Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > reading and transcribing
reading and transcribing
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49 posts
Aug 14, 2013
10:12 PM

reading and transcribing

This will be a series of posts on note reading, note playing and writing
down the notes that you hear.

It is the beginning of being able to hear a song and transcribe for your
own performance.

We will use scale numbers to begin. Later we will associate the scale
numbers to music notation but i will be kind and give the tab as well,

Our goal is to be able to hear a tune we like and then be able to play it.
We will do this by studying the tune, writing down the notes and checking
with the harmonica until we have it like we want.

After a while we can get very good at hearing a tune and playing it.
If we learn to write down the notes using scale numbers we are not
restricted by the key of the tune.

More importantly perhaps is the skill of being able to read the notes
[scale numbers or music notation] and hear the tune in our head.

You can probable do this a bit already.
Hum the first five notes of a 'scale'.
No playing the harmonica first, just start on a note and hum away.

1 2 3 4 5

Now play the notes on a harmonica. Not the same notes? Well probably not but
`relatively they are the same, just a different key.

If you have guitar or keyboard handy maybe you can check which notes
you hummed.
But at the moment it does not matter.
Practice humming a scale beginning on
any note.

Take any harmonica and play the following:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 - 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 -

and this 1 3 5 3 8 5 3 5 1 -
if it is not obvious which octave we mean we can use a comma to indicate
the lower octave - so 5, 7, 1 3-4 5
and notes joined by a dash are tee-tees [quavers]

got it?

go back and hum/sing the previous examples
do it slowly so that you get the sound of the notes in your musical head


Last Edited by joe on Aug 14, 2013 10:15 PM
51 posts
Aug 14, 2013
11:19 PM

tunes to play

| 1 1 1 1 | 2 2 2 2 | 3 3 3 3 | 4 4 4 4 | 5 5 5 5 |

| 1 3-3 5 3 | 4 2 3 1 | 1 3-3 5 3 | 4-3 2 1 |

|1-2 | 3 5 5 3 | 2 1 1 2 | 3 5 5 3 | 3 2 2 1-2 |

| 3 5 5 3 | 2 1 1 2 | 3 5 5-3 1 | 2 2 1|

| 2 - - 1-2-1 | 7, 5, - - | 4 3 2 1 | 2 7 - - |

The last riff shows us that the notation of rhythm
in this system is defective and i am sure you realize that it is not meant
to be played in straight beats.

The notation of rhythm is another good reason to use music notation but
we will get to that. On the other hand music notation and tab are for
practice and rehearsal. In performance we put them aside.

| 5 | 5 4 3 | 4 5 4 | 3 2 1 | 7, 5, 5, |
| 1 1 1 | 2 3 4 | 3 2 1 | 2 - 5 |
| 5 4 3 | 4 5 4 | 3 2 1 | 7, 5, 5, |
| 1 1 1 | 2 3 4 | 3 1 2 | 1 - ||

Listen to this and play it. [C harmonica]

Now write it down in note numbers [scale numbers].



Last Edited by joe on Aug 15, 2013 12:08 AM
53 posts
Aug 15, 2013
4:59 AM
The listening tune at the end of last post is

| 1 1 1 1 | 2 2 2 2 | 3 3 3 3 | 4 4 4 4 4 | 5 5 5 5 |

We could begin with a 4/4 to say 4 beats in a bar. Using barlines makes
musical sense and makes the notation easier to read.

4/4 | 1 1 1 1 | ...

There is a timing variation in the first bar. We could notate it

  _ _  . .
[ 1 1 1 1 | ...]

Where a - over a note means hold it full value and a . means separate
the notes. These are details which we don't need to worry about too much at
this stage but if you heard them and wondered, that is good.

Now, let us check a few things.
A scale. You know what a 'scale' sounds like right? On a harmonica it is
usually a 'major' scale. That stepwise series of notes starting on
hole 4 out breath. Refer to the image of the scale at
the top of the first post. Grab your C harmonica and play it now.
Up and down slowly, listening to the notes and how they
connect to each other.

