Lessons & Course Description

Harmonicas were invented by number of watch makers around Europe. One came to prominence was Christian Freidrich Ludwig Buschmann, along many other watch makers round Europe such a Richter, whose name was applied to the diatonic richter tuned blues harp we know today. It has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings as simple piano tuning device.  Today there are 3 main types, the diatonic, chromatic and tremolo model but are many different types, from bass and chord to chromatic and diatonic (‘blues harp’), as there are styles of playing.

A harmonica class in Dundalk Co. Louth from the Del la Sal boy's school.

A harmonica class in Dundalk Co. Louth from the Del la Sal boy’s school.

This harmonica course of lessons last 6 hours in total over a period of less than 1 and or up to 1 and a half hour lessons and are designed for beginners to advanced levels. By exploring the basics of diatonic harmonica playing. The student acquires various styles, from folk-rock to blues to traditional Irish dance music the student familiarises themselves to the harmonica and scales. Introduced to the different types of harmonica and the music associated with them. By the end of the course a solid grasp of basic harmonica technique. Included are techniques such as getting and playing with tone and richness single-note melodies, chugging patterns, blues techniques and how to play along with other musicians or using the harmonica rack with guitar for example if needs be or desired. The student is also given the knowledge on the mechanics of the instrument, including repair, maintenance and tuning are also covered in these course and lessons.

Students wishing to participate will need to have diatonic blues harmonicas in the keys of D and G and also one in the key of A major. Harmonicas are available from Harmonicas Ireland at discounted prices for students and they can also be purchased along with the course depending on harmonica availability. Cathal also has copies of his book The History of Harmonica in Ireland available for €15.

After the lessons are over, what then?

A few days before the end of each course, you will be given choices for continuing your tuition in any way see yourself advancing. An ‘Improvers’ course of lessons can be scheduled and arranged. Hone your playing for performance. This course is designed to improve the student public performance playing with a view to setting up such a performance to give experience to the student in a public environment. This gives the student focus and something to work towards at the students own pace.

Harmonicas Ireland offers a discounted course of lessons with harmonica Package. Students who don’t already have harmonica can avail of everything they’ll need with written and audio material provided too. This package includes lessons plus 3 personalised high-quality customised harmonica in the keys of A, D and G (regular price €45.95 each depending on model), along with a copy of The History of the Harmonica in Ireland. Available to pick up on your first lesson, for a total cost of €270.

Cathal Johnson, Teacher

Cathal 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 classical – in over twenty 35 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 and Gypsy Jazz styles. As a Traditional Irish Dance Music player Cathal excels basing his style on the late great Eddie Clarke style or Irish Style as it has become to be known all over the world as for as India. This style Cathal re-tunes his harmonica from D – D Sharp to D – C sharp on his chromatic harmonicas. This style allows one to play closer to the tradition and follow fiddle rolls for example.

Cathal has participated in workshops with Don Baker, Brendan Power and has also mastered the advanced technique of ‘overblowing’ on the blues harp and the use of alternative tunings. In addition to teaching since 1995 (he also teaches our guitar basics courses to intermediate levels), Cathal has written and performed a range of music for magazine, theatre and film and performed… He holds a degree in Applied Music.

Course of 6 hours lesson or 6 classes: €240

Course + Instruments & Book: €300 including 1 harmonicas and book.

Enrolment into these courses are available anytime and designed to fit around your schedule, so evenings and weekends are considered. Join anytime by contacting Cathal at cathaljohnson@gmail.com or call 083 4444 980 or call into his workshop in Galway City, The Forge Arts Centre, New Road, Galway.

Purchasing this course or course + instrument as a gift? Get in touch at cathaljohnson@gmail.com or call 083 4444 980

Cathal is available to give beginner to advanced lessons on the diatonic, tremolo and chromatic harmonica. With a library of books and DVD to arrangements of blues and Irish Traditional Dance Music for harmonica and recordings available to enhance the lessons experience.


Cathal can also give guitar lessons to beginners to intermediate level and for Guitar, vocals and accordion also.

All lessons can be given face to face or by Skype over the internet.

If you are interested in any of the above why not drop Cathal a line at info@cathaljohnson.com or cathaljohnson@gmail.com or call 353 (0) 83 4444 980