Introduction to Sonny Boy II Harmonica Technique

Rice MillerDon’t start me talking, I’ll tell you everything I know

Elwood reminded folks at the Harp Surgery it’s the anniversary of Sonny Boy II’s birthday this week. How about we tab out one of his monster tracks? he suggested. The Doc stroked his goatee and lifted his bowler down from the coat stand. No need to tab one number, young Elwood, we’ll do them ALL he replied. But how is that possible? quizzed Elwood.

The Doc raised a sagely eyebrow. Once you’ve mastered his trademark cross-harp licks and timing, my boy, you can tackle much of his material. Then it’s a case of studying the first position harp work, timingĀ and tone. But always remember you will never sound exactly like the master, nor should you . Elwood started warming his favourite blues burger. So where do we begin? he asked. From the turn around, answered the Doc, it’s his signature lick. It goes like this…

Listen to



I declare it’s a pity, and God knows it’s a crying shame

Credit to a recent contribution on Harp-L for bringing this small, but important detail to our attention. It’s a recording of the wonderful Sonny Boy Williamson II, starting Nine Below Zero with his harp the wrong way round and on camera. As you might expect from such a pro, he casually shrugs the moment off without ceremony and gets straight on with the job. And hats off to the man. That same thing could represent an insurmountable embarrassment to lesser mortals.