It is that series of |out in | out in | out in | in out |
but that is only mechanics. We are after the sound of the notes.
So we use the scale note numbers.

|out in | out in | out in | in out |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Go back to the previous posts and make sure you understand this idea.
If i say note 5, play note 5. If you have to start at the 1 and work up
that is fine.

| note 6 | note 3 | note 4 | note 5 | note 1 |

| 5, 7, 1 2 | 3-4 5 - |

Play the tune Frere Jacques. Now work on the first 4 bars. As you play think
of the note numbers you are playing. Write down the note numbers. Write a time
signature at the beginning and use bar lines.


Last Edited by joe on Aug 19, 2013 5:23 PM
1783 posts
Aug 15, 2013
10:50 AM
Tab me out some nasty blues. That's why I come to this site.
54 posts
Aug 15, 2013
2:58 PM
yeah ...
you should definitely complain to the owner of this website that they don't provide enough fully notated blues tab sheets for you

i'm just a visitor here

in the meantime you could try






Last Edited by joe on Aug 15, 2013 2:59 PM
55 posts
Aug 16, 2013
5:12 PM

The presentation of this wonderful music expresses the dynamics of what
we are working to do ...

but we must return to more mundane things, at least for a while.

4/4 | 1 2 3 1 | 1 2 3 1 |3 4 5 - | 3 4 5 - |

Play what you have written on a few harmonicas.

Back to the C scale.

If we change what we have written to note names how would that go?

Write it down now. Use a time signature and bar lines.

Choose a couple of simple songs which you know well and write them
out in note numbers.
Then write them out in note names.

4/4 | c d e c | c d e c | e f g - | e f g - |



Last Edited by joe on Aug 16, 2013 5:14 PM
56 posts
Aug 17, 2013
8:54 PM
Gday ...

Now, you should be humming/singing everything we notate. In fact, go back to
Frere Jacques now and hum/sing the tune as you read the note numbers and
note names. Okay, you know that song but do you see what is happening here?
You are reading notation and hum/singing the tune directly and that is an
essential skill for a transcriber and a composer.

Play the following snippets...

| 5, | 1 |    | 5 | 1 |    | 7, | 1 |

These are typical beginnings and endings. Our music is based upon the idea of
tonality, the key of the piece, which is the scale it is using.
The intervals above establish the key quite definitely. You will here these intervals

frequently. When counting intervals we include the first note.

So, | 5, | 1 | is a 5 6 7 1 = a 4th

| 5 | 1 | is a 5 4 3 2 1 = a 5th

and | 7, | 1 | is a second.

Listen to these.

| 1 2 3 4 5 |    | 5 | 1 3 5 3 |1 - - - |

These are the basic elements of a song. The stepwise movement and the interval
movement of a melody. Of course, songs use a wide range of melodic techniques
but these movements are the basis. Part of the technique of transcribing a
song is recognizing how the melody moves.

Play these intervals and count them. The goal is to hear the interval
and know what interval it is.

| 1 | 2 |    | 1 | 3 |    | 1 | 5|    | 7, | 1 |    | 5, | 1 |    | 1 | 6 |    | 2 | 4 |    | 2 | 5 |    | 3 | 1 |

The keyboard gives us solid, objective sounds. If you do not have a physical
keyboard there are a number of virtual keyboards online. If you do not play
keyboard at least learn your way around. C is the white note to the left
of the two black notes and a C scale is the white notes from one C to another.
This is physical detail but remember we want to hear the sounds.
Play everything we have been doing on the keyboard and another instrument
if you play one.

Using note numbers gives us a generic method for writing down a song. We can
then read it in any key and on any instrument.

But now, let us set the key [the scale being used] as C [major]. Don't worry about the major thing just yet, just know it is there.

Go back to the beginning of these posts and read through all the tunes
written in note numbers as note names with C as the 1.

Here is a tune for you to transcribe. It is in C [major].

See you next time.




