Look For This To Understand That!

Yeah, okay, so I had this Aha-Eureka moment a couple of months ago. However, as I thought more about writing on it – well, I couldn’t believe how simple it really was, so doubts began to creep in to say that if I said anything, people might look at me funny. Well since then, I find people look at me funny anyways. So I can deal with that!

However too, in the spirit of full disclosure, (just recently and not mentioning any names per se, as we know who we are, but still…) while a few of us harmonica friends were over in the chat room, shooting the shit and just having fun as we always do – We also had the pleasure of conversing with a very fine gentleman and music teacher who was helping us understand more about music theory.

Explaining things in very simple terms we could definitely comprehend; as well as being able to bounce things back and forth between us and pick this man’s brains as it were for us to share in this impromptu classroom – Well believe me, it was quite beyond enjoyable to say the least.

However, for me, the most remarkable point and highlight of our get-together was when my harmonica friend chimed in – And while expressing our musical lesson in his own words – Turns out he mentioned about the very Aha-Eureka I had a while back!

Meaning, he confirmed for me what I myself had been thinking about for quite some time. And it was at this very moment that if my harmonica friend had been tossing this around as I was – Then how many more are out there who are doing the same thing?! And how many more can benefit from this particular portion of the lesson we were privileged to be part of?!

Well, of course, it’s unanswerable; all I can say that if this helps out just one person – Then it’s all worth it! So with no further adieu, here goes, to wit:

As someone who is trying to master the harmonica, I have plenty of instructional materials in my personal collection as well as saved to my online favorites.

After learning about single notes and bending, the next biggest hurdle was understanding chords and chord structures. All talk about this I –IV –V thing.

JP talks about and demonstrates chord changes on his jam tracks DVD. He calls out the chords as the music plays. Then guides you as you follow along, which I did.

So the examples given are the famous layout of:


And is usually translated into:


I’ll be honest and say it took me quite awhile to really hear these things. It wasn’t until one night, in bed, while listening to my favorite Little Walter’s cd – that the rhythms were so clear and distinct, I was actually able to hear when the music changed.

Although I had no idea what the bass guitar and drummer were playing, still for me, it was a mini Aha-Eureka moment. Later, using some backing tracks from David Harp, and following his instructions, I was able to get down some of that I-IV-V thing.

However, just going with the flow, I still didn’t understand anything behind/beyond it.

I also belong to Howard Levy’s online school. A piano player and classically trained musician long before he ever picked up a harmonica – He gave his demonstrations of playing chords as well as the arpeggios to them. Those are the single notes that make up one single three-note chord.

Thing is, as great a player as Howard is, still, it’s difficult for me to follow his videos as he relies on students learning to play by ear. Well, I’m not there yet. I have to take things slow; and with some tab or written examples somewhere. So I pressed on.

I continued along learning my songs. Reading tabs, attempting to imitate harp players I hear in the background on TV shows, etc.

In the hopes of learning more about music and theory, from Amazon, I ordered ‘The Perfect Harmonica Method’ book by some guy named Jerry Perelman. Thing is, it was strictly a beginner’s beginners book at that.

From the Amazon music store I got it from, there was a little sticker on the book selling it for $1. They couldn’t give it away! Yet I had paid full retail at $15+! I was certainly disappointed to say the least.

However, just for the hell of it, shits and grins and oh well, I listened to the accompanying CD and followed along in the book. I read along with the musical notes on the musical staff as they were presented.

Since the songs (melodies) there were laid out and arranged in very simple ways - As I listened along, as I knew I had other versions, I went ahead and picked up my old copy of Mel Bay’s Harmonica Pocket Companion to compare a couple of songs (melodies).

In comparing the songs, one written in simple notation, the other as a music sheet – something caught my eye. And in that moment, my biggest to date Aha-Eureka moment came to me!

And here it is:

Looking above the musical staff and bars on where the songs/melodies are, there are letters. For example, the letters are written as C, G7, F, Am etc.

Except for long ago forgotten accordion lessons once upon a time, still, considering I’ve never been musically trained, I never knew what those letters were. Until it finally hit me: THOSE LETTERS ARE CHORDS!!

Holy Crap & No Shit!!

The pieces to a big puzzle finally fell into place!

Meaning, as a harmonica player, I’ve only been looking at tabs and wanting to learn melodies.

And there are plenty of sources to find these.

Yet, it’s in seeing a full written out piece of sheet music where one sees the accompanying CHORDAL notations used by guitar and/or piano players to play along with those melodies!

Holy Crap & No Shit!!

At this enlightening moment, I went into my other harmonica music books. And sure enough, many if not most had these letters like G, C, D7 and such “above” the staff/song/melody lines!

What a friggin revelation this is!

Meaning, while JP, Howard Levy, David Harp and virtually everybody else who write music books and have lessons – All talk about learning the I-IV-V chordal structure –

Yet all have ‘assumed’ I (as in non-music people) would understand what they were talking about! And none have ever actually “SHOWN” me (us non-music people) where those CHORDS are actually located or how to find them!

So I’m sharing it/them with you here!

And what a friggin revelation this is!

With this information in mind then, it would take me too long to write out the “Chords” such as the Cs, Gs, Ds, etc. Besides, most all teachers, like Jon Gindick and others do demonstrate the chords. For Blows and Draws, and when to play them.

But taking this information now – Now that I understand where the chords are – I am better understanding how they are used when they are played.

I now better understand what this relates to:


And what this really means:


Thing is, in our little gathering, when my harmonica friend mentioned something similar – as to where these chords are located on the actual music sheets themselves, and our impromptu music teacher said that he was correct – Well, I knew then that by golly, he and me, had finally cracked the chord mysteries which had been wracking our brains for God knows how long!!

So if this too is or has been a mystery for you – Well, friends, look no further than:
On the top of musical staffs to see where the chords are that you can play and follow along with!

And most certainly, without a doubt, when looking for this and finding it, you too will finally understand that!


Thanks for reading!

Keep On Harpin’!

Hey SPD,

I just read this thread and must say “well done”. You explained the Blues chord progression beautifully. There are so many songs out in the universe that use this same chord progression.

Johnny B. Goode
Keep You Hands to Yourself
Folsom Prison Blues
Before You Accuse Me
Look at Little Sister

to name just a few. (These come to mind because my band plays them all the time)

We commonly refer to them as Blues rhythms, and we can play them in any key. Personally, I don’t think you can run out of songs that use this rhythm.

So, I take my hat off to you and commend you on your Aha-Eureka moment there big guy.

Keep on Harpin


Well put SPD,

Thanks for sharing…

Helped me out a lot.

harp on!!