using these patterns and devices throughout the song.

So relax, have fun and feel that groove!

Rick Estrin







Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chicago Blues

Print Print Chords & Tab

G Harp in the Key of D.

Loop 0:00 John Lee Williamson's Style

Loop 2:26 John Lee Williamson Foundational Chord Riff

Loop 7:27 Second Chord Riff

Loop 9:32 Practice Loop

Loop 10:00 Adding Hand Effects

Loop 10:45 Slow Practice Loop

Loop 11:53 Closing Thoughts




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andre Loiselle
andre Loiselle Feb 14, 2020

First of all ... Thank you !! that means my explanation was Right !! And Yeah I will Relax and play it with less force and attack !! And Yes Another John Lee Williamson Song ... to me it s gonna be Delightful !! 

And Larry Thanks again for the explaination ... you have no idea how much your explanations ,  Rick and Larry ,  help me out to put "Words" of What I feel when I play !! and each time when I go back and read it again help me to go further in comprehension !!

Thanks again Both of you !! 

andre Loiselle
andre Loiselle Feb 14, 2020

when I want to get down from the 4 hole bend to the 2 hole and make the 3 hole blow with the tongue block and back to the draw chord .

 to make sound the blow chord "right" ... what a challenge ... it s like I m not able to make sound that chord "Big " enough and it feel weak ... lol , i m not sure if my explanation "sound" right ??! but to me it s right !! anyway ... I ll put time ... but the main thing for me it s ; you have to get the right "sound" of the chords and not throw it without sounding "right" !! I think if I m able to make them right , it will help the Bed of Groove !! it s hard to try to explain in English Rick ... but it s the deal !!

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Feb 14, 2020

Even though he was the father of the Chicago, post-war, harmonica style, the way John Lee Willimson used chords is pretty unique. One thing is, the chords might sound "big", but they're not usually played with a hard attack or a lot of force. Maybe try backing off a little, relaxing, and feeling the groove more. I think I'm going to do another John Lee type song in my next lesson, so you'll have more chances to work with his style.

Larry "The Iceman"
Larry "The Iceman" Feb 14, 2020

I like to think of the chords used this way as the rhythm guitar part that supports the lead lines (or vocals)....If you have a rhythm guitar player whose chords sound as loud or LOUDER than the vocals or the lead/solo lines, he will probably be looking for another gig pretty quickly.

So, chords are supportive and should always be underneath whatever else is going on - even when you are playing both the lead part and the chord part - one reason that this style of harmonica playing is so cool - you are basically doing 2 jobs at once!

Breathe through the chords - don't try to MAKE them sound anything as that usually means trying too hard/too much force.

Sometimes using the word "blow" for exhale notes on the harmonica works subconsciously to make you think you have to use the same force needed to whistle when it should be closer to the energy used when humming.

Samuel Gex
Samuel Gex Jan 28, 2019

That's exactly the lesson I need. I have a decent harp tone, some techniques but I still feel playing like an emulator or a bad pianola. I'm rediscovering the joy of breathing through the harmonica.

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Jan 28, 2019

That's great! That's exactly what I was hoping for with this lesson. It's a great beginning for learning to apply different types of chord support, at different volumes, to almost anything you play!

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Aug 12, 2018

Knowing exactly what you're doing on the parts you demonstrate here makes the whole first verse kind of fall into place. I always felt that John Lee Williamson's playing had a kind of sloshing quality about it that made the groove.  Maybe a good example of what you call "intentional slop." You've really illuminated it here.  There are still some places in the first verse where, no matter how many times I listen and watch how your cheeks are moving, I can't quite tell what you're doing.  Hopefully I'll be 90% there and when you demonstrate that verse I can clean up the details.  It's also a blast trying to get the hand effects. Thanks.

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Aug 12, 2018

Give it a chance - work with it and see how it comes together for you. As always, I'll be happy to attempt clarification wherever I can. 

Robert Fox
Robert Fox Aug 11, 2018

This is just what the doctor ordered. Thanks, Rick!

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Aug 11, 2018

Thanks Robert. Glad you like it. Keep me posted on your progress, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask me anything.

Boyd R
Boyd R Aug 10, 2018

I'm going to really like this tune, worth working on it

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Aug 10, 2018

Thanks Boyd. Have fun with it!

Larry "The Iceman"
Larry "The Iceman" Aug 10, 2018

I've got big musical ears, but this stuff always eluded me.

Thanks for revealing a bit o' the inner secrets of this style of playing. Your teaching approach is easy to absorb.

Too many students are "show me a lick" when they should be more invested in learning how to groove.


Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Aug 10, 2018

For sure, this style is a pretty radical departure from your more modern, clean approach. I'm real glad you can find something interesting in this type of lowdown stuff.

Robert Aug 10, 2018

I almost think after "Getting out of town" your intro...this should have been your next lesson. Rick, I've been here just about since the beginning...Develop your ear cannot be over stated plus keeping it in the pocket....You and Jerry...old school..

create the foundation.  So I'm leading up to some thing....Jerry did his signature piece "Blues in a dream" I love your stuff...can ya do your materia on here ?  

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Aug 10, 2018

Is there anything in particular you'd like me to do?

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