Cross Harp Ear Training with Shania Twain

Originally posted April 2014

shania-300x227I received a request for the harp solo from Shania Twain’s 1995 song “No One Needs to Know” from a reader named Alexus. I don’t have time to do a transcription, but if you have the right harps in hand, it might be a good project for you, the reader, to get some practice figuring things out by ear.

Even if you’re not a modern country fan, the info below and the general approach will help you with any cross harp song.

First, you’ll need to listen to it, so – here's the song.

Harp Keys:

From 0:00-2:00ish, it’s a high F harmonica

From 2:00ish – end, it’s a high G harmonica


The position is “cross harp,” also known as second position, and the scale being used is the major pentatonic scale.

That means the home base is the low draw chord, and your strong melody notes are going to be -2, -3, -4 and 6. Note that on the low end, your chord tones are all draw notes, except for that 6 blow.

The licks you hear will frequently use a whole step bend on the 3 draw, followed by a slide over to 2 draw or 4 draw on the same breath.

Major Pentatonic Scale:

To warm up, practice the major pentatonic scale in cross harp. Here’s the tab:

Low octave:

-2 -3″ -3 -4 5 6

6 5 -4 -3 -3″ -2

High octave:

6 -6 -7 -8 8 9

9 8 -8 -7 -6 6

Some Extra Low Notes
(not a full scale, but still useful)

-2 2 -1 2 -2

The Process:

Pick up your high F harp for the first half of the song. Listen for long, sustained harmonica notes, and try to match those pitches. Then switch to the high G for the second half of the song after the key change.

For the longer runs that contain more notes, it’ll probably be bits of the major pentatonic scale, starting on one of your cross harp chord tones: -2,-3,-4, 6.

One more thought: this tune requires two slightly weird harp keys, an F and a high G, which makes me think I probably oughta do another exercise like this using a song that calls for more widely-owned keys, like C, A, D, or regular low G. I’ll put that idea in the hopper and get to it later.

Anyhow, have fun and happy experimenting!