Chords or single notes

Hi its me again. I am a newbie. I have seen 100s tabs and they all show single notes, ie the melody. However when I hear some players they play chords or at least multiple notes like Dylan. How do i turn a single note tab to a chord tab or am I not understanding it right.


Hi again,
Its pretty much just playing the single note from the tab and the notes next to it either side. Just play around with not isolating the single note.


Well thanks again toogdog. It now seems blindly obvious but unfortunately I had not grasped this as a newbie.


Hi Steve, I’m pretty new at this also. Yes, Dylan plays messy and Neil Young too, I think. Are you sure that the listed tabs are not displaying double notes, usually they do when it’s part of the original tune. for example, 34 is 3 and 4 blow together, 3 4 is 3 blow single note, then 4 blow single note. Apologies if that sounds patronising, I’m just checking.
I was able to play single notes straight away, after listening to Luke’s free video on the deep relaxed mouth position. I think I have a small mouth so maybe that’s why I found it easy. He often says, if you can’t play single notes yet, that’s OK you can play double notes with this one, but I have the opposite problem, my double notes never sound right to me. Maybe it’s that small mouth thing again. So, I tend to go the other way and often play single notes when doubles are described. It’s not that I don’t like the sound when other people play them, it just doesn’t sound right to me when I play them.
Not much help I suppose but sometimes it’s interesting to hear where other beginners are at.


Your absolutely are understanding it. I have the same frustration. I’m constantly looking for those great harp solos with chords of multiple notes that you hear with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Springsteen, John Prine songs etc. And it’s very hard to find the tabs when they only show the single note melodies. Toogdog is correct that you can sometimes figure it out by incorporating the notes on either side of the single note. But many of those tabs don’t even show the tabs for the harp solo. They just show the melody with lyrics. And most of us don’t want the melody unless it’s a pretty folk song where you want to play the entire song. It’s hard for those of us who are beginners and can’t play by ear yet. Most of the time, I just want to play those great harp solos in between the versus of the song–and skip the versus with lyrics. Like they say, “The best way for a harp player to get fired from a band is to play over the singer.” Luke has a few youtube videos where he shows you how to play the solos with chords. There are some others out there too, but most of them aren’t as good with instruction as Luke. He’s the best!


If song in C and you have C harp all the blows are in C, Draws are like this, draw 2345 or 1234 this will be a chord in the second position or a blow in the first position, 345 are draws to play the fifth, the second position is the fourth of a key, like C is the fourth of G, D is the fifth of G, you can get a layout of what notes are what holes and what goes together. A million songs start in G, so second position a C harp. It is automatically the fourth note of the key of G or the fourth note of the octave of G, A, B, C(4), D(5), E, F#, then higher G, the octave. G has one sharp, the F. G is root, A is ii or 2, B is iii or 3, C is IV or 4, D is V or 5, E is vi or 6 or 6th, F# is the 7th, G is 8 or 1 or root, common names synonymous. The lower case roman numerals mean minor, so you can play a minor chord. Usually a draw. There are websites to show what holes are what and remember country tuning is different, maybe blues, most harps are standard tuning. Remember the bending to get to different notes on draw, maybe a 1/2 tone on a blow.

Each note has a tone or pitch, which is why, once you have control, you can block center and get some power chords. I think blow on C is CEG, which is root, third, iii, and G is V or fifth. Common triad chord.

1 Like

Thank you so much GreenStamps for your explanation. As a newbie I will have to spend a little time interpreting the content. As I am grappling with an understanding of the meaning of 1st and 2nd position and the various keys needed to play a wide range of songs, I can use your summary to put meaning to what i am reading. Cheers


Hey @SteveMika just wanted to +1 @toogdog here that the adjacent tone usually is pleasing.

BTW - the term harmonica players use for this is PLAYING DIRTY. A “dirty note” is when you let a little bit of the adjacent hole (often, but not always, the hole to the right of the main melody note.)

This is one of the wonderful things about our amazing instrument.

BUT you’ll notice one avoid place is where the notes switch from draws being higher pitch to blows being higher pitched, that is the -6 and -7 played together sound like an alarm clock (the interval of a major 2nd is very dissonant.)

So, I recommend trying the pitch to the left or right of the tabbed note and seeing how you like it.

I also like to try split-3’s and split-4’s, but if you’re talking about more Dylan-esque stuff like what @bjdas is referring to (and thank you for your kind words @djpas!) then no need worry about splits - it’s all just adjacent notes on the harmonica.

But for anyone whose curiosity is piqued about splits, I LOVE 'EM:



I focus on on timing and single notes . I play about eight sings and watch them on U Tube with low volume. After lots of practice the timing starts to get better as do the single notes. After I can play the song and not hear many mistakes I try to get the quality of the notes more in line with what I hear played by someone that has been at it for many years. I also try to learn the song w/o tabs. It is frustrating at times but after defeating the thought of doing something else I pick my favored harp up for so more abuse. I do not quit, never surrender.

My point is its one thing to play a single note but another to string them together to sound right. As much as I despise mistakes they are good teacher. Right now I am trying to learn Take Me Home Country Road. My first try was terrible but after a couple of hours a day it started to come together after four days. Ill never be able to play em all so I focus on what I like best. I have decided it takes little time to make noise with a harp but years to be really good. provided you have the persistence and knack for it. I also play tunes like such as Over The Rainbow and Sound of Silence. You have to move around the harp to play them and timing is critical. Its A Wonderful World is a great tune to practice as it sounds so much better when played slow as it should be. Its on U Tube as well. I try bending and may be doing some but the notes vary. I will worry about this later. first things first. Slower tunes help breathing control as well. Its chilly and humid now and it effects the harp. They seem to like a warm and dry room. I would be interested what other players think of how the weather effects how a harp plays. especially the high draw notes. Its slow and a step at a time.

If it were easy the harp would get boring quick.