Learning tabs

Hello all
Three weeks into the B2B course, I love it and am reasonably happy with my progress. I am currently about half way into the single note lessons and think that I make the biggest learning progress when I’m playing tunes/riffs that I really like. My biggest problem seems to be learning the tabs to the tunes, even after playing a tune many many times I still cannot play it without looking at the tabs. So, what I need is a bulletproof way of learning these tabs after only playing the tune 1 or 2 times! Just kidding!!! But there must be a easier method to learning tabs?
Tight notes.


Hello @Dug,
so many wishes at once? :wink: Honestly, I can’t remember the tabs as shown either. I’m almost done with the btb. Now I use harps in different pitches, including bending etc. Here I memorize the sounds of the notes and look for the notes on the harp to learn the song. The whole thing can be 50-100 times with regular repetitions. Over time, this has the advantage that I can spontaneously play completely new songs without tabs, just roughly by ear. As you can see, nothing comes from nothing and everything takes time. Good hearing and a feeling for music, perhaps a good disposition, do no harm. But don’t expect miracles. Keep going without pressure and good luck! Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Hello Astrid
Thanks for that lovely reply. To play tunes “by ear” seems (to me) to be light years away!! How long have you played harmonica? Have you/do you play other instruments? I will keep going and hope things will fall into place😀
Stay cool😎


Dear @Dug, I started with harmonica around mid-August 2021 and because of many ??? :thinking: Started the BtB lessons around mid-September. I completed these by the end of November, with the exception of 8 lessons at M6 and a total of L7 and M8. From then on there was a forced break of about 9 weeks until the week before last. Amazingly, I could not find any deterioration in my harp playing. Unfortunately, I have never learned an instrument professionally, including reading music. But I also sang solos in the choir when I was young. About 15 years ago I taught myself to play the guitar, also with tabs. Unfortunately, I had to give that up due to increasing limitations in my right hand. Probably the big advantage for me is that my dad was a great musician on the saxophone :saxophone: and the clarinet and I had a lot of contact with different styles of music and probably also developed a musical feeling. In addition to the harmonica, I’m also trying to learn some keyboards, because that makes it easier for me to find the right notes.


For me it’s about muscle memory, but I also learn new songs two ways, either by listening and writing the tabs myself, or by transcribing them from sheet music.

When I learn by ear (which I’m not very good at btw) I will use the harmonica as a guideline for writing the tabs

It’s sort of the same procedure when I’m transcribing from notes, I use the harmonica to hear if what I’m playing sounds like it should.

When I’ve played the same songs enough times, I try without the tabs and then I listen and if something sounds off I change the hole or the breath, until the songs stuck in my harmonica

There’s this Danish song called “I skovens dybe stille ro” which I play a lot, but I couldn’t tell you the tabs right off the bat, because I played it before I learned it.


Hello @Vibe,
That’s how I do it with some songs, again and again with changes until it fits. But I would say that speaks for your hearing :ear::ear:? Now I improvise on it more often and “catch” myself using the techniques I learned in BtB. Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Astrid, you sound like you’re a natural. If I progress like you have inside 6 months I will be very happy! I too play around with a keyboard and try different things. It’s only in the last 6 weeks that I’ve started Harmonica, before this year my musical knowledge was nil!


Hi Vibe
To my novice ears you sound very clever!! I hope that, in the future I’ll be able to learn and play “by ear” but, as I said earlier, this seems like light years away!!
Stay cool :sunglasses:


Hello @Dug, who knows, who knows where you’ll be in a few months. When I think about my first few weeks with the little harp, oh dear. No air, too much saliva, no Kazelle hit, no idea of ​​anything. I was aching in every muscle there is in the face, neck and chest. Certainly part of it was training and waking up muscles large and small. Then there were the dry lips and a lot more. Today I know that a large part was the pressure I put on myself and the lack of relaxation. The latter is a big step. Play loose and easy. Whether talented or not, everything takes time and training. You don’t become world champion in sport in a short time, even with talent. If I get stuck playing the harp at a point or song, I look for something else to learn first. Eventually you try what you put aside and you will see progress. Your subconscious is a faithful companion. I have been in a wheelchair since 1983. If you knew what kind of setbacks I have already had in my life due to consequential damage and much more. Despite this, I kept starting from scratch and never gave up. Believe, please! Best regards from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Hi @Dug and @AstridHandbikebee63

I am by no means an expert in listening skills, most of the time it’s trial and error, but I do find it easier when using the harmonica




Hey Dug - love your inquiry here and all the dialogue back and forth it’s awesome.

So the key here is you have to go slow:

1.) Pick ONE song. Your favorite song you’ve learned so far.
2.) Make sure you can SING the melody without any music.
3.) Look at the first 3 notes of the song. Play the first 3 notes of the song. Walk away from the tabs. Play it again. Put down the harmonica and get a glass of water. Come back and play those 3 notes again. Once you’ve proven to yourself that you have the sound and feel of where those 3 notes are - meaning, you’ve done it 5 or 10 times. Pick up the harmonica and play those 3 notes. OK, I’ve got those 3 notes, then.
4.) Add another 2-3 notes utilizing the same process. Can’t remember them? Go back and look at the tabs. Rinse and Repeat.

There’s no shortcuts here, unfortunately. It’s just an undying persistence to being willing to keep trying to play a SUPER-SHORT fragment of the melody as at slow of a tempo as you need to in order to play it well.

If you follow this kind of process it may take you a week or a month to memorize the melody. But you will remember it for the rest of your life! :slight_smile:

Hope that helps!

Rock on,


Hi all
First of all, Astrid you are an inspiration! You’re reply is spot on. I think the “no pressure “ and “relaxed “ attitude is 100% the way forward. We come here with the hope that we can “Boss it” in a few months. For most of us this is unrealistic as life and other aspects of living get in the way, I’m so enjoying this course, I feel I’m making good progress and having fun!


This thread hits home with me for several reasons. Besides great responses from @AstridHandbikebee63, @Vibe and our fearless leader @Luke, I find much of what is said mirroring my experience.

Like you @Dug, reading and playing tabs is very challenging for me. The numbers along with the blows and the draws seem to cloud my mind and put me in a fog.

I really like the “Rinse and Repeat” technique Luke mentions. I’ve been playing since last June and while I play few songs all the way through from beginning to end, I can play dozens which I’ve heard on the radio or my Playlist and just started as Luke says, 2 or 3 notes at a time.

Hearing the melody in my head and being able to hum it or whistle to it seems to be the key for me. If I can’t hum it, likely I can’t play it well from the get go. If I can hum it though, or whistle it, this seems to be the key to learning the main notes in the melodies and being able to duplicate them on the harp.

Much of my problems now come from the bridges bringing the principal parts of the melody together.

It can take several days for me to figure out some of the more challenging parts in the riffs of some songs, but as Luke, Vibe and Astrid indicate, once you figure it out, you can play it on demand. The first few notes may be a bit sketchy if you haven’t played it for awhile, but once your mouth remembers what’s going on, you’re off to the races again!

Congrats to all on your progress and excellent advice :+1: