Walter’s Boogie – Walter Horton [..with tab]

Introduction

This is THE showcase blues harmonica number which every journeyman player needs to learn. It’s a catchy melody in its own right, but it is particularly attractive when played on the blues harp. And what makes it so important to a player’s development is that, while it incorporates the essential elements of a good harmonica boogie, it offers a concise blueprint for circuiting the 12 bar format without ignoring chord changes and clinging to special effects. In other words it promotes the art of blues musicianship – how and what to play over the I, IV and V chords.

There is no doubt that emulating Big Walter’s delivery demands a great deal of precision. You will need to master a range of techniques including tongue fluttering, octaving, puckering, tongue blocking, tongue slapping and accurate bending. All of which are sustained with excellent breath control. And above all else, you’ll have to nail that BIG tone. Take your time and pay attention to the detail.

It is worth noting that there are several recorded versions of this tune, all of which vary slightly. Indeed you can hear Big Walter snatching a breath during the fluttered intro on one take, so maybe he was as human as the rest of us after all. A YouTube link is at the foot of this page. Anyway here’s how to master the essential ingredients..

So how did he do it?

You’ll need an A major diatonic harp and you’ll be playing in the cross harp key of E (2nd position). I am referencing the recording on the Can’t Keep Lovin’ You album (Blind Pig Records).

The introduction uses the ‘flutter’, ‘shimmer’ or ‘dabbing’ technique. Magic Dick also uses this right at the start of Whammer Jammer. You will need to perfect this technique. It is an in-out dabbing movement which momentarily blocks and then opens up the central holes of a four hole spread. It is not a trill.

Walter adds a rhythmic dynamic to the whole process by fluttering in triplets, while accenting the down beat of each triplet from the diaphragm like so 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3. This creates a 12/8 time signature.

The first flutter is over the 1-2-3-4 draw chord and the 1-4 draw octave split (B-B). After four triplet beats, and using the same breath, he moves up to the 2-3-4-5 draw chord and the 2-5 split (E-D). He then repeats this 1-2-3-4 and 2-3-4-5 chord sequence, still using the same breath, before exhaling through the 3-4-5-6 blow chord and 3-6 blown octave split (E-E). Finally he moves up to the draw 4-5-6-7 draw chord and 4-7 drawn split (B-G#). In this final draw chord he plays two triplets followed by two accented notes, 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3, 4. It all sounds dreadfully complex written this way, but if we stripped the whole thing down to its skeleton, the core notes are 4D 5D 4D 5D 6B 7D.

The prelude

So, dabbing between the chords and 4 hole splits (chord/split)..

1D-2D-3D-4D / 1D-4D (in triplet timing 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3)

2D-3D-4D-5D / 2D-5D (in triplet timing 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3)

1D-2D-3D-4D / 1D-4D (in triplet timing 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3)

2D-3D-4D-5D / 2D-5D (in triplet timing 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3)

3B-4B-5B-6B / 3B-6B (in triplet timing 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3)

4D-5D-6D-7D / 4D-7D (two triplets and two emphasised beats 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3, 4)

The tumble down

Sweep up to the 9B with a blown glissando. The run down can be puckered or tongue blocked. Emphasise the last note in the run (3D’).

9B..9D   8D..9D..8D..7D..6D   6B..5D..4D..3D’

That signature opening sequence

Now into the signature sequence, starting over the I chord. It’s easiest if you switch between a pucker on the 3 hole and tongue block on the 5 and 4 holes, adding tongue slaps as you work down. The first note (3D’) is accented and launched ahead of the beat for impact.

3D’ 3D 5D 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D

3D’ 3D 5D

3D’ 3D 5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5D 4D

The second part of the opening section

The second part of the signature sequence, played over the IV chord, is perhaps easier when puckered

2D” 2D 3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3B 2B 3B

3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3D 2D 3D (changing from the blown 3-2-3 back to the drawn 3-2-3 is an important detail)

5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D 5D 5B 5B 4D 4D 5B

1D 1D 2D” 2D’ 4D 4D 4B 4B

1B 1B 2B 2B 2D 3D” 2D 2D” 1D

2D 1D 1B 1D

2D 2D” 1D 1D

And back again

Now the repeated signature sequence. Walter simplifies the opening to the first part slightly..

3D’ 3D 5D 5D 5B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D 5D 5B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D

3D’ 3D 5D

3D’ 3D 5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5D 4D

2D” 2D 3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3B 2B 3B

3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3D 2D 3D

5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D

4D 5B

1D 1D 2D” 2D’ 4D 4D 4B 4B

1B 1B 2B 2B 2D 3D” 2D 2D” 1D

2D 1D 1B 1D

2D 2D” 1D 1D

Now the second sequence

Again I tend to tongue block the higher notes, but pucker the deep draws in the 3 and 4 holes.