Last Edited by joe on Aug 17, 2013 9:00 PM
58 posts
Aug 19, 2013
3:15 PM
This is a transcription of the audio in the last post. It is the first
8 bars of a short Baroque [?] piece. I don't know the composer.

4/4| 1 5, 1 5, | 1 2 3 - | 3 1 3 1 | 3 4 5 - |

| 5 5 5 4-3 | 4 4 4 3-2 | 3 3 3 2-1 | 2 2 2 - |

4/4| c g, c g, | c d e - | e c e c | e f g - |

| g g g f-g | f f f e-d | e e e d-c | d d d -|

This version uses the Fletch Diatonic font of Winslow Yerxa.
The font works very well with music notation as you will see later.
If I must use a tab this is the tab which I prefer.

Notice that two of these transcriptions do not recognise a specific key.
You did not necessarily need to know the key to transcribe the piece.
We have three ways to write down a tune from audio. We can use
note numbers, note names or music notation.

By now you should have the sound of the [major] scale in your musical head.
You can start on any note and hum/sing the scale up and down.

Here are some more intervals. You can do this interval practice
at the keyboard yourself. Much better that you have someone who will play
intervals for you. Keep them within one octave. Remember that we begin
with the sound of the interval. Counting the interval
on the page is not the same thing.

| 3 | 4 |    | 1 | 2 |    | 1 | 5 |    | 2 | 5 |    | 4 | 2 |    | 1 | 7 |    | 1 | 6 |

You need a sound hosting place. If you have access to a personal
website you could use that or there are a number of free sound hosting
sites online.

As you can see, i use http://soundcloud.com.
I chose it for its user interface, its straightforward ease of use. That said,
they are trialling a new upload system at the moment which breaks for me and
just sits and looks at you but you can go back to the old system.

There are other sites, it is up to you.

Okay, moment of truth. Am i talking to myself in cyberspace? If i am to
continue this i need to know that you are finding this useful.

So, don't be shy. You don't have to say much. Just g'day.


Last Edited by joe on Aug 19, 2013 3:24 PM
69 posts
Aug 26, 2013
4:25 AM
Okay let's see what happens.

Did you get a sense of the tonic [note 1] in the audio

The clues are set up in the first and second bars and
by bar 8 we should be fairly certain where note 1 is.

Humming/singing the tune as we go will also lead us to
the note 1. What note would you use to 'finish' the tune
after bar eight? The tune is leading us to note 1.

So now we have note 1 and therefore the 1 2 3 4 5 of
the tune. These notes are relative to each other so now
we can hum/sing the piece in note numbers.

If note 1 is C then we know the other note names too
because we are using the C [major] scale.

Okay, so G [major] scale goes G A B C D E F# G

What would the piece be using the G scale?


Last Edited by joe on Aug 26, 2013 4:26 AM
7061 posts
Aug 26, 2013
9:39 AM
I've been kind of busy the last couple weeks, but I will sit down and give this some close reading once I have the time. It's always bothered me that my baritone sight reading from middle school band and high school choir hasn't translated over to harp

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)
70 posts
Aug 26, 2013
2:32 PM

no. 8

Although your transcription is small understand what you have done.
You have essentially transcribed the piece for other instruments in your band
or group as well as harmonica.

Of course this ignores transposing instruments but each instrument can play
your transcription by itself at least.

Have you tried to play harmonica with a trumpet or a sax and wondered why it
sounds wrong? These instruments transpose the notes which
they read that is, they sound different notes to the ones they read.
It is a matter of size of instrument and fingering. Music notes for guitar
are written an octave higher than they sound.

Remember I said that we don't need to know the key of a piece to be able to
transcribe it?

go back to the audio example. when you know note 1 you don't necessarily know
that it is note C. Using note numbers it doesn't matter which key we are using.
We are using relative pitches to notate the song.

Hum any note. This is note 1. Now hum 1 2 3 4 5 .
Okay. Hum any other note. That is now note 1. Hum 1 2 3 4 5 beginning
on the new note 1.

