Laura Reed

We're thrilled to feature Laura Reed in our Lee Oskar Harmonica Artist Spotlight.

Laura is a multi-talented singer-songwriter and Lee Oskar Harmonica player, who lights up the stage with her versatile and vivacious musicality. Welcome to the LOH circle of friends, Laura. You're one of a kind!

South African born singer/songwriter Laura Reed (holding fast to her North Carolina music roots, as well) has become a global success story with her seductive, signature vocal style, her thought-provoking lyricism, and powerhouse live presence; But the insightful artist feels like she’s truly arrived with the release of her acclaimed, aptly titled solo debut album, The Awakening.

Journeying to Nashville to make the pivotal album, she credits the connective creative energy of Music City and a close working relationship with the album’s producer, two- time Grammy winner, Shannon Sanders (India.Arie, John Legend, Robert Randolph) with instilling the necessary focus to turn such personal stories into universally themed gems that resonate with the listener from start to finish.


Laura Reed - The Awakening

Laura’s magnetic versatility shines through on The Awakening, with gems like the empowering “Struggle,” or the upbeat “Wake Up,” which has been featured on VH1's hit show 'Hollywood Exes' and the Alicia Keys indie film endeavor ‘The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.’ The unsparing ‘Wolves’ also reflects Laura’s ‘world music’ roots, where her almost indiscernible Latin scat flows seamlessly into a neo-soul-themed cautionary lyric about staying true to one’s self.

Best known, previously, as the front woman of the south eastern/jam-based funk band Laura Reed and Deep Pocket,  she tabled the funk/Reggae-informed shadings for a more intimate but accessible exploration on The Awakening.

Laura’s savvy musical chops and years of working-band experience also served her in crafting the cornerstone album of her career. She has been joined by some stellar singers and musicians on multiple past projects, including George Clinton, Killer Mike, Karl Denson, Robert Randolph, The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown and Jewel. She’s also shared stages with a star-studded list of artists including  Mali Music, India.Arie, Miguel, Daley, Valerie June and Anthony Hamilton, among others. She was recently invited to perform at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden to sing the National Anthem, wowing fans with the breadth of her astonishing vocal command and range.

In December 2014, Laura opted to release “The Awakening” on her very own label entitled "FIVE FOOT GIANT RECORDS". The year also saw Laura receive the NIMA (Nashville Independent Music Association) Award for "BEST R&B SOLO ARTIST 2014" and a Featured Artist promo from Lee Oskar Harmonicas.

Drawing comparisons to seminal female vocalists such as Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, and Amy Winehouse, she is proud of how only the strongest musical efforts won the day in making The Awakening. “It’s funny, for making a solo album – I really did check my ego at the door,” she admits. “I’m a singer who is never shy about her opinions. What’s great about Nashville is everyone has a unique idea about each song. The ideas that stuck were the best ideas, and that comes through on every song on the album.”



Lee Oskar

Lee Oskar Showcases the Lee Oskar Harmonica System for Singers & Songwriters at Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg, PA.

Harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar conducts a dynamic session showing how singer-songwriters and musicians of all kinds can effectively and creatively use the harmonica to make melodies, come up with hook lines, and overall, enhance their music with more variety and elevated artistry. Lee will discuss and demonstrate how to use different harmonica tunings to make melodies and play a wide range of musical styles, including: Blues, Rock/Pop, Folk, Country, R & B, Reggae, Jazz, Latin, Funk, Hip Hop, Ska, Afro, Clave, Gypsy, Yiddish, Asian, East European, and Tango. As a world-renowned performing artist, composer and harmonica manufacturer, Lee shares his expertise and lifelong passion for the harmonica to the delight of audiences worldwide.


How to Blow and Suck in One Quick Lesson

John Bohlinger for Premiere Guitar (.com)

In the 1950s, Chicago blues master Little Walter (pictured) revolutionized harp by blowing through overdriven tube amps.

Whenever people make music together, every instrument involved can either destroy or improve a performance at any moment. If you doubt this, pay attention the next time a drunken college girl jumps onstage with a band and starts banging away on a tambourine. You can actually see the groove begin to list like Jonathan Winters riding that tiny girl’s bicycle in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Conversely, good things can happen when a skilled musician joins a jam playing something as silly as an egg shaker or a kazoo. In fact, one could argue that when it comes to jamming with a stage crowded with guitarists, you’re far more likely to make a substantial contribution if you’re playing anything but guitar. Ever watched the all-star finale on Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival? There are perhaps 15 famous guitar players lined up across the stage, and each sequentially solos for 12 excruciating bars. It feels like this goes on for weeks. The playing may be brilliant, but in that context, each solo becomes white noise—indistinguishable from the one before or after it. It’s just too damn much guitar.

And that’s why each of you, my 6-string friends, should start playing another instrument. Guitarists are competitive by nature, but instead of trying to outplay one another, try covering a different sonic space. Don’t be another wanker beating the pentatonic box to death as three other guitarists impatiently wait their turn. A few well-placed notes on a harmonica will make more of an impression than yet another blistering guitar solo sandwiched in among the others.