6B 6B

6B 6B

6B 6B 5D 5B 4D

3D’ 3D” 2

2D” 2D” 2D”…2D’ (accent these deep draw bends and release the last one slightly towards the first bend)

6B 6B

6B 6B

6B 6B 5D 5B 4D

3D’ 3D” 2

2D 3D 4D 5B 5D 5D 5B 5B 4D 4D 4B 4B

6B 6B 5D 5B 4D 3D’ 3D” 2D

2D 1D 2D 1D 1B 1D

2D 2D” 1D 1D

Back to a variation of the signature sequence

3D’ 3D’ 3D’ 5D

3D’ 3D 5D 5D 5B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D

3D’ 3D 5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D

2D” 2D 3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3B 2B 3B

3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3D 2D 3D

5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B

4D 4D 5B

1D 1D 2D” 2D’ 4D 4D 4B 4B

1B 1B 2B 2B 2D 3D” 2D 2D” 1D

2D 1D 1B 1D

2D 2D” 1D 1D

Now for the third sequence, which has a Latin feel..

(3D’) 3D 4D (3D’) 3D 2D (slur into the 3 draw from a slight draw bend)

1D 2B 2D 3D’ 3D’ 3D” 2D

1B 2B 3B 3D”… (sustain a strong vibrato on the 3 draw bend)

1D 2B 2D 3D’ 3D’ 2D

3D’ 3D 4D 5D 4D 4B 4B

(4D’) 4D (4D’) 4D (4D’) 4D (4D’) 4D (4D’) 4D 2D (slur into an accented 4 draw from the draw bend)

1D 1B 1D

2D 2D’ 1D 1D

And back to the signature section, again with an altered opening (using chords and dual notes)

3D’ 3D (4D) 2D-5D (a lightning switch from the 3 to the 2-5 split catching the 4 draw as you pass)

4B (3D’) 3D 4D

3D 4D

4D-5D 4D-5D 4B-5B 4B-5B 3D-4D 3D-4D 3B-4B 3B-4B

3D’ 3D” 2D 2D” 1D 1D’ 1B

3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3B 2B 3B

3D’ 2D 3D’ 3D” 2D’ 3D”

3B 2B 3B 3D 2D 3D

5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D

3D’ 3D 5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B

4D 4D 5B

1D 1D 2D” 2D’ 4D 4D 4B 4B

1B 1B 2B 2B 2D 3D” 2D 2D” 1D

2D 1D 1B 1D

2D 2D” 1D 1D

And finally a brief return to the second sequence

6B 6B

6B 6B

6B 6B 5D 5B 4D

3D’ 2D

6B 6B

6B 6B

6B 6B 5D 5B 4D 3D’ 3D” 2D

2D 3D 4D 5B

5D 4D 5D 5B 4B 5B 4D 4D 5B

6B 5D 5B 4D 3D’ 2D (slowing)

The outro. Walter then repeats this last run for effect, before closing…

6B 5D 5B 4D 4B 3D’

6B 6B 6B 5D 5B 4D 4B 3D’

1D 2B 2D”….. (sustain that deep draw 2 bend)

And there you have it. As mentioned earlier, there are several recordings of Walter’s Boogie, each one slightly different. But this will stand you in good stead and provides the essentials.

3 thoughts on “Walter’s Boogie – Walter Horton [..with tab]

  • September 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm
    Permalink

    Hi!!!!
    Fantastic this tab and explanation!!!!!!!!!!!!
    very clear and detailed!

    i have a question about a tecnique i hear in that version of walter boogie:

    at about 1.00” on the 6B he did a pick-up that looks like a glissando,
    but it’s not a glissando , i hear like “TRRRRRRRRR”……

    can you tell me what he did?

    Thanks

    BestRegards

    Marko

  • November 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Marko. Thrilled you’ve enjoyed the tab. I hope to spruce it all up soon and record some video lessons too. I’ve checked the point you mention and you’re right. It’s a small detail, it’s easily overlooked, but it’s one which is intrinsic to Walter Horton’s playing. It’s not a glisssando as you point out, but there is a rolled percussive effect complete with Horton’s whopping tone behind it.

    As far as I can tell it’s produced by a huff or pull slap. This is all part of the tongue-block technique. You start by huffing or playing the group of blow notes in that area of the harp 4B-5B-6B. As the reeds respond, you then close off the holes you don’t need with your tongue until you’re just left with 6B. This all happens in one relaxed, natural, but quick movement. When combined with whatever mic and/or amplification Horton used, the result is the sound you’ve identified.

    I hope this helps.

  • August 26, 2017 at 5:43 pm
    Permalink

    THANKS!!! Really helps and the best discussion tab of this great song

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