What we are doing here is humming different scales. Which scales?
Well it doesn't matter right now. Only that you are changing the pitch
higher or lower.

The same applies to a tune we hear.

What key is it in? Well, it doesn't matter. We listen, find the note 1 and use note numbers to write it out.

Now call note 1 note C. Now we are being a bit more specific. Or you could find the key the song is using and transcribe the piece using that key.

What if you find that the key is E, 4 sharps. Well you are either happy or not.
Transcribe in C until you are more comfortable with other keys.

Another thing.

When discussing sounds of the scale i remarked that the breathing is
just mechanics. Well that is not true is it? Okay for that situation
but not true really. For example, Hank Williams' tune 'I Saw the Light'
could be transcribed [played] beginning on hole 1 out or hole 1 in
and again on hole 3 out.
Each of these gives a different sound and character to the performance
and on the harmonica, changes the technique of its performance.

Here is the audio piece using G scale.

4/4 | g d, g d, | g a b - | b g g g | b c d - |

| d d d c-b | c c c b-a | b b b a-g | a a a - |

Remember that d, means that the d will be in the lower octave.



Last Edited by joe on Aug 26, 2013 2:37 PM
71 posts
Aug 26, 2013
2:43 PM
Funny you should mention that.
I am just about to start using music notation
with the other methods i have been using.

I understand that you mean a baritone, a middle size
brass tuba. Did you read it bass clef or treble clef?


73 posts
Aug 26, 2013
5:46 PM

no. 9

In writing out, transcribing, a piece for your own use you are writing it
out for anyone.

That works both ways. You can use any music for other instruments
to rehearse a piece for your own performance.

For example, if you have a song sheet for guitar with the melody and
the chords you can arrange your own performance from that. You can make
notes on a printed copy as to how you will play the piece. And it is
there in 6 months time if you need to recall how you did it.

Once you can hear the written notes in your head you can sit away from
the harmonica with the melody and chords and arrange the piece in your
head for a different performance. This frees you from the restrictions
of technique and allows you to think musically about the piece.

Of course, harmonica is different from other instruments. It is
made in a particular key and this is where understanding your
instrument, being able to read music and sitting away from it can
help you decide where to place the notes on the instrument and
which key is best.

Yes, I know that we 'play by ear' and that is essential. Music notation
and tab is for rehearsal. In performance we put them aside but
music notation has an enormous practical application to our playing
as i have tried to show.

So now we will start to use music notation. Here is the C scale
on a C harmonica with note numbers and note names, holes and breathing.

If you have some easy music written in this range of notes have a go at
playing it. Find music which begins on C [hole 4 out] if you can and play
everything you can get your hands on. Write note names, note numbers
underneath if you need to. Don't use hole numbers or breathing, that should
be second nature to you. What you are after is connecting your harmonica
playing with the written music notation.

Play the Harmonica



Last Edited by joe on Aug 26, 2013 5:47 PM
7062 posts
Aug 26, 2013
7:01 PM
Bass clef, and I sang bass too (although I could sing tenor, or even alto in a pinch).

I've noticed trumpet, in the treble clef, has the same fingerings as baritone in the bass clef if you ignore the clef signatures and just focus on the lines and spaces. (Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck beyond figuring out the fingering with the trumpet. It's not a great instrument for apartment life.)

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)
74 posts
Aug 26, 2013
8:22 PM
what a talented fellow you are!

essentially the brass all have the same fingering.
it is just that lower instruments reading in bass clef
are playing as written whereas trumpets [Bflat trumpets]
are transposing instruments [down a second]

so to relate what we have been doing to the trumpet

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 [note numbers]
0 13 12 1 0 12 2 0 [fingering]

if you have some easy trumpet music you can easily
read it onto the harmonica especially if it is in C.

practice your treble clef reading.




Last Edited by joe on Aug 27, 2013 2:24 AM
76 posts
Aug 27, 2013
9:32 PM

no. 11

One reason that harmonica players have not bothered to read music notation
is the problem of key and placing the notes on the instrument.

