Rick Estrin

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Fattening Frogs for Snakes

Final Solo Verse and Ending

Alright! I’m back with the last verse of my version of Sonnyboy’s “Fattening Frogs For Snakes”. In this verse, we’ll be producing more vocal sounds on the harp - using the hands in conjunction with bending to achieve that vocal effect. I also demonstrate and explain how to produce a throat “growl”. In the right spot, a throat growl can provide a real cool, “nasty” effect. We’ll close in classic Rice Miller fashion with a sustained, half step bend on on the two draw over the V chord. I really hope you picked up on some the useful tools that I tried to give you during this series. Remember, the little things make a big difference, so get with it and get ready for prime time!

Thanks for hangin’ out with me here at Sonic Junction. I hope to see you soon.

Rick Estrin



Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chicago Blues

Backing Track

Print Print Chords & Tab

Bb Harp in the Key of F.

Loop 0:50 Final Solo Verse Run-Through

Loop 1:38 Breakdown of I Chord (Bars 1 - 4)

Loop 4:10 Breakdown of IV Chord (Bars 5 - 8)

Loop 8:12 Breakdown of V Chord and Ending (Bars 9 - 12)

Loop 15:02 Practice Loop

Loop 15:45 Saying Something vs. Licks

Loop 17:04 Practice Loop

Loop 17:56 Closing Thoughts





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Marc Graci
Marc Graci Jul 08, 2018

Thank you very much, Rick. This series has been fantastic. I hear what you're saying about too many guys focusing on licks and never really saying anything. I'm probably one of those guys, but I don't want to be. Your lessons are helping me in that way.

You're one of the best guys playing in that Sonny 2 style. I'll probably learn your "Nine Below Zero" next. Can I request a video series on "Too Close Together"?


By the way:

2 draw bent a half step is the third of the V.

The arpeggiated chord is 1 draw, 2 half step, 3 whole step, 4 blow, then back to 4 draw for the root.

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Jul 08, 2018

Thanks Marc - I don’t know what I said it was, but thanks for that info. I know about playing blues on the harmonica, but I’m sure it’s apparent I‘m not that knowledgeable in the music theory department.

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jun 25, 2018

Thanks. I guess listen, as always, is the first principal, err on the side of playing less. There's plenty to work on as a singer and soloist.  And lots to do besides playing a defined solo. Always more to learn from LW. Thanks again. I really appreciate your willingness to answer questions.


Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Jun 25, 2018

Yeah, I’d check out Cotton behind Muddy, behind Spann, behind Johnny Young - In a simpler way than LW, he was always able to add cool sounding stuff that wasn’t obtrusive, yet didn’t sound timid.

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jun 25, 2018

Hi Rick,

I was wondering if you could advise me on improving my accompaniment playing.  I'm the singer in our group so I don't have to worry about stepping on my own voice.  I'm struggling to find effective ways to back up and compliment my lead guitar player.  I try to stay on the low end of the harp in general but even then it often sounds like I'm getting in the way.  I notice with the Nightcats you often just lay off when Kid is taking a solo and that's my default.  But comping seems like a skill worth investing some time to and I'm not sure where to begin.  Any good examples to listen to? Does it make sense to practice playing along with recordings and listening for ways to respond to the guitar player?



Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Jun 25, 2018

Good question. To me, Little Walter was the ultimate as an accompanist, in addition to being the greatest soloist in harmonica history. The setting he was normally working in, however - 1950s Chicago blues, lent itself to somewhat of an ensemble approach. He was also able to accompany a vocalist, playing in back of the singer, not only in the holes, and create a beautiful, non-distracting, non-obtrusive counterpoint that that only enhanced and lifted the overall effect of the whole performance. There’s a lot of excellent players around today, but I’ve never heard anyone but Walter consistently do that successfully. I’ve been the front person so long that I never really developed that aspect of my playing as much as I otherwise probably would have. In my early 20s, I worked playing behind Sam Lay, Johnny Littlejohn, and Johnny Young and my general accompaniment approach was simpler, probably more like Cotton than LW. Personally, lacking the imagination, and natural sensitivity to play a lot and simultaneously lift it up, I’d probably opt for keeping it simple, staying mostly out of the way, and employ simple unobtrusive devices - at the appropriate volume - to provide enough accompanyment to maintain continuity and help things develop dynamically, in simpler ways - eg: warbles, simple recurring licks etc. Also (IMO) every song and every part of a song doesn’t need harp.


Marc Graci
Marc Graci Jun 25, 2018

Hope I can chime in with my .02. Accompaniment requires a delicate balance between opposing elements.... between soft and loud, between repetition and originality. Dave Barrett always told me that a player can play louder if he is playing repetitively. (Think song hooks, warbles, or organ like held notes to add texture.)

I really like this as an example of Walter's accompaniment. Notice how Walter uses textures and held notes behind the vocals. When there's space, he plays more inventively. I'm sure Rick (or other players on this board) have other, better examples.

I can recommend Dave Barrett's "Blues Harmonica Accompaniment Playing", from Mel Bay.

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Apr 26, 2018


Thanks for another great series of lessons.  I continue to progress and you continue to inspire.



Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Apr 26, 2018

Thanks Bill - I always appreciate your feedback. i’m happy if I can help. As I said before, you’ve got a good, natural groove. That’s not a small thing. Keep at it and as always, feel free to ask for any clarification, any time.

Robert Fox
Robert Fox Apr 15, 2018

Rick - Thanks for the Sonny Boy "gold," especially the cool chordal stuff -- looking forward to your next series of lessons!

Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin Apr 20, 2018

Thanks Robert, I’m glad if you acquired some new tools. Often the small things can make a big difference. Thanks for getting in touch. I hope to hear from you again next time I‘m on Sonic Junction.

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