For a minimal investment of roughly one Ben Franklin, you can buy three good harps and get started on the path of becoming a multi-instrumentalist. Being a harmonica master like Stevie Wonder, Charlie McCoy, or Toots Thielemans takes a lifetime of dedication and massive talent, but we’re not aiming for that. We just want to be able to fake our way through a blues jam, and that’s relatively easy with harp. The audience is on your side when you blow harp. Step up to a live mic and play one cool riff on a harmonica, and somebody in the crowd will begin cheering.

The secret to playing blues on a harmonica? It’s called cross harp, a technique that gives you those cool bends and freight train whistles. Think Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Charlie Musselwhite, rather than the Bob Dylan approach that sounds like someone randomly sticking a harmonica out the window of a moving car. Because you bend notes with cross harp, you’re able to get those emotionally tinged lowered 3s and 7s that make people listen. It’s the sound of heartache, sex, salvation, etc.

Step up to a live mic and play one cool riff on a harmonica, and somebody in the crowd will begin cheering.

To play cross harp, start with a diatonic harmonica—the basic 10-hole model that any decent music store will carry. There are a handful of manufacturers, but the only ones I’ve had good luck with are several models—the Marine Band, Blues Harp, and Special 20—or my personal favorite, the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic. Any of these harps will allow you to bend notes like Howlin’ Wolf.

Through bending, a good player can find 12 extra notes on a 10-hole major diatonic harmonica that’s designed to play 20 notes. (These are all down bends, though some great harp players can bend up. I cannot.) It’s hard to describe how to bend notes on a harp because the action isn’t really visible and you’re using your mouth, rather than hands on strings. But here goes: Start on the fourth reed of your harp, and suck in. Then slowly tilt the harp down toward your chin, hold it there for a bar, and then bring it back up. You’ll probably hear the pitch dip down during this exercise. I find it helps to think of the note you want to hit.

Then suck in on the fourth reed while you drop your jaw. Next try doing it while you purse your lips like a drag queen blowing a kiss across a stage. Now try jutting out your chin like Popeye. Try holding your mouth like you’re making different vowel sounds—go weeee, eeee, aaaa, woo, ooo, youuuuuu. All of these embarrassing movements will change the shape of your mouth and that will affect the note.

Once you nail some good bends at the fourth reed, do the same thing on the seventh reed. After you’ve dialed in that sweet spot, work each part of the harp from low to high and find five juicy notes. They’ll become the foundation of your blues vocabulary.

The trick to playing cross harp is fitting the harp to the key, which is not as obvious as it seems because with this technique, the harmonica’s tonic will be the IV of your progression. For example, take a standard I–IV–V blues progression in the key of E (that’s E, A, and B, respectively.) To play cross harp, match the key printed on the harmonica to the IV chord. So, to play cross harp in the key of E, you’ll want an A diatonic harmonica. In the key of G, use a C diatonic harmonica. To play in the key of A, grab a D harp.

Here’s the recipe for following the I–IV–V changes: Suck in on the I, blow out on the IV, and suck in on the V. It’s that simple. Put on your favorite E blues track and play along until you find the notes that work.

Once you’ve got these basics down, you’ll find a ton of great information online (such as the Lee Oskar Quick Guide) that can take you to the next level. You never know, that innate curiosity that led you to guitar in the first place may drive you to be the next Dan Aykroyd or John Popper from Blues Travelers.

Lee Oskar

Lee Oskar Harmonicas rolls out signature Quick Start Kits and educational website geared for singer-songwriters and instrumentalists of all kinds, levels and styles.

Harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar introduces his innovative QuickGuide system geared for instrumentalists of all kinds and singer-songwiters, featuring Lee Oskar QuickStart harmonica kits, supported by the extended educational website,

These exciting new resources and tools work together to help all kinds of musicians fully access what Oskar refers to as the “magic, versatility and artistic power of the harmonica.”

In the words of Lee Oskar, “For all kinds of musicians, the harmonica offers endless possibilities for artistic exploration—it’s an incomparable instrument that can add mesmerizing energy, depth, spice and soul to your music. Not only is the harp a natural for instrumentalists like guitar, ukulele and piano players, harmonicas are the ideal resource for singer/songwriters and composers for making melodies and coming up with hook lines for all kinds of music.”

Lee Oskar Quick Start Kit

As the first of a series of Lee Oskar Quick Start kits, the inaugural Guitar/Ukulele kit features 4 harmonicas, including the Major Diatonic (Key of C)--for Folk, Country, Blues, Rock and Pop Music along with three alternate tunings for playing a wide array of musical genres and styles:

  • Melody Maker (Key of G)--for R & B, Country, Reggae, Pop, Jazz, Latin, Afro and Ska Music
  • Natural Minor (Key of Am)--for Minor Blues, Reggae, Ska, Latin, Funk, R & B, Hip-Hop Music
  • Harmonic Minor (Key of Am)--for Gypsy, Yiddish, Asian, East European, Tango, Reggae Music

The Lee Oskar Quick Start Kits come with a soft cloth pouch to hold the (4) harmonicas, a harmonica holder and a 16-page instructional booklet that is supported by the educational website, .

This educational resource for the musical community provides an online support system with clear, easy-to-follow guidance and videos, organized by instrument for each of the four tunings in the Quick Start Kits.