Notation

Dear All, I’m trying to help my 9 years old daughter to play “once upon a time in the west”. She found a tutorial on youtube at this link Harmonica "C'era Una Volta il West" Tabs - Ennio morricone - YouTube but she get stuck when she came across this notation: 5°. Can somebody please help me to understand what the “degree” symbol stands for?
Thank you very much for your help.

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Hi @Claudio81

That “degree” symbol means that the blow 5 needs to be done using a very difficult method of play known as an overblow. This does NOT mean to blow with more force, as an overblow (when you have learned how to do it and your harmonica has been set up properly to do it) does not require any more force than a normal blow note does.

Since your daughter is just learning how to play, I seriously doubt that she can play that note (on a C harmonica it is the note F#). Even many professionals cannot and do not play overblows.

A C harmonica can be purchased with a tuning that is called “country tuning” which has the 5 draw (normally an F) tuned to be that F#. Lee Oskar, Hohner, Seydel and other companies sell such C harps with country tuning, but they usually must be ordered online (unless your local music store happens to have one or will order one for you).

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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HI Slim, many thanks!!! I suspected it wasn’t a straightforward solution. I hope this question will not sound too silly…Since she is just a beginner, do you have any suggestion how we could replace the 5° with the closest note on a C harmonica brand hohner?
I appreciate your kind help;)

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Hi @Claudio81

I am not familiar with the song, but F# exists as a half-step bend on 2 draw (written as -2’). So one option to still play F# is to drop down one octave the part of the melody around the +5° become sort of the same melody but with an octave jump down. For example, at around 36" into the video you see this:

+5 -5 +7 +7 -5 +5° +7 +7 +5° +6

followed by

+7 -7 -7 -6 -6 +6 +6 -5 -5 +5 +5

Replace all of this with the following:

+2 -2" +4 +4 -2" -2’ +4 +4 -2’ -2

+4 -3 -3 -3" -3" -2 -2 -2" -2" +2 +2

Unfortunately this is also not so easy for a beginner because of the multiple draw bends (-2", -2’ and -3") but beginners are expected to eventually master these as they are easier than +5° (believe it or not).

Your final option is to replace the +5° (F#) with either +6 (a G), -5 (an F) or possibly even with +5 (an E) or -6 (an A). The melody will sound different of course and you will have to select the best for your taste.

Not knowing the melody but just trying these out I sort of like replacing the +5° with -5 but it is your choice.

Let us know what you decide to do – or what your daughter likes best!! :point_left:

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Wow Slim, thank you so much!! This is so much more help then I expected!!! Cheers

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Sorry, I’m not familiar with the tune either, but this is the one drawback of the diatonic harmonica, the “missing notes.” Hope it doesn’t make your daughter quit this wonderful instrument though!

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