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Harmonica ear training lesson

Do you want to learn how to transcribe your favorite songs and create tabs for harmonica? Would you love to be able to improvise on your instrument and understand everything you listen to from others? This lesson is focused on that topic: the relationship between ear training, musical theory, improvisation skills, and song transcription. Below on this page, you'll also find a video to train your ear!

Welcome to my online harmonica school!

Since I’ve created my website about the harmonica world, social media pages, interest groups, and the online school, one of the things I frequently observe is people asking about the tabs of a song, what key it’s in, and which harmonica they should use to play it. Usually, the answers are always the same: “Go on this website” or“Ask on that page”. there’s one that I believe should be at the forefront: developing your ear and studying a little theory! Every time you ask someone to do something for you, you miss the chance to learn how to do it for yourself.

Today, I’ll be explaining the three basic elements anyone needs to learn to become a great musician – then, we’ll see what the relationships are between them.

• Musical theory (intervals, chords, cadences)

• Musical ear (recognizing sound elements)

• Harmonica knowledge (knowing where the notes you listen to are located)

These three elements together make it possible for you to transcribe songs, play with more peace of mind, and even improvise.

Let’s start with the development of the ear. Learning to hear the notes means being able to recognize the intervals – in other words, the distance – between them. Along with this, one learns to recognize the chords and the cadences – the passage from one chord to another. In this context, knowing some theoretical rules is of great help, since what you hear with the ear will be the confirmation of these rules and viceversa.

This takes us to musical theory. If you know the rules of music, you already know what to expect when you listen to something. You know how to recognize the harmonic progressions, and consequently, you’re able to orient yourself within these, since you have a clear understanding of what’s going to happen. Your ear is helped by these theoretical rules – they confirm each other, as I mentioned before.

Finally, this brings us to knowledge of the harmonica itself. You should learn the notes of each hole, calling them by name and hearing their sounds every time you think about them. That’s the only way you’ll have total control when you play.

Now that we’ve analyzed the three fundamental elements, let’s see how they influence our ability to play, improvise, and transcribe pieces.

If we’re performing a piece of music and have acquired an ear and some theoretical knowledge, we can make fewer mistakes, and when mistakes do happen, we’ll always know how to continue, improvising a different note and maintaining fluidity of execution.

If we want to transcribe a song, we must use the ear and recognize the notes, intervals, and cadences, helping us with the theoretical notions that confirm our hypotheses. 

Finally, let’s talk about improvisation. When you improvise, you’re simply listening in your mind to the notes you want to play and performing them immediately. In essence, it’s like transcribing a song, only instead of listening to it from an external source, it’s generated within your mind in real-time. To perform improvisation, you must know exactly where the notes on the harmonica are.

Have you seen how all the elements are connected? Watch the video below and have fun trying to guess the notes I play :)

I’ll see you in the next lesson!

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