I mentioned Hank Williams' song 'I Saw the Light'. It is a good example
for placing the notes on the harmonica. Of course this also changes the
key in which it is played.

My copy is in G [major] and begins ...

| d d - e | g - b - | d d - e | g - .....

[unfortunately, i am restricted by copyright in presenting the song.
i am assuming you know it]

From this or other tab we cannot see the range
of notes and how we might place them on the harmonica. From the music
notation we can easily see three ways to place the notes.

    • We can play in the key of the notation, G, beginning on hole 3 out
      and bend the sixth

    • We can read the notes as if they are in C beginning on hole 4 in.
      This does not actually change the key in which we play it.

    • We can begin on hole 3 out

    and ... we can do this on any harmonica! So the solution
    was/is to forget about music notation and just go with 'playing by ear', tab
    and playing in 'positions'.

    There are benefits in all of these techniques. So, how do we
    communicate a totally new song to the band? Well, we use the old methods
    of 'play by ear' or writing out different 'tabs' for each player etc..

    Music notation and tab are for rehearsal and we put them aside in performance
    but music notation has many advantages, the first being that it is a universal
    method, it is the same for all instruments.

    The advantages are huge though for an arranger or composer. We write out
    our parts, hand them to each player and start the rehearsal.
    For the player, reading music opens up a huge tradition of
    written music, expanding the skills of learning new material and rehearsal.

    Here are some intervals for you to listen to. Decide what interval
    you are hearing. All the notes are in the C scale.

    Think of these as the tonic or note 1.
    Find the note on your C harmonica and you have found the tonic or key.

    Your reading music goals should be:

    • read and play note numbers onto a C harmonica

    • read and play note names onto a C harmonica

    • read and play music notation onto a C harmonica

    Happy music making.



    Last Edited by joe on Aug 27, 2013 9:49 PM
1376 posts
Aug 27, 2013
10:29 PM
Joe, what exactly are you trying to accomplish here?

7069 posts
Aug 28, 2013
8:24 AM
Kingo- it's sight reading for us harpies, er, harpists.

Joe, looking at the low notes on the treble clef there... have you thought about just going to a grand staff?

By the way, what software are you using to create your sheet music? (Back when I was taking theory we just had paper, a ruler and a pencil... I feel so old!)

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)
1377 posts
Aug 28, 2013
8:59 AM
Nate, I understand that.

Before you finally bit on the thread, the only other post was summarily dismissed.

Going 8 posts deep on your own before any real reply makes me wonder what the reason for posting is.

There seems to be a lot of pre made lessons here and I have no idea where Joe is coming from. Is he a teacher? Is he a virtuoso? I perhaps missed his introduction to figure out if this is a decent source.

I'm not trying to discourage Joe. Just trying to figure him out...

503 posts
Aug 28, 2013
10:48 AM
it's like john lee hooker's boogie, it's in him and it's got to get out!
Sun, sun, sun
Burn, burn, burn
Soon, soon, soon
Moon, moon, moon
40 posts
Aug 28, 2013
11:14 AM
Like KingoBad, I follow with difficulty even though I am truly trying to pick out a few gems. Without a concise notation key, I get lost in the dialog. Even with my interest, I have been hesitating for some time to wade into the discussion as I cannot easily see a use other than very simple transcriptions from standard music. As soon as a difficult piece is presented, I suspect all usefulness will be lost.

Because I have a webpage per notation myself, I of course draw comparisons as I read. In particular, I have difficulty in deciphering the rhythm - the use of the hyphen, spaces, dots and commas for instance but I am truly trying to have an open mind about these matters.

