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Introducing Harmonica

A Group Course for Beginners

Next course starts 1 May 2019.

‘Oh Mickey! When I hear you play that harmonica, my heart sings!’
– Minnie Mouse

‘I never imagined I’d meet Berry Gordy who told me when he first heard me sing, “You know, your singing’s okay, but I like your harmonica playing better.”‘
Stevie Wonder

‘This is a well-designed course where progress is nearly guaranteed (as long as you practice enough). Michael McInerney knows what he is talking about, and he definitely has the skills to bring you to the next level.’
– J. Steegmueller

Click on the tabs for information.

Course Description

Introducing HarmonicaHarmonicas have come a long way from their humble beginnings as piano tuning devices in the workshop of their inventor, Christian Freidrich Ludwig Buschmann. Today there are as many different types, from bass and chord to chromatic and diatonic (‘blues harp’), as there are styles of playing.

Designed for absolute beginners, Waltons New School of Music’s Introducing Harmonica course explores the basics of diatonic harmonica playing in various styles, from folk-rock to blues. You will also be introduced to the different types of harmonica and the music associated with them. By the end of the course you should have a solid grasp of basic harmonica technique, including chugging patterns, playing single-note melodies, blues techniques and how to play along with other musicians. Time permitting, the mechanics of the instrument including repair and tuning will also be explored.

Participating students will need to have good quality diatonic harmonicas in the key of C, and ideally in the keys of D and G as well (Suzuki Bluesmaster, Lee Oskar and Hohner Marine Band are the teacher’s recommended brands), as well as First Lessons Blues Harmonica by David Barrett (Mel Bay), before the course begins. Harmonicas and the book can be purchased from Waltons Music (at discounted prices for students) or most good music shops.

This course covers Stage 1 of the New School’s ten-stage system of student progress and assessment, which culminates in a teaching or performing qualification (Stage 10) should the student progress that far. Participants who successfully complete the course can be issued with a certificate of completion of Stage 1. If you are taking the course, please let the school office know if you would like this certificate. See About Our Stage System for more information.

Have you enrolled in this course?
Download our Introductory Handout
for tips on how to get the most from it.

Introducing Harmonica is one of the New School’s group courses. We also offer private harrmonica lessons in a range of genres for students of all ages and skill levels. See Traditional • Folk • World Instruments Tuition for more information.

Techniques Covered

A video demonstration of some techniques covered in the course:

Michael McInerney

Michael McInerneyMichael has mastered both diatonic and chromatic harmonicas and explored and taught a wide variety of styles – blues, jazz, country, rock, traditional Irish and American, and even some classical – in over twenty years of playing the instrument. His blues harp playing is strongly influenced by Sonny Terry and the more urban blues styles, while he has modelled his jazz playing on Toots Thieleman and Stevie Wonder. Michael has participated in workshops with Don Baker, Brendan Power and Johnny Mars and has also experimented with the advanced technique of ‘overblowing’ on the blues harp and the use of alternative tunings. In addition to teaching at the New School since 1995 (he also teaches private guitar and harmonica lessons, as well as our Acoustic Blues Guitar Basics course , Michael has written and performed a range of music for theatre and film and performed as a flamenco guitarist; he can also be heard on harmonica with his band Master Blaster. He holds an LGSM (P), DipJazz from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, a BA in English and Philosophy from NUI Maynooth, and a Diploma in Drama Studies and MA in Modern Drama from UCD.


‘I absolutely loved learning to play the harmonica. Michael McInerney’s love for the harmonica is infectious!’
– A. Clements

‘Michael has an encyclopaedic knowledge of harmonica and the blues. He gives great encouragement to his students whilst showing great patience.’
– K. Kerr

‘Great teacher – enthusiastic, good-humoured and very helpful.’
– R. McDonnell

‘Michael made learning fun and very accessible (i.e. you don’t have to be ‘gifted’ to learn to play). He explains techniques well and is very positive.
– S. Mahon

‘A great course. The teacher was very passionate about it, and I think all the students thoroughly enjoyed it. I did!’
– R. Moore

‘Michael’s style of teaching is very informative as he provided a history of different musical styles, which helped [us understand] what is possible on the instrument. It was a great introduction to the harmonica for someone who is picking it up as a hobby while also providing enough content for someone starting with the instrument seriously.’
– D. Morrin

‘Michael McInerney has the blues running through his veins. I didn’t really expect much from this course, but it’s so good I keep signing up for more terms of harmonica playing. Great fun too!’
– D. Salter

‘Michael is a really enthusiastic and capable teacher. I enjoyed both his humour and his teaching methods. He’s very patient and encouraging.’
– L. Skelton

Have you taken – or are you taking – this course? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about it.


2018-2019 Third Term Course Schedule & Fee

9 weeks, 1 May – 26 June 2019
Wednesdays 7.30 – 8.30 pm

Tuition Fee: €180


Enrolment for this course requires a completed Enrolment Form and full payment of the course fee. Places are limited to eight, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date of enrolment. A number of our group courses fill in advance of their start dates, and early enrolment is recommended.


Purchasing this course as a gift?
Please complete a Gift Certificate Booking Form.


Questions about the course?


What happens after the course?

Two weeks before the end of each Introducing course, participating students will be given options for continuing their tuition at the school if they’d like to do so. Although a continuation ‘Improvers’ course cannot generally be scheduled on the same day/time as the Introducing course, one can be arranged if enough students would like to continue and the teacher has timetable availability. Students can also continue their tuition with private (one-to-one) lessons or ‘partner’ lessons with another class member (see Tuition Options – Private • Partner • Small Group Lessons). We are happy to discuss these options with you.

Harmonica on YouTube

Introducing Harmonica
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