Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Tab Notation

Tab is short for tablature and is the term you'll usually see. Tab is a shortcut notation that indicates how to play which hole on the harmonica.  This is different from standard musical notation, which indicates what note to play, including its relative duration.  The difference is between how to play a hole and what note to play.  How to play a note on the harmonica is specified by several things: Of course, how to play a note on a harp is equivalent to what note pitch gets played, so tab is a kind of shortcut or aid to standard musical notation.  What tab doesn't show well is timing and rhythm, which is why standard notation is better for really communicating just how something is supposed to sound.  Ways to show timing for tab include providing the lyrics, when possible, or indicating the measures (bars) and the beats.  Tab can also be used in conjunction with standard musical notation to augument the standard notation with harmonica-specific techniques and effects.

I have considered several important factors for good tab notation conventions, including:

Here is the notation I use for describing how to play a hole:
Notation Convention
A number name by itself means a draw note. (Sometimes you'll see a dash '-' before the number.)
3 (or -3)
3 draw
A number followed by a greater than sign ">" means a blow note. (Sometimes you'll see a + before the hole number.)
3> (or +3)
3 blow
Each apostrophe ' means a 1/2 step bend.
3 draw half step bend
3 draw whole step bend
8 blow bend
A sharp sign "#" (hashtag) after a number means overbend.
6 overblow
7 overdraw
A tilde "~" before a number means a dip bend.
smooth bend from 4' to 4
An ampersand "&" between numbers means play them at the same time.
octave on 1 and 4 draw
chord on 1, 2, and 3 blow
A slash / between numbers means a slur.
2 draw with a little 3 draw
A percent % before a number means "tongue slap" the note.
slap the 4 draw
Two percents %% between two numbers means "flutter tongue" .
draw 2, 5; flutter on 3, 4
An equal sign = between two numbers means a two hole shake.
shake between 4 and 5 draw
A vertical bar "|" separates measures.
2 3 | 3 2
1st bar: 2 3, 2nd bar: 3 2
A lower case "v" after a number means add vibrato to the note. Normally this is up to the player..
3 blow with vibrato
Tab Notation Conventions

Here is an example of some tab.