Overall this comes across a bit pedantic, but then again, I have been accused of being a tad detailed myself. Without some direct blues relevance, my interest is definitely waning. But at least I have picked up a few thoughts about these issues, although I am sure they are not what joe meant for me to have learned.
7070 posts
Aug 28, 2013
12:10 PM
Sheet music has some advantages over tab. It's very useful for visualizing what is going on, once you get the hang of it. It's also very easy to show chords. I can see in my head how I'd write out a I chord held for 4 beats with a bend on beat two, then a tongue block on the 3rd beat of the middle note, followed by a tongue block of the top note on the 4th beat. I can't even begin to picture how to write that out with regular tab. (I'm not sure when that would come up, but I just played it in first position to see what it sounds like, and it's got an interesting sound... not terribly bluesy, but I can think of some contexts it would work.)

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)
41 posts
Aug 28, 2013
3:25 PM
Nate: Assuming you mean the 1 chord as CEG on holes 456:
/5s+ 4' 5t+ 6t+ /
If underlining is available, even simpler: just remove the +'s and underline the 5 & 6.
Note the spaces "shown" indicate four quarter notes / beats.
I understand that Standard Notation may give some other perspectives but given that any of 12 keys and any of 12 positions could be used, I prefer seeing the mechanics of tab.
77 posts
Aug 28, 2013
4:25 PM

no. 12


yeah ...

thank you ...

you have summed up pretty nicely i think


this was to be my response KingoBad and i thank you for
your feedback.

Now that others have posted i must at least respond to
their feedback

i agree that the lower octave notes for the C harmonica
are written low and with a few ledger lines.

on the other hand, guitar music is written down to the
low E

you will be aware that as written in post no. 9 music written in C will sound an octave higher than written

David Barrett notates everything in C and written in the higher octave of the treble clef, which is at pitch.
Glenn Weiser notates in key and also at harmonica pitch.

when using music notation for harmonica i keep within
the range of that low C to about high E above the staff.
this is a range used not only by guitar but by many other
instruments which means there is a lot of written music
available which a harmonica player might like to access.

i am using Musescore


'summarily dismissed' ??
please read the question again
you will see that my response was very understanding of
the request and i sent harpdude61 links to some very
worthwhile material

'pre made lessons' - i am not sure what you mean here.
the material i have been presenting is new material,
written by me, for this particular situation.

i am a teacher KingoBad, unfortunately not a virtuoso,
but certainly inspired by everything on the Dirty-South

there is nothing to figure KingoBad. i am a teacher of
40 years with only what i am saying in these posts
to recommend me. as i indicated at the beginning of this post
if people are not understanding then i am not doing
so good. i very much appreciate your feedback.

"it's like john lee hooker's boogie, it's in him and it's got to get out!

this is just about right Jinx




Last Edited by joe on Aug 28, 2013 5:58 PM
78 posts
Aug 28, 2013
4:43 PM

no. 13

my original post was in response to some who were saying
that they found it tricky trying to figure out the key
of a piece and others saying that they were trying to
work out a piece from listening to it.

my thinking is that the best way to learn how to do
those things is to start at the beginning and work with
sounds and scales and learn how they relate to each other.

thus we have the note numbers and note names of a C scale

you will note that having given what i hope is good
ground work i am leading into music notation.

for those who only want to find the key of a piece
i hope the material is helpful

for those who are a bit more ambitious and who want to
transcribe music from audio to harmonica we need to go a bit further

having transcribed a song the next thing is to communicate
it to others, perhaps arrange it for one's own band
and that is another beginning i was hoping to give.
the best way to do that is through music notation,
in my opinion, as i have tried to explain in a previous

thank you all for giving me some feedback


1378 posts
Aug 28, 2013
10:19 PM

Thank you for your response.

I am quite sensitive to bumps in the forum culture. Many of us including Harpdude61 are quite aware of the resources to which you pointed. I took it as dismissive, because he has been around a long time and knows those resources. It would be like you preaching to us that Adam has some great videos on YouTube that we should check out. That is why I said dismissive. I did not misunderstand the question or answer.

I also appreciate that you are an accomplished teacher. That certainly answers my original question. I looked for an introduction in the new forum members sign in thread, but did not see anything.

