What's Your Biggest Harp Challenge Currently?

What did harp players do before tabs, the world wide web and this forum? I think they called it playing by ear. This is a lost art or about to become a lost art of getting so comfortable with the harmonica that you can actually play knowing where notes are and the only way to do this is to play, play, play,…! Try learning a song without tabs or sheet music, and the more you do this the better you get at doing it, PLAYING BY EAR.


B I G !!! D E B A T E :o

I do not doubt you at all, it will make you a better player, but the one thing I always questioned about this
is, Piano Players have sheet music they follow. Even a guitar player who knows how to read music
won’t he also put the music up IN FRONT OF HIS FACE

And isn’t that what harmonica tab is sheet music for the harmonica.

So if I play note for note with the tab in front of me, Isn’t that the same thing as a piano player playing
with the music in front of his face.

I’m just saying, whatever you want to do ::slight_smile:

When I learn a song, I use the tab to help me along if it’s a difficult song to learn one that will take me a few weeks
to learn, most of the time I have the tab put away after about a week. Then it’s just getting it up to speed and accurately
hitting the right notes ;D ;D

But let me just emphasize, guitar players, Piano players, flute players, keyboard players, bass players, they all have some
kind of sheet music in front of them :o

So why can’t harmonica players be the same way ??? ???

Just wondering, and no disrespect at all Barry, just wondering :stuck_out_tongue:

Harp On!!

Fan the flames guys fan the flames. I’ll bring the gasoline ;D

Learning by ear might be a great way to go, but I think tabs help a lot of people get started. I use tabs all of the time. I was playing something for my mom over the phone and I said sorry, that’s as much as I remember. She plays the piano and said oh that’s pretty good I can’t hardly play anything unless it’s in front of me. My mom plays great so don’t you go talkin’ bout my momma :smiley:

I’d love to be able to listen to a song and play it, and some day I probably will, but for now I am certainly not going to worry about it. I have so much technique left to learn I’m not going to sweat how I learn songs at this point.

Some fine piano players have never read sheet music. Many great players of all types of instruments played only by ear. I know what you are saying. It’s a lot easier to harrow plowed ground than to break new sod. Tabs save a lot of time for many. Many folk wouldn’t even play if it weren’t for helps like this.
But I agree with Barry too. It can be better when you make it your own.
Many times though, I like to know just how the “original” did it. Sometimes a tab will get me started so I can try to reproduce his/her tune or riff.
Leonardo wouldn’t have come up with ole Mona if he had painted by numbers, though.

JP, I like your tucka toodle (spelling ?). You know I’m an old trumpet player. My muscle memory in my tongue still wants to do ta-ka-ta-ka, and ta-ka-ta-ta-ka-ta after years of double and triple tongueing.
It is difficult to make my tongue say this new rhythm sound. I’m working on it. My double tongue technique has a totally different sound, so I’m trying for the more subtle technique you use.

Toodles (and Tuckas too)


I’m not sure what I was thinking,

But I just watched that video on Itunes the Beatles first concert in USA, They didn’t have any music in front of
their face.

So I’m thinking to help some of us learn faster tab helps learn the tune with the tab and then put away and play it
by ear.

Works for me.

Joe > I think the ultimate would be able to read music, but most harp players and guitar players don’t.

Personally I find tabs terrible to follow and in the main I dont use them at all and have never referred to them . When I know the tune well in my head and especially knowing the lyrics or can at least hum it then tabs have no use ie I play by ear. Often I hear a tune on the wireless that I know but have never played before and can put the harp to my mouth and play it. Not always play it well ie that sometimes takes quite a bit of work.

There are times when I get stumped eg if it’s in a minor key or needs to be played in a different position, but even then if I know the tune in my head I sometimes can figure it out, and if not, then sometimes the first line of tabs gets me going.

Having said all of the above there are major exceptions. The Academy course with the fast Irish tunes, that have no lyrics, are completely foreign to me. Really challenging stuff that do need me to closely follow the tabs for about a week ie until the tune is ingrained and muscle memory comes into play. Whilst I love the Academy’s challenging tunes I find even now those tunes that I know so well I get horribly mixed up and often have to refer to the first 2 tabs. tune name, and harp key to use.

As I learnt tunes I have kept a listing and I now have over 300 on my list. I probably could play many more. But its for me impossible to practice so many hence I whittle them down to 20 or 30 that I practice regularly. These 20 or so become my core repertoire & whilst most remain constant the repertoire does change.

Incidentally I do know a guy that can play quite complex pieces on the piano and he is unable to read music ie everything by ear. He plays beautifully and is completely self tought.

Currently my biggest Harp challenge is in getting motivated to play. Since coming back from nearly 2 months travelling I am unable to get back into the swing of things.

Since coming back from nearly 2 months traveling I am unable to get back into the swing of things.

And you didn’t take any of your harps with ya? Not even to play a little bit here and there? What a fine example you’re setting for our young’uns there, Mr Dave!! :’(

SPD > I did take some harps away but only rarely did I get the opportunity to play.

Ah well, phew! Glad to hear that much, Dave! :slight_smile:

Am figuring with the holidays right around the corner, and 'tis the season being upon us, even down under - that the folks and kids will be encouraging you to whip out those harps and lay some caroling tunes on them, eh?! :wink:

Keep on Jammin’!

I think bending consistently (control, I guess) is my big challenge right now. That’s worry enough for me right now. I don’t worry about it though, I’m just going to play and enjoy and let it come when it comes.


Whiskat was wondering where to purchase Paddy Richter Tuned harps. Can you buy any harp with that tuning ???

I kind of like the Golden Melody’s and wondering if I can get one tuned that way ;D

I am stuck on a tune I’m learning over at Harmonicaacademy.com called “The Girl I Left Behind”. :frowning:

I can play it but my 3D" just doesn’t sound right…They sound a little bit quacky. But with a Paddy Richter tuned harp
that 3D" would turn into a 3B ;D

Let me know if you know where I could purchase one, prefer GM’S ;D

Harp On!!

Joe .Seydel offer Paddy Richter tuning in their 1847 models.

Thanks David… Big Bucks gonna have to sell a tool box
or 2 to afford them.


Hey Joe couldn’t you just retune one of your existing harps by opening it up and . . . oh, nevermind ;D ;D ;D ;D

Oh where going there again ok get me a dead blow hammer.

And wait till Tyson opens the one i sent him…

Harp On!

I have a 4 lb. hammer you can use for the intricate stuff.
It’s a great tool for scaring mechanics too. Makes big noise on a steel table. Wakes people up!!


My goal for now is being able to play and improvise blues. When I can do that, I’ll be happy.

Joe, before you take the covers off another one…contact me first!

That read is broken, I’ll need another GM to steel a reed from to repair. So, that one is now in the “harmonica Bone Yard”!