Notation Guide

Tablature posted on this site or provided in private sessions are based on the format David Barrett uses on, with a couple of my own variations. Briefly summarised it goes like this.

  • A number with a + sign following means blow that number hole. For example 4+ means blow hole 4, 6+ means blow hole 6 and so on.
  • A number without a + sign means draw that hole.
  • For illustration, the tablature for the major scale in the middle octave looks like this: 4+ 4 5+ 5 6+ 6 7 7+
  • A ' indicates a note should be bent a half step. '' indicates a whole step bend, and ''' indicates a three semi-tone bend. For example:
    • 4' = a 4 draw half step bend.
    • 2'' = a 2 draw whole step bend
    • 3''' = a one and a half step draw bend on the three hole.
  • Two hole numbers together means you should play both at the same time. So 45 indicates four and five draw played simultaneously.
  • Two dashes -- indicate a slide from the first to second note. For example: 4'--2 means to quickly move from 4 draw bend to 2 draw, catching the 3 draw briefly on the way.
  • A caret ^ indicates a dip. That means you start the note in a bend then quickly release to the natural note. Some people call this a scoop or a slur. 4^ means play hole 4 draw with a dip.

There’s more to it but that’s enough to get going with the Music Theory for Harmonica Players series.