How to Play Free Willy on Harmonica

harmonica image by Claudio Calcagno from

The Free Willy theme song is an inspiring and relatively simple tune. The melody is easily played on any standard diatonic harmonica. Playing the song requires some experience with isolating notes on the harmonica. However, with some practice, you will be able to expertly play along with Basil Poledouris' beautiful Free Willy theme.

Look on the side of your harmonica and note its musical key. As long as the harmonica is a standard blues harp or diatonic harmonica, the key makes no difference to the pattern of blowing and drawing on holes to produce the song. However, if playing with other musicians, or if accompanying yourself with another instrument, knowing the harmonica's key is essential. Re-familiarise yourself with the numbers above the holes and with selectively producing tones.

Listen to the Free Willy theme song several times. The Free Willy theme is short and catchy. Hum it with the music until you have the melody roughly memorised. The harmonica can bend and distort notes significantly, so a good working familiarity with the tune is essential to avoid confusion.

Begin to play the first of the Free Willy theme components by blowing on the 6th hole. There are four theme components in total. From the 6th hole, blow 4, blow 6, draw 6, blow 6, draw 5, blow 5, and draw 5. In harmonica tablature, this would be written 6 4 6 -6 6 -5 5 -5. In the key of C major, a standard harmonica key, these holes correspond to these notes G C G A G F E F.

Begin the second part of the theme by drawing on the 5th hole. Then, draw 3, draw 5, blow 6, draw 5, blow 5, draw 4, and blow 5. The harmonica tablature for this section goes -5 -3 -5 6 -5 5 -4 5. These holes match the notes F B F G F E D E.

Start the third section of the theme with a blow on hole number 5, then drop to a blow on 4, a draw on 4, two consecutive blows on 5, a draw on 4, a blow on 4, and a draw on 4. This section's harmonica tablature looks like 5 4 -4 5 5 -4 4 -4. In the key of C major, these holes play E C D E E D C D.

Draw on the 4th hole, and then blow 5, draw 5, draw 5 again, blow 5, draw 5, and then rise to draw 6, blow 6, draw 5, and finally blow 6. The harmonica tablature goes -4 5 -5 -5 5 -5 -6 6 -5 6, and plays the notes D E F F E F A G F G. Play the four sections in sequence to play the Free Willy theme on the harmonica.

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