I get suspicious when new members are fervent posters. We've had a few loonies come through that have made things difficult. We've also has some that have been terribly interesting and sparked great discussion.

Again, thanks for the response. Post on...


I'm out...

7073 posts
Aug 29, 2013
1:04 PM
Joe, as to the low writing of the notes, I'm not sure which way would serve me best. I've got a visual learning disability related to dyslexia. When I took theory class years ago I was pretty good at reading one clef at a time, but low notes, high notes and grand staff all gave me trouble. I'd lose my place in them. (I also lose my place in tab. Strings of repeating or nearly repeating numbers are tough.) I still like the way sheet music lets you visualize things like harmony better than tab, but I've struggled to incorporate it.

For most of my theory, I think in terms of pianos. I don't play well, but I know the names of the notes and can play basic major and minor scales by counting out intervals (or just using the white keys!)

At one point, I started to work on a set of harmonica charts that would show the notes 'available' for each chord, including overblows etc., (and several other charts too) but I kept making typos!

Keep up the good work.

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)
534 posts
Aug 29, 2013
4:47 PM
Harp notes spreadsheet

Nate, here is a spreadsheet I put together from charts like you mentioned that I have found on the web. On this one you select the key from a pull down menu and all the notes available on that harp, bends over-blows etc. are shown. There is a second pull down menu for mode. When you select the mode, all of the notes not in that mode are shaded and the root of the mode is underlined.

If I am looking at a piece of sheet music trying to decide what harp to use, I use this spreadsheet. I can also see it coming in handy when writing a part for harp as Joe is describing here.

On the subject of ledger lines, 8va for an octave up, 8vb for an octave down or a C clef are all solutions. But they are all solutions that create anxiety for me if I see them on the page when reading. I am working on my C clef skills.
80 posts
Aug 29, 2013
5:18 PM

no. 14

i understand what you are saying gentlemen and if one is
not used to reading music notation it can be daunting.

but realise that it is only a few notes, although important
notes, on the harmonica and then we have the low G
[2 leger lines down] which is a not so bad.

recall that the guitar and the clarinet have ranges
which extend to low E [3 leger lines] and that the
guitar is sometimes tuned to low D [4th line down
with C under that] so this range is frequently used.

using 8ve is a option but because the harmonica has a
particular character to its low octave i would myself
avoid that.

another point to consider is that there are a multitude
of 'tabs' already which for me paint legs on snakes

music notation is quite able to show what the composer or
arranger wants

since this thread has become quite long i will begin a
new one both to separate the work and to make it easier to
access the posts.

reading and transcribing no. 2



Last Edited by joe on Aug 29, 2013 5:21 PM
7076 posts
Aug 29, 2013
9:21 PM
STME58, very nice!

I briefly tried to teach someone harmonica. It didn't go terribly well. He didn't have much of a melodic background (drummers, what can you do?). What I really wanted to show him was just a series of three basic charts, showing him what holes it was 'safe' to blow on for the I chord, the IV chord and the V chord. I couldn't get him over the hump as far as him figuring out with his mouth what hole he was blowing on. He was very nervous about any theory instruction or anything that smacked of book work.

I'd hoped I could get him to identify holes and then at least get him working on a blues progression. That's why I originally wanted a simple three step chart. When I learned the baritone, it was a very formal learning process. When I learned the harp, I basically just told myself I was going to play noises for a few months and try to teach myself intervals. I learned very different things with the two styles. I wish I'd been better with the formal training. It's funny. I 'learned' some theory stuff 20+ years ago, but I didn't really understand it until years later. I had a bunch of years in the middle where it was just sort of sitting there. I wasn't doing anything musical. It wasn't integrated into my brain in a way that was useful.

Now I'm going back with a little better ear for things than I had back then and trying to put them together with new 'formal' stuff. My brain hurts. I'm just hoping it doesn't take another 20 years before it suddenly starts to make sense. (I mean, it does make sense, it's just not integrated into my brain in a way where I can use it quickly.)

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