Re: Playing by ear,music or tabs. Help

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Posted by Patrick J. McKenna on June 17, 2001 at 07:15:37:

In Reply to: Playing by ear,music or tabs. Help posted by Rich on May 31, 2001 at 18:06:39:

: I have been trying to figure out for a long time just what level harmonica player I am. I've never played in public. I stated on this sight before that I play straight harp and mostly the melodies of songs - pretty much any song I hear, I can play myself and also play along with the music. I keep reading of folks on this site looking for music or tabs. I really want to know if most harmonica players use music and tabs or do most listen to a song and play it by ear? I guess it may be 50/50. I've had a couple people tell me that playing melodies in straight harp is difficult. Is this true? I find cross harp difficult. I am wondering if I am like the guitar player who learned to play the instrument upside down because that's the way he /she first picked it up. I am also now looking for a music festival - probably Bluegrass - where folks just sit and play. I want to see if I can play with others. I love this sight.... Input appreciated.

I first learned to play harmonica by ear, listening to vinyl disc recordings by such artists as the Yardbirds. I think that the song "I'm a Man" was the 1st song that I learned to play note-by-note correctly. One of the guitarists picked the notes of the harmonica solo on guitar, called them to me and I played them. Then the other guitarist (our lead player) took over on bass (I was the bass player of the band) and we played a killer version of "I'm a Man" that was as close to the recording that any Buffalo NY band ever achieved! Then old nostalgia rock'n'roll hit the scene, we changed our name and image...but that's getting too far off the subject...
I eventually started to play melodic harmonica by playing such songs as Irish reels, etcetra. I also know how to read music, and started playing more pieces by reading.
I strongly advise any musician to learn to read music and practice. After putting in some serious effort, your ability to play by ear WILL improve.
I find that most material with numbers and arrows (tabs) are virtually worthless without the music or a recording to accompany it. I prefer music. If there is no tab, you can figure out the song and write in your own tab, by whichever tab sysytem you prefer.
As far as the controversy over which is best, printed music is best, because it gives you a far greater opportunity to have a vast repertoire. To those who insist that tab is the best, I say this:
Why don't you learn both? It works for me!

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