[Harp-L] Playing in your head and reading music

Leonard Schwartzberg leonard1@xxxxx
Mon Dec 19 08:56:49 EST 2016

I too, try to practice and play "in my head" as I walk each evening,
exercising, here on Miami Beach.   Aongus, you've given me the push to do
so, so that I'd learn and memorize songs/choruses that I'm trying to put
into memory.   It's actually beginning to work, and my minute playing talent
has grown a bit.   Sometimes, I forget a chorus, lick, rif, what-have-you.
In that case, as I walk, since I don't carry the sheet music (I read, no
problem), I mentally go back to the last chorus I've played (in my head) and
try to remember where and what my tongue is doing, or will be doing, or has
done, and "whammmm"!!!  I'm playing the rest of the song.   I also hum,
whistle, or sing (particularly the throat tremolos) and then when I return
home, try to replicate my learnings from my beach walk.   As to making
mistakes when I play (in my head), and not being a "better" player, I
concentrate on taking the lick I'm playing, or want to play, reach into my
vocabulary of licks, and stick one (I IV V.... I play blues) into the bar
and do my best to improvise.    I need lots of help with everything, but
think I'm making a lot of progress.   Practice, practice, practice.
Thanks, Leonard

-----Original Message-----
From: Harp-L [mailto:harp-l-bounces at xxxxx] On Behalf Of Aongus Mac Cana
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2016 6:27 AM
To: Harp-L List
Subject: [Harp-L] Playing in your head and reading music

I don't know if there are any Neuro-Scientists on this  list, but I am
fascinated by how you can get skills like driving, playing golf, reading and
playing music into the "automatic pilot" section of your "chip" .

In my mid fifties I made one of my best ever investments in time. I learned
how to touch type with a cheap computer program. 

At an intermediate stage of my learning I could type memos to myself in my
head (even when driving the car - Dangerous!), visualising my fingers going
to the appropriate keys. What surprised me was that when I got better at it
I could not do this anymore. Now I only have the vaguest idea of where the
letters on the keyboard are. My fingers just seem to go there themselves.

When I retired I thought to myself: "Maybe I can do the same thing with
reading music". No such luck. I discovered that I am a pure ear player and
that I have no idea what note I am playing. I find harmonica tab useless and
ABC tab marginally better. I can read sheet music slowly like a Ladybird
Book. That is to  say I can figure out what notes the dots correspond to.
This is slightly useful in figuring out the bar I am having problems with.

I invested in a cheap electronic keyboard, because I heard that his was
where Howard Levy started and that he still visualises the keyboard even
when he is playing the harmonica. I never actually play the darned thing,
but I can visualise what key I should be hitting when I read the staff. When
bored while travelling along in the bus I sometimes play the scales in my

Do these geriatric ramblings ring a bell with any of you guys?


Aongus Mac Cana

This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.

More information about the Harp-L mailing list