Sample Lesson – The Saints

I want to be in that number

It’s time to learn some fun jazz on the harmonica and here’s a song everybody will recognise. It’s called When The Saints Go Marching In and it’s from New Orleans, The song has a long name, so we’ll call it The Saints for short.

The Saints started life as an American gospel hymn and it was sung quite slowly. But once the Jazz Bands of New Orleans got hold of it, they soon gave it some swing!

At 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. The number tells you which hole to play. D is draw (breathe in). B is blow (breathe out) and we’re using a C major harmonica. Start slowly, memorise each phrase and gradually put it all together. You can click the pink square on the right to download and print our helpful music score.

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

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

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

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


Come on, take me to the Mardi Gras
The biggest celebration of the year in New Orleans is Mardi Gras. In the UK this is Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. In other countries it’s called Carnival or Fasching.

In the Christian calendar this was the time of Lent. Christians would fast between Christmas and Easter, turning their thoughts to the forty days Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness. Which is also where the term quarantine comes from.

Today people still try to give something up for Lent, like chocolate, sweets or coffee. Which is a good reason to go crazy again when Lent is over and the Easter Bunny comes to call. You will find some great Springtime and Easter songs in our Music Libraries, including our very own Eat Chocolate song.

From the opening clip above, we can hear a lot of improvisation taking place; this is the nature of Dixieland Jazz. Once you can play the standard phrases from our tabs, it’s time to start loosening up to the groove and swinging the notes around. Have yourself a musical adventure!

In the meantime, grab some friends and make like a New Orleans Jazz Band. You could even try marching together in your own Carnival parade. Our practise track is at the foot of the page.

Key harmonica skills

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

Practise Track