When The Saints (USA)

Mardi Gras Harlequin Mask iI want to be in that number

It’s time to learn some traditional jazz on the harmonica! Here’s a song that everybody will recognise. It’s called When The Saints Go Marching In. That’s a long name, so we’ll shorten it to The Saints.

Listen to
The Saints started life as an American gospel hymn that was sung quite slowly. Once the Jazz Bands of New Orleans got hold of it though, they really made it swing!

New Orleans Trombone iiiAt funerals in New Orleans, a marching jazz band often accompanies the coffin through the city to the cemetery, playing in a slow, sombre mood. On the way home however, the band jumps into Dixieland tempo, which is sassy, happy and raucous. Let’s look at the tab and learn how to play things Dixieland Jazz style.

Doing The Saints
Purple music is for four hole harmonicas. Orange music is for ten hole harmonicas. You can click here for the ARROW TAB. The number tells you which hole to play. D is draw (breathe in). B is blow (breathe out). We’re using a C major harmonica. Start slowly, memorise each phrase and gradually put it all together.

Listen to

Mask 21B     2B     2D     3B          1B     2B     2D     3B
Oh  when   the  Saints,     go    marching    in
4B     5B     5D     6B          4B     5B     5D     6B

Listen to

1B     2B     2D     3B          2B     1B     2B     1D
Oh  when   the  Saints,     go    marching    in
4B     5B     5D     6B          5B     4B     5B     4D

Listen to

Mask 32B     2B     1D     1B          2B     3B     3B     2D
I      want    to      be           in     that    number
5B     5B     4D     4B          5B     6B     6B     5D

Listen to

2D     2B     2D     3B          2B     1B     1D     1B
Oh  when   the  Saints      go    marching     in
5D     5B     5D     6B          5B     4B     4D     4B

Mardi Gras Lamp Post iCome on, take me to the Mardi Gras
The biggest celebration of the year in New Orleans is Mardi Gras. In England this is Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. In other countries, it’s Carnival or Fasching. This was the time of Lent when people would fast before Easter. Today people try to give something up, like chocolate. They can go crazy again when the Easter Bunny comes!

You’ll hear from the entry clip, there is a lot of improvisation going on. Once you’re confident in playing the standard phrases shown above, how could you start to improvise? For those who are stronger players on a 10 hole harmonica, your improvisation could include some high end blow bends.

Listen to
In the meantime, grab some friends, some backing music and make like a New Orleans Jazz Band. You could even try marching together in a carnival parade.

Key harmonica skills

  • Straight Harp (Root in blow 4)
  • Single note melody playing
  • Rhythm and timing
  • Dynamics
  • Improvisation and jazz