When I first tried to learn the Blues I asked my boyfriend at the time, a jazz bass player, how it was put together, how it ‘worked.’ He was a great player, but intolerant of my learning style and his answer was growled disdain, “There’s no shortcuts to the Blues. You just have to live it.”

hoffman-dhc-TCAN-square-leanbackEventually I learned there is a structure, there is a game-like set of guidelines and while you do have to ‘live’ the feel and spirit, you don’t have to walk in blind.

It’s likely, since he grew up with the Blues, that he couldn’t even imagine my level of ignorance.

So it never occurred to him to explain the obvious to me.  For example, that it’s called a “12-Bar Blues” because the basic form is 12-Bars – a.k.a. 12 measures – long, that those 12 bars go through a series of … well, I call them mood-swings because those mood swings can become a variety of different chords. And that you run through those 12-Bars kind of like going around a game-board – only this is a game in which everyone progresses at the same time … and everyone wins.

The fact that the obvious is NOT so obvious to everyone is one reason I created my online course “BLUES Harp-Style” – to show other harp players what it’s taken me decades to discover, decipher and reinvent on harp from watching and listening to other musicians play the blues.

Why just for HARP PLAYERS? Why not teach it to EVERYONE? Well, harp players around the world are my tribe.  And our instruments have both limitations and capabilities that are very specific.  So I love teaching the illusive ‘obvious’ because I remember soooo well when it was complete confusion for me.  And I also love teaching the specifics of how we can create our OWN Blues language on OUR instrument.

We’re a pretty spread-out tribe – but the internet makes it possible for us to connect as a community or a classroom, and I take that connection seriously in my on-line courses, where I work with groups of up to 50 harp players at a time.

The course that just began yesterday has students from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Canada, U.S.A., Ireland, United Emirates, Indonesia, Netherlands and Norway – and although the doors officially closed yesterday, students are still coming in today.

Teaching as Discovery

Because I’m teaching something I discovered (and am still discovering daily) rather than something that was taught to me, I’m constantly trying to restructure and re-clarify parts of the course.

BHS-Square-imageFor example, 12 hours before Lesson One was set to open to the students, I had a brainstorm about how to simplify the first lesson so I could help students focus on the form and the groove instead of fussing with notes and accidentals.

I skyped Mr. Noah-It-All (my music copyist, Noah Brenner) in Eugene Oregon to see if he was up for some midnight transcription.

Together we put together a new video and handout which became a kind of warm-up section for the first lesson in the course and – BOOM! – 12 hours (and no sleep) later, the students were working on it.

The beauty of the course is that it’s alive, that I can respond and experience their responses.  I see the students working through the materials, I see their questions come in, I add the answers as content in the course … and I keep learning and discovering through their discovery.

And that’s one of the ways I get to live the Blues … Harp-Style.


Check out the Registration Page for “BLUES Harp-Style.  If the link for registration works, that means you can still get in!  If not, use my “Ask a Question” form to email me and get on the waiting list for the next course.



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