Jerry Portnoy

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Jug Band Waltz

Jug Band Waltz

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Jug Band Waltz > Jug Band Waltz

Jug Band Waltz: A great little solo piece in which you play lead and rhythm at the same time. No bent notes required. It's straight harp played on an "A" harp in the key of "A". Originally done in the 1920's by the great Memphis harmonica player Will Shade.

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Key of A
Jerry Portnoy
A Harp
Will Shade
Jug Band Waltz

Print Print Chords & Tab

A harp in the key of "A."


loop @ 2:23 run through

loop @ 3:58 back tonguing

loop @ 5:00 7th hole tongue blocking exercise

loop @ 5:19 draw practice

loop @ 6:12 warble and octaves




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Hank Hamilton
Hank Hamilton Jun 17, 2022

Hello Jerry and Rick, I love listening to the two of you play these songs as you teach them; so clean and clear and tasteful in every way. This kind of quality is the exception rather than the rule.

Now to my question: I am learning the Jugband Waltz. It is simple enough but there is one problem area for me and that lies in producing the "roll" sound on a draw note. I can do it on the blow notes, not perfectly as yet,  but am unable to get it to work on the draw notes. I heard what you said, that it was produced by a gutteral sound in the back of the throat and you made the sound for us. I will continue to try to get that sound, but no luck so far. I wonder if you might have some further ideas on this topic. It may be just something one can do or not do and that is the way it is.

I just now noticed that Harvey Kail made a similar inquiry back on Aug 25, 2012, my gosh, almost 10 years ago; I don't see a reply though.

I am also curious about Rick's guitar playing and I wonder whether he has done any instructional work. I play guitar but have laid it aside as I have gotten older (I am 84 yrs); I dragged it out a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, I love Rick's approach to his accompaniment, fairly simple (deceptively so), always appropriate and rock-solid rhythm, yay Rick; oh, and I like Rick's singing too.

It reminds me of the playing of Mississippi John Hurt. His playing was so deceptively simple sounding. but I have never heard anyone, not anyone, who could get the sound and the feel of the songs like John could.

Thanks Jerry, and Rick too, for any input at all.

Hank Hamilton

Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Jun 25, 2022

Hi Hank,

I'm not sure I can explain the sound you're referring to any better than I did in the video. It's kind of like a snoring sound on the In breath from the back of your throat. Hope that helps!

arnold2 Jul 11, 2019

Hi, Jerry!

It's Arnold.

Tominou Feb 06, 2015

It will be difficult for me... I play harmo since 1 year. But i'll try to get the blues spirit!

Your answer was very kick,that's a good sign of quality for me.

Thanks again. 

Tominou Feb 06, 2015

Hello, that's my first day on the site: is there a tab of the lesson anywhere? Or everybody plays "with his ear"...

Thak you for the answer... 

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Feb 06, 2015

Welcome to Sonic Junction.

Jerry believes that blues harmonica should be learned by ear --- very similar to how we learned to speak language --- so we don't tab any lessons by design.
We have integrated loop points and a video speed control (without changing pitch) so you can hear exactly what is being played.   You should loop each section over and over until it is in your mind --- and then try to play it on the harmonica.
Learning this way will help you immensely when it becomes time for you to improvise and/or learn songs by yourself.  It will also help you learn and better capture the tone, phrasing and timing which makes blues and the harmonica so powerful.
I hope that helps.
Tom Oct 14, 2013

Does anybody here remember Mel Lyman...?!!! He thought he was god...!

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Aug 30, 2012

Hi B-K .. to answer your question about slow down for Firefox ... it will come in time, but I can't say when.  

The slow down is done by the browser, so it's a matter of when they release that feature.  Firefox has actually fallen behind in the the past year or so.

harvey kail
harvey kail Aug 25, 2012


I am very much enjoying learning Jug Band Waltz.  The melody is charming, even when played without all the embellishments. I also enjoy playing in first position, for a change. I am to the point now that I can back tongue the rhythm parts, but I am stil struggling to incorporate the tongue roll and the draw equivalent.  The hand vibrato is going to come in later, when eveerything esle is in muscle memory. I have two queries.  First, when you tongue roll on the blow notes, are you switching to tongue blocking as you initially hit the 7 hole blow or do you wait until you slap tongue the first back beat rhythm note?  I can't tel from the recording.  Second query: how can I avoid freezing up some of my draw notes when I back tongue or tongue slap my way through the song?.  Frequently, I find my 5 hole draw soon refuses to play, sometimes other of my draw notes, as well. I have to stop playing and fuss with the instrument for a few minutes until all is clear.  Any suggestions?


By the way, I initially learned to tongue block from your Masterclass CD's.  I'm so grateful for that!  It is so worth the effort.


Harvey Kail

B---K Aug 07, 2012

Mike -- 

"If you use Google Chrome, IE9 or Safari as your browser, you will see a menu at the top of the video for slowing down the videos" -- Thanks.  Yes.  That does the trick.  Will you be doing that with Firefox?

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Aug 07, 2012

Hi Harvey,

Welcome to Sonic Junction. Yes the monthly subscription give you access to ALL of Jerry's lessons .. My Babe through Sonny Boy I through the Masterclass.   Glad you enjoyed Jerry's Masterclass CD's ... they are a tremendous resource.


harvey kail
harvey kail Aug 07, 2012

Dear Mike,

Well, I guess I'm just going to have to sign up. The teaser of Jerry playing his version of Will Shade's Jug Band Blues is just too much fun to pass up.  And do I understand correctly, that if I join (on the monthy plan) that I have access to all of Jerry's lessons from My Babe to Sonny Boy Lesson One?  If so, that's a deal!

Harvey Kail

PS. I used Jerry's masterclass CD's to train myself to tongue block, and that has proven a valuable step in my development as a harmonica player.  Thnaks, Jerry.

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Aug 06, 2012

Hi B-K,

If you use Google Chrome, IE9 or Safari as your browser, you will see a menu at the top of the video for slowing down the videos (same pitch / slow speed).   Does that help?

I will write-up a guide to the slow downer and looper as there are some nice looping features we have just implemented.



B---K Aug 04, 2012

At about 4:40 into the video, Jerry mentions clicking on the "75%" or "50%" buttons to slow down the playback.  I see no such buttons.  What is he referring to?


Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Jul 30, 2012

The tongueing technique involved is a useful thing to learn for adding rhythm beats under the melody

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