How to Learn Harmonica Tabs

Things You'll Need

  • Harmonica
  • Harmonica tab

The harmonica is a wonderfully versatile instrument. Its sound can be heard in rock, country, bluegrass, blues and other genres of music. Add portability and low cost, and you have an ideal instrument. Now, with the availability of harmonica tabs on the Internet there are literally thousands of songs to learn, from many genres, at your fingertips. This article will teach you how to read and play harmonica tabs so that you can begin to quickly add songs to your repertoire.

Cracking the Harmonica Tab Code

Look at the top of the tablature for the song's key and make sure that your harmonica matches that key. If the tablature does not specify a key then pick your favorite or whichever one is closest.

Look at the numbers that are given above your song's lyrics. These numbers indicate the holes that you need to blow into in order to play the song. Their placement above the lyrics also serves as an indication of how long you hold the notes and when you change them.

Blow into the hole if the number is given alone or with a +. For example: 5 or +5.

Draw on the hole if the number is given with a - in front of it. For example: -5.

Bend the note if the number is given with a 'b'. For example: 5b.


  • Practice new songs slowly at first; especially when you are first learning to read harmonica tab. As you improve at reading and gain familiarity with the song you can begin to bring it up to speed.

    Remember that the harmonica tabs you find online are other players' interpretations of a song and they may not be entirely accurate. Use and trust your own ears and make adjustments to the tabs you find to suit your own tastes and ability level.


About the Author

Ryan Angus has been a college writing instructor since 2005. He has a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English literature from Marshall University with an emphasis on language studies (linguistics). Currently, Angus is pursuing a Ph.D. at Purdue University and his research will focus on improving the ways that writing and language are taught in schools.