Louie, Louie was originally recorded in the 1960’s by a band called The Kingsmen. It’s the story of a Jamaican fisherman’s conversation with a friend, in which he longs to sail back to port to see his sweetheart.
It was originally written by Richard Berry, who based his idea on a tune from Cuba called El Loco Cha Cha. You can hear the influence from this clip.
Me think of girl constantly
The tune is unmistakable because of its catchy, repeated phrase. In music this is called an ostinato. In rock music this is called a riff or hook. The song Louie, Louie has been played by countless bands over the years; in our Skool of Rock module, we favour the 1978 heavy metal version by Motörhead.
Using our C harmonica, we’ll learn to play the principle riffs and the melody using Cross Harp (or Second Position) technique. This means we start and finish on the draw chord instead of the blow chord. It also means we’re working in the key of G, with 2D as our go to (or root) note. The song fits a 10 hole harmonica best, but we can play most of it on a 4 hole harmonica too; here the root note of G is found in 3B.
On the ship, I dream she there
Let’s start work now. The purple notes are for 4 hole harmonicas. The orange notes are for 10 hole harmonicas. The number is the hole you need to play. B is breathing out (Blow) and D is breathing in (Draw). An apostrophe after a note indicates a semitone bend. You can download and print the Arrow Tab using the orange icon here. There is also a practise track at the bottom of the page.
3B..3B..3B 1B..1B 1D..1D..1D 1B..1B
2D..2D..2D 4B..4B 4D..4D..4D 4B..4B
3B 3B..4B 1B..1D..1D..1D 1B
2D 2D..4B 4B..4D..4D..4D 4B
3B 4D..4D..4D..4B 4D..4D..4B
2D 3D..3D..3D..4B 4D..3D..4B
3B..3B..3B 4B..4D 1D..1D..1B
2D..6B..6B 4B..3D 4D..4D..4B
4D..4D 3D..3B 3B 3B..3B..3B..3D 3B
3D..3D 3D”..2D 2D 2D..2D..2D..3D” 2D Hard
7D 7D 6D..6B 6B 6B..6B..6B..6D 6B Easy
3B..4D 4D 3D 3B 3B..3B 3D..3B
2D..3D 3D 3D” 2D 2D..2D 3D”..2D Hard
6B..7D 7D 6D 6B 6B..6B 6D..6B Easy
I smell the rose in her hair
Now you have the whole song worked out, you can decide who wants to play the rhythm part (riff) and who wants to play the lead part (melody). When playing the melody, the lead player should decide whether they want to follow the easy or the hard option. The hard option requires the second draw bend in 3D” (A).
You also need to decide who wants to play the solo break later in the song. And don’t forget to pay attention to dynamics; after the solo break, the rhythm backing drops to piano. This gives us light and shade. When the final chorus follows at forte, it then carries more impact.
If you want to explore things further, revisit the end of the Chorus with your harmonica teacher using a 10 hole harmonica. It’s the descending phrase that goes 6B..5D..4D..4B..3D. This is a basic blues scale. The complete descending blues scale would be 6B..5D..4D..4D’..4B..3D’..2D, and it requires two bent notes. These are 4D’ (Db) and 3D’ (Bb). If you can find the bends and learn to the play the scale ascending and descending fluently, you have taken an important step into intermediate harmonica and cross harp technique.
- Cross Harp / Root note
- Rhythm / Lead / Solo
- Descending blues scale
- 3D” (Bb flattened 3rd)
- Showboat finish / Power chords