How to Play Taps on Harmonica: An Easy and Accessible Way to Honor Veterans

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Are you interested in learning how to play taps on harmonica? If so, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’ll provide you with an easy step-by-step guide on how to play the traditional tune on a harmonica. With just a few simple instructions, you can master the art of playing taps on harmonica. So let’s get started!

What is Taps?

What Is Taps?

Taps is a traditional bugle call played at military funerals and memorial services. It is usually played by a single bugler, unaccompanied, or with a single drum. The melody is repeated twice, and ends with a single note. It is a solemn and mournful tune that is meant to signify the end of a soldier’s life.

Taps is also commonly performed on a harmonica. The harmonica version of Taps is very similar to the bugle version, but with a few minor changes in the melody. The harmonica version is typically played in the key of C, and the melody is repeated twice, with the final note slightly higher than the first two.

Instrument Melody
Bugle c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c
Harmonica c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c – c c c# – c c c – c c c# – c c c

Harmonica Basics

Harmonica Basics

Term Explanation
Harmonica A small, handheld wind instrument with a series of reeds that are activated by blowing and drawing air through it.
Reeds Metal strips of varying lengths and thicknesses that vibrate when air passes over them.
Holes Small openings in the harmonica that allow air to pass through and activate the reeds.
Blowing Forcing air out of the lungs and through the holes in the harmonica.
Drawing Sucking air back into the lungs through the holes in the harmonica.

The harmonica is composed of two sets of reeds, one set for blowing and one set for drawing. Each reed is tuned to a particular note and the notes are arranged in a chromatic scale. An octave consists of 12 notes and the harmonica is typically made up of two or three octaves. The holes in the harmonica are used to activate the reeds, so that when air is blown or drawn into the harmonica, the reeds vibrate and produce sound. To play the harmonica, one must learn to blow and draw air into the harmonica in order to get the desired notes.

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To play taps on the harmonica, you will need an appropriate key harmonica, such as a C harmonica. Make sure that the harmonica has been tuned properly, as this will affect the quality of the sound. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the basics of harmonica playing, such as techniques and terminology.



Using a C harmonica, the taps melody is played on the 3 draw and the 4 draw. Play the 3 draw with a short breath inward, then play the 4 draw with a short breath outward. Repeat this pattern to complete the melody. The timing should be consistent and even throughout, and the notes should be clear.

Using a Tremolo Harmonica

If you are using a tremolo harmonica, simply play the 3 draw and the 4 draw notes on the two reeds of the same hole. Both notes should be alternated with a consistent rhythm and breath.



Practice playing taps on the harmonica until the melody becomes familiar and the notes are clear and consistent. You can use a metronome or timer to help you keep the tempo. Once your playing is up to par, you can use the harmonica to play taps at a military funeral or remembrance ceremony.

Variations on Taps

Variations On Taps

Variation Harmonica Tab
Basic C Diatonic 4 4 6 -4 5 -4
Faster C Diatonic 4 4 6 -4 5 5 4
Slower C Diatonic 4 4 6 -4 5 -4 4 -3 -3
Faster w/ Vibrato C Diatonic 4 4 6 -4 5 5 4 4 -3 -3
Higher Key G Diatonic -4 -4 -2 4 3 4 -3 -4
Higher Key w/ Vibrato G Diatonic -4 -4 -2 4 3 4 -3 -4 -3 -3

Taps is a simple and classic tune that is often played on the harmonica. Here are some variations on the basic version of Taps that can be used to make the song more interesting. The variations are written in harmonica tablature and are meant to be played on a C Diatonic harmonica. The basic version of Taps is written in the table above. Variations include a faster version, a slower version, a faster version with vibrato, a higher key version and a higher key version with vibrato. Each variation can be practiced and mastered so that they can be easily used in live performances.

Harmonica Care

Harmonica Care
To ensure a long-lasting, high-performing harmonica, it is important to keep it well-maintained. Cleaning your harmonica regularly will help keep it in top condition. Start by blowing out any excess moisture that may have accumulated inside the instrument. Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe down the outside and remove any dirt or debris. If there is any build-up of plaque on the reeds, use a reed cleaner or a soft brush to remove it. You should also check the reed plates and screws for any signs of damage and replace them as needed. Additionally, make sure to store your harmonica in a cool, dry place to prevent any damage from moisture. By taking these simple steps, you can help ensure your harmonica will stay in the best condition possible.

