How to transcribe? (From sheet music to harmonica tabs)

Ok, I’m 5 months in been through happy harpin & @ lesson 9 BTB. Just got an inexpensive keyboard so I can try & figure out notes for some music been asked to play along with a band.

When I’m looking at sheet music what part do I follow to play notes on harp? I guess it’s called transcription? So I can transcribe it to tab ? Thank Brent

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Hi, brentmrobert!

Welcome to the forum.

I think that the answer here (to keep it relatively short) is that it depends on what exactly you are attempting to do.

If you wish to play the melody on your harp, then it is usually the top line of notes in top staff of the score (if there is only one staff line in the score then that is the one containing this melody line).

If you are attempting to play the chordal accompaniment then you look at either the chord notations for each bar or (if present) the lower staff of notes in the score and you need to interpret those notes.

I hope that this helps.

– Slim

Hey Brent - Yes, I agree with Slim, the top line is probably gonna be the melody. You can always look up the song title on a site like and see if somebody has already transcribed it for you.

If you have to do it yourself, charts like this could be helpful:

Happy Harpin’,

Luke & Slim, thanks the harp charts are really helpful.

I think what stumping me is the music charts, which one is best ? Chord charts, lead sheets, piano sheets, choir sheets, orchestrations charts?

I had a guitar friend give me his chord chart, one look at that & I pretty much figure, nope that won’t work. The song is Empty Grave, by Zack Williams came out last years & has some good harp licks in it. Thanks for the help! Brent

What I usually do (if I can’t find any tabs done by someone else) is to try to get lead sheets or piano sheets. For harp players like yourself, most lead sheets or even piano sheets almost never include these cool harp licks because they (1) are typically not exactly the melody, (2) they are mostly improvised, and (3) harp players are mostly ignored by transcribers :rage:

But if you are mainly interested in the melody, then these resources can really help!

Slim, thanks that helps a lot, I think I’ll get the piano sheets & then be able to transcribe the melody. From this I can do my own improving. Thanks again. Brent

Agreed. Lead Sheets.

Hi, pardon my ignorance. What are lead sheets v’s piano sheets? Are piano sheets the written music the pianist plays? What do you do if there isn’t piano in the song?

I’m hoping to work out a Cutis Stigers song, and I have absolutely no idea where to start. Could somebody explain the ‘process’ as it were. I haven’t checked yet, but if there were piano sheet music that I could lay my hands on. What do I exactly do with it?

Thanks for any help you can give. Mark

Hi @markbutcher

“Lead” sheet as a term is often used to mean “piano” sheet and vice versa. A lead sheet does not have to be a piano sheet and a piano does not have to be used in the song. But what is most important for you is that you know how to read music notes written out on a music staff (most appropriate for blues harp is music on a treble clef – aka G clef – staff rather than on a bass staff).

If all of this is new/unkown to you, then it would help to learn about it before continuing.


– Slim

Thank Slim, very much appreciated. I have to admit I have no idea what your talking about. I’m still not sure what is actually on these sheets of what they are used for. Nothing to do with your explanation, simply my total lack of knowledge. The level of learning, and the time needed, is simply not an option. I’d hoped it would be a simpler ‘process’, alas, no.

I played the Accordion and the Organ for many years, played a LOT by ear. I find that I can use an online piano to create the melody notes from memory, then use the Bend-it tool to create the harp tabs. However, I don’t include “cool harp licks”. I am getting familiar enough to create many of the melodies directly on the harp, which means I don’t have to rely on the Bend-it tool.