Voodoo Riff in 2nd Position in all Three Octaves





This tab shows you a riff that you can play in 2nd position in all three octaves. It is based on a minor pentatonic scale. If you play it enough times, it will give you the power to move up and down the harmonica while improvising blues solos. If I had to choose between having these riffs in muscle memory or understanding them, I would choose muscle memory.

I use the above riffs as a starting point for the improvisations in this video:

Check it out and let me know if it is useful – thanks!


  1. Scott Harper

    March 4, 2017 - 9:44 am

    Hi Richard,
    Yes, this is very helpful in more ways than one and very timely. Building a solo around a theme is a great technique and you demonstrated it so well. Using various backing tracks is also a must. I find myself spending countless hours learning songs note-for-note, which has lots of value…up to a point, but regurgitating these in a live situation is actually limiting, not liberating. I need to allocated the time to playing to tracks to be more creative on the fly and break out of the box I’ve put myself in.

    Yes, please continue producing the simple, but profound videos.

    You might want to inject some of the knowledge you obtain through great books as well (e.g. The Talent Code and others).

    Stay well. Play well.

    • Richard Sleigh

      March 4, 2017 - 10:01 am

      Thanks Scott!

      I have also spent a lot of time learning songs or solos note for note and it has value. But learning to create solos means improvisation and that means having rules and limitations but no script. I’m working at learning how to design exercises that make people invent their own way to play the blues. It’s fun and it forces me to get out of my own over used patterns and crash and burn my way to a new level of fluency.

      • Jim

        March 6, 2017 - 1:33 pm

        I think it’s a cool riff to jam with. I’m struggling with hitting the over blows, so right now, only the lower octave sounds right.

    • Harvey Kail

      March 4, 2017 - 10:10 am

      I agree with Scott, particularly about the “profundity.” From simplicity to complexity back to simplicity and round and around. I appreciate your many harmonica thoughts and inspirations. Keep going!

    • Carl

      March 10, 2017 - 3:29 pm

      Very helpful. Thank you. 👍😀

  2. Pam

    March 4, 2017 - 10:09 am

    I agree with Scott, that this is very helpful (although not so simple, IMO). I helps that you provide the tab with the video. Thank you for doing that. Your lessons are valuable learning tools.

    • Richard Sleigh

      March 4, 2017 - 1:26 pm

      Hi Pam,

      Simple and easy don’t mean the same thing. I think of this as a road map for installing a set of muscle reflexes (to find the notes and the way you play them) and then a way to start connecting what you feel inside with this new vocabulary. If you persist with this process you will begin to find that certain note combinations mixed with the tone you create with your voice ( the sound of your harmonica combined with your vocal tract ) expresses something going on inside of you. You start saying things through your harmonica that you can’t ( or don’t want to) say with words.

  3. Perry White

    March 4, 2017 - 10:24 am

    Thank You Richard and I also echo Scott’s statements.
    Please keep up your generous and valuable instruction work.

  4. bob mcdougall

    March 4, 2017 - 10:31 am

    Hi Richard
    Very useful lesson. Thanks for posting this. I will be working with this right away to improve my playing. BTW, I took your course on the pentatonic scale, what maybe two or three years ago? I have to admit I only absorbed 20% at the time, but what I did pick-up I have used with great success in every situation. If you were to present that again I would be a return student. Thank You!

  5. John Michael Vega

    March 4, 2017 - 12:08 pm

    Richard , bless you for your incredible work and yes this is very useful!

  6. Carl

    March 4, 2017 - 12:26 pm

    Hi Richard…
    I noticed what seems to be an extra note in the recording of first octave, and the way it is in the tablature… 4th note from end.

    I’d appreciate if you could you tell me, if any besides the Golden Melody, the makes and models that have the just intonation tuning?

  7. Randall Akers

    March 4, 2017 - 12:55 pm

    Great lesson Richard, just a bit over my skill level on the overblows, but something to reach for.
    I think I will noodle out the scale on a power-bender or a Koch
    Thanks, and keep ’em coming.

  8. Bruce K.

    March 4, 2017 - 1:16 pm

    You have really added some essential & cool licks since I’ve been receiving your emails several years ago. I have picked up sax & really enjoy it also. The overblow notes on harp still eludes me – I now am using Suzuki Manji which claim overblows “right out of the box” however the sax gets more practice time these days. I have been playing harp 40+ years ..whew -where does the time go?

    I look forward to your emails – take care.

    Bruce K.

  9. Philip

    March 4, 2017 - 2:16 pm

    Yes, very useful. You address what looks to be a common hurdle. It sure is for me. I’m another who can recite many licks, but draw (and blow) a blank when I try to improvise. Many thanks!

