When learning a new blues song do you think in terms of note names, scales, tab (hole) numbers, or just intervals??? After wrestling my embouchure, and torturing a few bends out of my harp, and untangling my tongue … I think my brain has to find the right posture too… I’m thinking seeing melodies in terms of intervals might be a help. Your opinions are of great interest. Thanks for any insights, guys.
If I want to learn a new song, I obviously have to decide on the right key and harp at the beginning. If I want to play the song with background accompaniment, the key of the harp naturally depends on the accompanying music.
After that, I do the same thing I used to do at school when I had to learn a poem. Line by line and then repeat the entire verse.
Ultimately, it also depends on how difficult a song is. Start with the tabs that are easy for you. This way you can develop a feeling for the song and find the rhythm and beat. This makes learning the difficult parts easier.
But everyone probably works differently and you have to find the right way for you.
If you feel like you’re not making any progress, choose a different song first! Every development takes time and patience! Come back to this song a few months later and you will see progress if you have learned other songs/parts and exercises in the meantime. Relaxation, patience and fun are the most important things in the whole thing!
Regards from Astrid
Thanks , Astrid! Good advice….
I try to think in expressions as apposed to phrases or intervals. Think about that a bit. Corky
When I started playing blues I read a lot of music theory and learned scales. (My first instrument is sax, which is why scales seemed so important, and I applied the same logic to harmonica.)
I know you didn’t ask about improvisation. You mentioned learning songs, but I think improvisation relates to your question. I always felt like I was handicapped when I was a beginner. It took a long time, but I finally reached the point where I can hear a lick or a melody in my head and just play it without thinking. This was a big turning point for me.
I guess the answer to your question is that a beginner has to rely on theory, intervals, scales, and that sort of thing. The only way to move forward is to do a lot of playing. Eventually you’ll start matching your actions to the sounds that you hear coming out of your instrument, and you’ll subconsciously build a road map between sounds and actions.
For me this took a long, long time because I almost never practice. If I had played a little bit every day I could have put it all together a lot sooner. Eventually I got to the point where I can hear a harp player in a recording and know exactly what holes are being played. I usually don’t play it as well myself, due to my lack of practice, but at least I can identify what’s going on when I hear it. And eventually I got to the point where I can imagine what I want to play, and I somehow know which hole it should be.
I still relate everything to scales and intervals, but it seems a lot less important now.
My path in music began with drums. I have dabbled with piano, guitar, flute, sax, latin percussion instruments (conga, djembe, cajon,) . But despite having owned these instruments at various times - being mostly self-taught I am embarrassed to say I never truly mastered any of them. Now at 80 I am hoping to come closer to that with the harmonica. My one year as a music major in university before switching to Design and Illustration gave me a start in music theory. But like you I do not have a practice routine. Instead I find some song that I like and learn a few phrases on the chromatic harp or the diatonic (either from sheet music or by ear). And then just jam. I no longer play in bands other than jam sessions.
Theoretically, you could quickly learn the language of playing harmonica quickly if you devote a lot of time and attention to it. A baby gets pretty good at talking after only a few years of practice. Playing music is a lot less complicated than talking.
@Corky_Music I think about EVERY nugget of wisdom you drop my friend. THANK YOU for your contribution. “Expressions…” hmmmm…