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Harmonica Tabs for Beginners | How They Work & Where to Find Them

What are harp tabs and how do you use them? Let's find out!

What are tabs?

Tablature - usually just called tabs or tab - is an easy way to play songs on harmonica without having to read classical sheet music. Tabs tell you the basics of which notes to play - the number of the hole and the direction of the airflow (blow or draw) - so you know which notes you'll need in order to play the melody.

How do you read harmonica tabs?

Harmonica tabs will tell you the hole number and whether you need to blow (exhale) or draw (inhale). There is no universal tab system but in the most popular tabs, positive numbers mean blow (exhale) and negative numbers mean draw (inhale).

For example, the harmonica tab for 'When The Saints Go Marching In' looks like this:

4 5 -5 6 4 5 -5 6 Oh when the saints, oh when the saints 4 5 -5 6 5 4 5 -4 Oh when the saints go marching in 5 5 -4 4 4 5 6 6 6 -5 Oh how I want to be in that number 5 -5 6 5 4 -4 4 When the saints go marching in

There are other symbols for techniques like bending, overblows, vibrato and glissando. Again, these symbols will vary depending on who has written the tabs. Here's my full tab system:

Harmonica tab system

Where can you find free harmonica tabs?

I have posted hundreds of free harmonica tabs on my website - visit the Free Tabs page to learn blues, rock, pop, country, folk and more!

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