Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Joe Powers interview

July 15, 2022 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 65
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Joe Powers interview
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Joe Powers joins me on episode 65. 

Joe started out playing diatonic harmonica along with blues records as a teenager, before deciding to study music composition at college, taking up the chromatic there.

Joe’s passion for dancing led him to Argentina and tango music, where he has become the current leading exponent on harmonica. He believes the chromatic harmonica is the perfect instrument for tango music, and talks us through how to play this captivating genre.

Although known as the ‘tango harmonica guy’, Joe also loves to play many other styles of music on the harmonica, as demonstrated across his albums and live performances, including classical pieces with full orchestras. And other the pandemic Joe has put together his very own teaching platform.

Joe’s website:

Email Joe at:  

Facebook page:

Buy Joe’s music here:

Harmonica Path teaching:

Suzuki Bass Chromatic:

Sennheiser Wireless system:

TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 pedal:


Joe’s YouTube channel:

Takes a dance while playing with the orchestra:

Threnody from Gordon Jacob harmonica Suite, performed in Japan:

With Jamie Cullum in Tokyo:

Playing diatonic overblows with Japense guitarist Yosuke Onuma:

Quarantine session with Mexican violinist Arianda Lozano:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS
and Blows Me Aw

Currently touring Europe and speaking from the US
Joe is from Portland, Oregon, US, and the music scene there
Joe has played harmonica his whole life and had first lessons age 13-14
Grew up playing blues and rock music, mostly by ear, on the diatonic
Played in bands as a teenager before deciding to study music at the University of Oregon
Was given a chromatic when starting at college
Plays more chromatic than diatonic
Received first harmonica when just 19 months old
Joined first band as a teenager as the singer, adding some harmonica
Still sings now
Studied Music Composition at college, studying piano for a year before starting the course
Started playing chromatic seriously on this course
Auditioned to get onto the course by singing, they didn’t have a harmonica programme
Went back a few years later and played a concert where he had auditioned for college and they had said he couldn’t play harmonica on the course
Used piano mainly for music composition, but doesn’t play piano to perform on
After completing music composition course moved to Argentina and discovered tango dancing
Discovered the harmonica tango playing of Hugo Diaz
When went back to Portland he started a tango band
Other Argentine harmonica tango players and modern tango harmonica players
Joe is the only professional tango harmonica player in the US (as far as he’s aware)
Does play many styles of harmonica as well as tango
Similarity of playing tango music on the harmonica and bandoneon
How to make the chromatic sound reminiscent of the bandoneon
Harmonica can merge sound of traditional tango instruments: bandoneon, violin and vocals
Scales used in tango music
How to get started playing tango music on the harmonica: rubato, button embellishments, octaves, vibrato
Doesn’t use diatonic for playing tangos, although is experimenting with a blues / tango fusion on diatonic
Uses standard tuned chromatics to play tango
How is the chromatic received by tango purists
Has played with some renowned tango musicians
Tango allows Joe to travel all around the world because there’s tango everywhere
Playing tango means people dance to the music
Joe still loves to dance and will dance between his music sets
The advantages of being able to dance the tango in being able to play the tango on harmonica
Plays different genres in addition to tango music, and how much do you need to know a genre to play it
First album released in 2005: World of Songs
Just Duets album from 2012 has different performer and instrument on each song
Amor de Tango album from 2007
2011 album Nostalgie, recorded with British new age pianist Michael Hoppe
Another tango album released in 2015: Apasionado
2019 album Con Ojos Nuevos
Recording albums in a day is the only way to do it and self-produced albums
Plans for a new album
Has played all around the world with some great live performances, including with orchestras
Studied with Robert Bonfiglio a couple of times
Playing challenging classical pieces
How to get a gig with an orchestra
Got some gigs with Jamie Cullum after Joe jammed along while part of the audience
Joe’s teaching platform: The Harmonica Path, focusing on teaching reading music
Also teaches online with one-to-one sessions
Took part in the Trossingen competition in 2005
Won the Belgian Crystal Harmonica Award/Classical Division in 2008 and classical technique and reading music
10 minute question
Suzuki endorser
Plays 16 hole Sirius model of chromatic
The Suzuki Bass Chromatic
Benefit of playing 16 hole chromatic
Diatonic plays the Suzuki MR-550, which is good for overblows
Uses overblows a lot on the diatonic and playing overblows on diatonic instead of using chromatic harmonica
Uses tongue switching on the chromatic
Likes to travel light
Uses BlowsMeAway SM57 mic with volume control, and connects a Sennheiser XSW wireless system
Moves around a lot when playing so mainly uses a wireless mic
Why prefers SM57 over 58
Effects pedals: only uses TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
Always uses a PA
How does Joe fit everything into his backpack when he travels?
Just finishing off a tour of Europe
Developed the teaching platform over the pandemic as well as some online quarantine concerts