Q: How do you transpose on chromatic?

A: Jim C. asks about transposing songs on the chromatic.

Try starting out with simple tunes - real simple ditties, like Mary Had A little Lamb and such. Then try transposing arpeggios and scale fragments - individual ones, divorced from the context of an exercise. This will help some.

The real nitty gritty is learning to understand (and apply to the harmonica) the portable relationships inherent in most music. For instance, when expressed in scale degrees, Mary Had a Little Lamb is

3 - 2 - 1 -2 - 3 - 3 - 3, 2 - 2 - 2, 3 - 5 - 5, etc.

As long as you know what notes 1, 2, 3 and 5 are in any given key, and know where those notes are on the harmonica, you can transpose them. The more you work at this, the closer you can get to transposing at sight.

Try working out 10 or 15 simple little ditties, starting in your most comfortable key and working outward, either up the chromatic scale, or around the cycle of fifths. Then find some more tunes, longer or more melodically intricate or harmonically sophisticated. If your music theory is a little foggy, brush up on it - it's a huge help.

Part of the problem with the harmonica is that you can't SEE the note layout. I have something called a tuning diagram for chromatic that lays out all the notes on a tuning grid. This lets you see the notes in relation to one another, and draw (either literally or mentally) the pathway (sequence of actions) required to play any particular melody. You can also use it as a note finder by filling in the note names on a blank tuning diagram.

Anyone who wants a tuning diagram page to copy and use at will, send me your mailing address and I'll send you one -- "LEARNING CHROMATIC" 18 Oct 94 WY

Scales is where it's at...

a) Learn the C scale

b) Learn the C chromatic scale

c) Learn the major scales progressing through the circle of fifths. (reason - you flat the 7th note as you progress, previously flatted notes remain) - there's a similar rule when you hit the sharp keys but I don't remember. Cham-Ber Huang's method pointed this out - I suppose a good theory book would as well.

d) Do all this by READING notes.

e) A Pete Pedersen tip - Learn to play a real easy song, like Mary Had A Little Lamb, in every key. Going up a half step each time through. Try to find a simple song where the last note becomes the first note of the next key you are going to play it in.

f) There is no shortcut - If you want to see some results a little sooner you might try some songs in F which lays pretty nice on the chromatic. A minor - the relative minor to C - is pretty easy, you may be playing in A minor without realizing it. Try playing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" - it will come out in A minor even if you are playing by ear - and the key signature won't give you a clue if you're reading it from sheet music written in C.

g) If you already play another instrument, especially keyboard, you have a jump on the rest of us. If you don't, you might want to consider learning some keyboard. Heck, there's even music software out there - and we're computer geeks aren't we? I've seen the Miracle Piano System for about $200 bucks recently.

h) Get hold of some good drills - I was just listening to a tape of our 'Ask The Pros' panel discussion from BHF '94 and Don Les ;-( says (something like) "If you learn the proper drills then it's not so difficult to learn a difficult new song because you've already been there". [Winslow - we must hypnotize you so you can recall the drills Don mentioned in your conversation at SPAH].

i) I never did any of the above - So if you ever meet me you'll understand why I'm such a lousy player -- "Re: Harp and the NOSE & Misc." 21 Oct 94 JE


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The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into JT30.com in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

Picking Up Blues Harp

A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

Usenet Articles

Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old Harpamps.com website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.

Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

Harp-L Archives 1992 to 2002


Harp Frequently Asked Questions