Harmonica/Learning Songs

You can learn songs easily if you have sheet music for the song you are trying to learn (e.g. tab books, fake books). One way is to try playing the song part by part. When learning a song, it is recommended that you have a drum-machine or metronome in order to allow remain within rhythm.

If the song is too fast, play it with a slower tempo — extremely slow if need be. When you can play it flawlessly, increase the tempo until you begin to stumble. Repeat until you can play the song at a rate you are content with.

Songs can also be learned "by ear", with no sheet music. This can be done in a variety of ways, for instance first transcribing the sheet music for yourself, or by simply picking up the instrument and trying to match what is played. Knowledge of music theory is particularly helpful for this method.

There are many harmonica tab sites out there, abeit in Chinese and more often then not for tremolos. One is Yellowstone, a Taiwanese website. A good site that contain tabs for blue harmonicas is Jimmy's Harp (Hong Kong). Also, Gelnn Weiser's Harmonica website have many good arrangements.

However, I believe that to learn a piece properly for a long term, it's best to do it with sheet music, WITHOUT tabs. That way, one will be forced to learn to read the sheet music.

One way I found useful is fake books. They only come in melody lines, but for harmonica it is a non-factor. It usually comes with AT LEAST 100 songs, and maybe more, for around $25.00 USD. Numerous style is available, from blues to jazz to rock to even classical. There are a few ones that I found to be good:

  • The Real Book, which is a series of de facto jazz fake book.
  • Classical Fake Book, good for learning classical music.
  • The Performer's Complete Fake Book: Unlike other fake books, it is hard covered, and it also contain many songs from the fifties and sixties, as well as standards. A good book if you can only buy one fake book and cannot make up your mind.
  • Ultimate Christmas Fake Book: Good for the holidays; plenty of contemporary Christmas songs
  • Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook" less songs, but have more selection for traditional material.

Amazon have good price on these fake books. Another method is to go to Mutopia project and get those sheet music, which is more complete (with chords and accompaniment). The style available are usually classical, though some jazz is available. You just have to print them out yourself.

A few things to keep note when practicingsheet music:

  1. Check the clef sign, time signature, key signature, and tempo of the music. Also, see if there's any other notation you do not understand, and try to understand them.
  2. Check to see if there's any changes in time signature, key signature, and tempo.
  3. Check for any repeats in the song, as well as bridges and jumps. This way, you can get a feel of the flow of the song.
  4. If you know the song, use what you know as part of your guideline. if you have the CD, listen to it to understand how the song is played.
  5. Go through the entire song a few times to familize it.
  6. If a difficult section, something that you do not understand, or even an error due to playing is encountered, go through it roughly and move on, then to repeat again and again: the overall of the song is more important.
  7. Once those are done, identify the difficult sections, and practice them.
  8. Once you are familiar with the song, see if you can play it without the sheet music.

Other ways to improve your harmonica talents:

  • Lay off the tobacco. Harmonica and bad lung do not mix, unless you only play music at 60 bpm.
  • Watch others play. Notice what they have to pay attention to and what seems like magic.
  • Practice arbitrary scale runs. Go up and or down 3 or 4 notes and then move up the scale with the same interval.
  • Jam up with friends who are better than you as frequently as possible
  • Get some friends along who are at the same skill level and form a band of your own
  • Do some breathing practice; you will want to be able to change breath directions quickly, and easily.
  • Listen to your favorite music and try to envision what the player is doing to make the notes come out as they do.
  • Listen to different music. It may open your mind to techniques and phrasing you never imagined using before. It may also expand your musical library. Pick any genre you're not familiar with. Get a feel for the timing and note choice. Into acoustic folk music? Try bluegrass. Headbanger? Pick up some jazz or blues. Then move on to your hero's heroes. Find out what musical influences got Jimmy, Jimi, B.B., or C.C. primed for stardom. Also, listen to music from other places in the world, especially from Asia: the visual kei (Japan), for example, combined the fast beat of metal with the elegance of classical.

Other Reference: ilearnmusic.com

Trsnscribed from Guitar:learning songs