Q: How do you transpose on chromatic?
A: Jim C. asks about transposing songs on the chromatic.
Try starting out with simple tunes – real simple ditties, like
Mary Had A little Lamb and such. Then try transposing arpeggios
and scale fragments – individual ones, divorced from the context
of an exercise. This will help some.
The real nitty gritty is learning to understand (and apply to the
harmonica) the portable relationships inherent in most music. For
instance, when expressed in scale degrees, Mary Had a Little Lamb
3 – 2 – 1 -2 – 3 – 3 – 3, 2 – 2 – 2, 3 – 5 – 5, etc.
As long as you know what notes 1, 2, 3 and 5 are in any given
key, and know where those notes are on the harmonica, you can
transpose them. The more you work at this, the closer you can
get to transposing at sight.
Try working out 10 or 15 simple little ditties, starting in your
most comfortable key and working outward, either up the chromatic
scale, or around the cycle of fifths. Then find some more tunes,
longer or more melodically intricate or harmonically
sophisticated. If your music theory is a little foggy, brush up
on it – it’s a huge help.
Part of the problem with the harmonica is that you can’t SEE the
note layout. I have something called a tuning diagram for
chromatic that lays out all the notes on a tuning grid. This lets
you see the notes in relation to one another, and draw (either
literally or mentally) the pathway (sequence of actions) required
to play any particular melody. You can also use it as a
note finder by filling in the note names on a blank tuning
Anyone who wants a tuning diagram page to copy and use at will,
send me your mailing address and I’ll send you one — “LEARNING CHROMATIC”
18 Oct 94 WY
Scales is where it’s at…
a) Learn the C scale
b) Learn the C chromatic scale
c) Learn the major scales progressing through the circle of fifths.
(reason – you flat the 7th note as you progress, previously flatted
notes remain) – there’s a similar rule when you hit the sharp keys
I don’t remember. Cham-Ber Huang’s method pointed this out – I suppose
a good theory book would as well.
d) Do all this by READING notes.
e) A Pete Pedersen tip – Learn to play a real easy song, like Mary Had A
Little Lamb, in every key. Going up a half step each time through. Try
to find a simple song where the last note becomes the first note of the
next key you are going to play it in.
f) There is no shortcut – If you want to see some results a little sooner
you might try some songs in F which lays pretty nice on the chromatic.
A minor – the relative minor to C – is pretty easy, you may be playing
in A minor without realizing it. Try playing “When Johnny Comes
Marching Home” – it will come out in A minor even if you are playing by
ear – and the key signature won’t give you a clue if you’re reading it
from sheet music written in C.
g) If you already play another instrument, especially keyboard, you
jump on the rest of us. If you don’t, you might want to consider
learning some keyboard. Heck, there’s even music software out there –
and we’re computer geeks aren’t we? I’ve seen the Miracle Piano
for about $200 bucks recently.
h) Get hold of some good drills – I was just listening to a tape of our
‘Ask The Pros’ panel discussion from BHF ’94 and Don Les ;-( says
(something like) “If you learn the proper drills then it’s not so
difficult to learn a difficult new song because you’ve already been
there”. [Winslow – we must hypnotize you so you can recall the drills
Don mentioned in your conversation at SPAH].
i) I never did any of the above – So if you ever meet me you’ll
why I’m such a lousy player — “Re: Harp and the NOSE & Misc.” 21
Oct 94 JE