    • Richard Sleigh

      March 6, 2017 - 8:04 am

      Hi Philip,

      Please check out my response to Mark below…. Thanks for your comment!

  10. Bill

    March 4, 2017 - 2:55 pm

    hi Richard, yes time well spent.. excellent

  11. Rein Rutnik

    March 4, 2017 - 4:00 pm

    Thanks Richard, great lesson!

  12. Mark

    March 4, 2017 - 4:09 pm

    I’m another person who can play notes on the harmonica (i.e., tab out a song and learn it note for note) but fails miserably when improvising. Which is pretty sad, given that the harp is all about improvisation. Thank you–this is an awesome lesson! More like this would be great!

    • Richard Sleigh

      March 6, 2017 - 8:02 am

      Hey Mark,
      When you practice learning songs note for note, you get good at a lot of muscle reflexes for creating notes and effects on the harp. Its like learning to roll your r’s when you learn to speak Spanish. You are getting techniques that create particular sounds hard wired and ready to fire at your command. Learning improv is practicing conversation in this sound vocabulary. Your imagination goes to work inventing new combinations of notes, you send out the commands to create them, and something comes out of your horn. Practicing taking over the command center and your imagination is the essence of improv. Just like learning to speak Spanish, it takes a lot of crashing and burning before you become fluent. But just like you can conversationally riff in your main language with almost no effort most of the time, the same thing can happen with music. You learned your language by crashing and burning comically, tragically, and relentlessly when you were a kid. You can do the same thing with music. You just combine the attitude of a kid to a structured series of organized experiments like the blues scale exercise and the voodoo riff exercise. It’s fun once you stop worrying about looking like a fool.

  13. Laraine

    March 4, 2017 - 5:28 pm

    Yes, I agree with all the positive feedback. It’s a unique way of learning a method of improvising, as I too learn songs note for note. The 6 overblow has got me, but it will come. Thanks for this, Richard.

  14. Tall Paul

    March 4, 2017 - 10:58 pm

    I really enjoy the e-mails I get from you. I know I am going to learn something valuable each time. The blues scale lesson is very helpful with the fundamentals of getting around tastefully. I plan on working that lesson to exhaustion. The above responses sound like the 6 overblow leaves most of us in the dust. I welcome your input and thank you.


      March 6, 2017 - 11:04 am

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. I’ll work on new ways to get to that pesky top octave without sounding like you hit a pothole…

  15. Little old blues man

    March 5, 2017 - 6:53 am

    Thanks Richard, I like the way you put that riff in different jams. The possibilities are endless, I’m trying to master the high end of the harmonica. When doing a solo if one jumps to the high end and doesn’t know how to walk it down it’s not so pleasant to the ear. Thanks again

  16. Dan

    March 5, 2017 - 8:41 am

    Thank you… I would love to hear more

  17. osmar

    March 5, 2017 - 9:23 pm

    THANKS Richard!!!!!! great way!!!!!!!!

  18. Jim Lucas

    March 5, 2017 - 9:28 pm

    This is terrific stuff. I found it very useful.

  19. marty

    March 5, 2017 - 10:05 pm

    ye thats cool to watch n listen than follow the tab appreciate what you do heaps richard thanks man more please

  20. Michael

    March 8, 2017 - 11:27 pm

    Fantastic and useful, thank you so much Richard. Any advice on sounding the first bend on the 3 draw (is that what’s called the flat third?), such a crucial note on the blues scale? As for things along the same line, can you demonstrate how to use the blues scale on the jam tracks? Thanks again and keep it coming!

  21. Dirk Thomas

    March 9, 2017 - 3:03 pm

    Hi, Richard. I’ll echo what everybody else is saying: great and really helpful. And generous. Thank you thank you. Unrelated question: Do you only work on Hohners?

    • Richard Sleigh

      March 31, 2017 - 10:44 am

      Hi Dirk – glad you are finding the posts useful Hohners are the only harps that I have replacement reeds for. If you have something else I can probably send you to the right person.

  22. Tom Minor

    March 10, 2017 - 8:11 pm

    Hi Richard. Inspiring to take a small riff and expand our perception of it. Thank you for all you do and please continue. Also, thought you might enjoy a new book, Stealing Fire. As you say, Harpe diem!

  23. Carlos Ramirez

    March 14, 2017 - 7:30 pm

    Yes I agree 100% improvisation is at the end of the road it’s who we are, yes tone, color, shape, texture of the music it’s important but improvisation is the road of branding so Richard please continue with this journey it will be very helpful for all of us harmonica players I appreciate your time and effort Thank you Best Regards

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