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How to Read Harmonica Sheet Music

Learn how to read sheet music for the harmonica from music teacher Marcus Milius in this Howcast video.


"Hi, my name is Marcus Milius. I play harmonica. I got a degree at the University of Southern California, a Bachelor's of Music, in Jazz Studies - Chromatic Harmonica. I play and teach harmonica here in New York City, and I'm happy to show you what I do.

Reading sheet music on the harmonica can be complicated, but very worthwhile, because there's a limited amount of tablature out there. If you're reading on the harmonica, you want to be looking for sheet music that's for other treble instruments. So, you're reading treble clef concert pitch. Not B flat like a trumpet or clarinet, but concert pitch. So, that would be vocal sheet music, flute sheet music and violin sheet music, that all shares about the same range. Anything that goes below middle C, you might run out of the range. But basically, you are required to know the notes on each harmonica and the notes on a staff.

So, the lines are going to be E,G,B,D,F and the notes and the spaces are F,A,C,E. So, you'll need to find the equivalent notes on the harmonica and match them up to what's on the page. Hole number 4, blow on the harmonica is C, a 4 draw D, 5 blow E, 5 draw F, 6 blow G, 6 draw A, 7 draw B and 7 blow C. So, anytime you see a C, you want to be playing a C on the harmonica.

Same goes for the chromatic. Hole number 1 would be C blow, hole number 1 draw D, hole number 2 blow E, hole number 2 draw F, hole number 3 blow is G, hole number 3 draw is A, hole number 4 draw is B. And then I move up to hole number 5 blow for C.

So, you simply need to match up the notes on the harmonica with the notes on the page. If there are notes outside of the key, you will need to bend on the diatonic harmonica or use overblows. For the chromatic harmonica, pressing in the slide will simply give you the sharps or flats. You'll need to do a lot further studying. And any background maybe in sight singing and referring to the pitches as Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do, and in fixed Do or movable Do will help you a lot, especially on the diatonic harmonica to navigate through reading sheet music on the harmonica."

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