Tips for Playing Taps on the Harmonica

Tips For Playing Taps On The Harmonica

1. Find a harmonica in the key of C. This is the key that is most commonly used for playing Taps.

2. Familiarize yourself with the basics of harmonica playing, such as holding the harmonica, breathing technique, and playing single notes.

3. Learn the melody of Taps. It is a four-part melody that begins with a long note, followed by three shorter notes. It is often written in the key of D-flat.

4. Practice playing the melody of Taps slowly and without accompaniment. Focus on getting the timing and tone of the melody correct.

5. When you have mastered the melody, practice playing it with the accompaniment of a metronome. This will help you keep a steady tempo.

6. Once you are comfortable playing the melody of Taps with a metronome, practice playing it with a backing track. This will help you to create a fuller sound.

7. Record yourself playing Taps on the harmonica. Listen back to the recording and make adjustments as necessary.

8. Finally, practice playing Taps with a band or group of musicians. This will help you develop the skills needed to perform with other musicians.


  • To play taps on a harmonica, use the 4 blow note, then the 4 draw note, and then the 4 blow note again.
  • Play the notes of the melody in the order that they appear.
  • You can use vibrato to add more expression to the piece.
  • Practice the song until it is comfortable and sounds good.

Learning to play taps on a harmonica requires practice and patience. Once the basics are mastered, you can experiment with different rhythms and add in vibrato to create a unique and interesting performance. With dedication and practice, you can soon play a beautiful rendition of taps on a harmonica.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Key Should I Play Taps In On The Harmonica?

Taps is typically played in the key of C on the harmonica. However, it can be played in any key depending on the range of notes available on the harmonica. The lower notes in the key of C should be used to give the song its solemn tone.

How do I know when to start and end each note when playing Taps?

When playing Taps on a harmonica, it is important to know when to start and end each note. The song begins with a two-note phrase, followed by a single note. This single note should be held until the end, when it should be paused before the two-note phrase is repeated. The song then concludes with another single note, which should be held until the very end.

What techniques should I use to play Taps on harmonica?

To play Taps on harmonica, you need to be familiar with the harmonica’s 12-hole diatonic scale. The notes in the scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. To play Taps, you need to start on the C note and then play two other notes in the scale. The second note should be a half step higher than the first note, and the third note should be two half steps higher than the first note. This will give you the three notes for the melody of Taps. You should also pay attention to the rhythm of the song when playing Taps on harmonica. This can be done by playing each note for the same amount of time.

How can I make sure I’m playing Taps accurately on the harmonica?

Practice regularly and listen to recordings of Taps to develop an accurate ear for the melody. Ensure you are familiar with the notes and phrases of the melody. Use a metronome to stay in time and practice playing with a steady tempo. When playing, focus on playing each note with clarity and accuracy. You can also record yourself playing and listen back to identify any issues. Finally, use the right harmonica key and play in second position.

Are there any special tips for playing Taps on the harmonica?

When playing Taps on the harmonica, it is important to practice the song ahead of time and master the necessary techniques. It is also important to use the right type of harmonica for the song, as Taps requires a special type of harmonica with specific tuning. Additionally, it is important to use the correct embouchure—the way the harmonica is held in the mouth—and to practice articulating the notes clearly. Finally, it is important to practice with the proper timing and speed.


In conclusion, playing taps on the harmonica is an easy task that requires a few simple steps. To begin, choose a harmonica with a key that matches the key of taps. Play the first note of the song for two beats, followed by three beats of the second note, and one beat of the third note. It may take some practice to get the rhythm and notes right, but it will be worth the effort.


About the author

Hey, my name is John Peters, and I’m a co-founder and Jack’s co-editors. My country sole was born when I was not more than 4 years old and my dad brought several country records home. These were the records by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep at The Wheel, and Neil Young. I fell in love with the genre forever back then. Before entering the university, I managed to gather a collection of over 1200 vinyl records with both classic and modern country releases.

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