Jerry Portnoy

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Vibrato gives life and character to the sound of a note.  If you play without any vibrato at all, your notes will sound lifeless, flat and dull.  I experimented for a long time and practically choked myself in the process, but eventually discovered and mastered ways to produce different kinds of vibrato which I teach in this lesson.

Big Walter had one that was light and fast, very subtle, which gave an almost imperceptible glow to his notes.  They shimmered .. very beautiful.  In working on throat vibrato you can try to eliminate or subdue the clicking of the epiglottis so that the vibrato is smooth and seamless.

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:

Print Print Chords & Tab

Here's Rick and I running through How Long Blues illustrating some of the techniques.


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Guitar Dave
Guitar Dave Aug 19, 2017


SJ is my go to site for harp guitar backup lessons.  Thanks guitar guys Duke, Ricky King, Dave Gross,  and Corey.  Thanks to the harpsters Jerry, Rick and Dennis.  Jerry, please listen to my harp playing friend here in St.Louis.  I played your jam tracks off your  Master Class CD box set (with Duke)  thru a PA and he played along.

Thanks SJ!


Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Aug 20, 2017

Your friend is a very fine player. Good stuff!

Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy Apr 10, 2015

Hi Daniel,

You're demonstrating your vibrato on the 2/5 draw chord and it sounds great. I think it's a nice speed and, though you don't sustain it here more than a few beats, it sounds even and smooth. Wish I could do it as well. Seventy one years old, fifty years of smoking, and playing inactivity have taken their toll. That's why I use hand vibrato. My throat just won't respond anymore. I try to "fake it" but just can't do what I used to anymore. If you listen to my CD, "Down in the Mood Room", you'll hear the beautiful vibrato I used to have. This gettin'old stuff is a bitch, though I'm hoping to keep getting older as long as I can!

Daniel James
Daniel James Apr 05, 2015

Rick is so awesome! I love his playing, voice, and energy!

Daniel James
Daniel James Apr 05, 2015

 So here is a quick sample of what I do with vibrato. I'm pretty sure it's a throat vibrato-a reverse in this sample of the machine gun sound. I don't understand how Jerry is doing the adam's apple vibrato, and wonder if that can help me develop a faster/smoother vibrato.

Daniel James
Daniel James Apr 05, 2015

Can anyone offer any tips on how to develop the adams apple vibrato?

sonicdave Apr 29, 2014

jerry, gracias por tu musica. Para mi tu sonido es escuela. 

jean-luc poueyto
jean-luc poueyto May 12, 2013

Dear Jerry, I'm listening to you since a long time, because I like the smooth way you use to play chicago blues. I saw you in  my town, south of France at the end of the seventies, playing with Muddy Waters. It was so great ! Since this time, I'am playin harmonica for more thirty years in various bands, but I'm still not satisfied of my vibrato. I do not understand how to do it with drew notes and moreover bend notes. My aim would be to  to understand how the Wolf did such a vibrato (the throat, diaphragm ?). I'm also so impressed by the vibrato of one of my favorite harmonica players, Alan Wison, and the Lester Butler's one (which are very closed). I understand it should be difficult to explain it by writing, but... Anyway thank you to your lessons, and also to be one of the musicians who pushed me in this way. Life is easier when I blow in my harp. I apologize for my poor english (I'm french). 



daddyray (robbie)
daddyray (robbie) May 12, 2012

I have an odd habit of making my vibrato on my blows be too rhythmic..I mine in time rather than just expressive. I have complete control on my guitar vibarto...slow fast deep wide etc. On harp the habit is hard frome to manage.

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