Grant Dukeshire

Yesterday — an illiterate student.

Today — a published author.

Who I am is not likely of much interest. But perhaps "how and why" of BeatTab may be.

 From the back cover of a couple of his books:

Grant Dukeshire has been formally educated in mathematics, physics, engineering and business with degrees from Dalhousie and the University of Alberta. Besides working in the energy sector, his real  education came from raising a family, being a Scouting leader and simply hiking, skiing and cycling in the Canadian Rockies. He also plays some blues harp.

How, why and some history . . .

There are plenty of books out there that provide harmonica tab, so why bother to invent yet another method to play? Because

Somewhere around 2004 if I remember, I got sick and tired of trying to learn and relearn the rhythm of so many pieces. As soon as I would put a piece down, maybe a few weeks — and sometimes even a day — I would often forget how to accurately duplicate the rhythm. This was particularly so for complex blues pieces. I was annoyed that too often I had to put on a CD and hear the piece again to replicate the basic rhythm. The supplied music instruction books were just not good enough.

Sometimes Standard Music Notation was supplied on a separate line above the tab — but that was pretty well useless for me as I hardly knew how to read it. Maybe I should have learned the "dots and tails" then, but I was stubborn as it seemed too much like trouble. So I kept messing up and failing at the rhythms. And I knew that I was far, far from being alone. My understanding is — that 90% of harp players cannot read Standard Music Notation well enough to properly use it. So I started to make little notes inside the instruction books. Lots and lots of little notes . . .

Eventually, I started writing out my own system. At first, it was just to get the words sorted out for where each of the four beats in every bar landed, and so I just added dashes here and there. Eventually I came up with more and more structure and precision. Finally, I realized that I was essentially (unconsciously) using a default value of a 1/4 note and then extending each note or else bracketing them to condense notes enough to make them fit inside of that beat.

And there were many other fixes and adjustments including inventing more compact symbols for use with various chords, trills and all. For instance, I first used underlining for the draw notes but then noticed that it was much more efficient to underline only the blow notes since the blues were using draws 80% of the time. And there were plenty more tweaks. The evolution of BeatTab took many years to achieve proper functionality, especially  considering the more complex rhythms, and also for what to do when playing other chromatic instruments (which ended up with the invention of Alpha Beat Music Notation).

Eventually, I managed to put the full package together. It took a fair amount of time, but now when I hear a rhythm, I am able to quickly take out a pencil and paper and transcribe what I hear — and very accurately. And whenever I practice or teach complex pieces, it is dramatically easier. And best of all, since I am a writer as well, I can share it with you. So enjoy — I did the years of struggling. Now you can simply use it.

The BeatTab series of books was not written to make me rich. It was just that I eventually realized that the only way I could convince people that the notation worked, was to provide sufficient amounts of tab so that they could see the value for themselves. But certainly, most people will miss that point, and simply enjoy playing where before they could not. If that is the case, that should make me happy too. But It is sincerely hoped that the usage of the BeatTab Notation will spread — over and above just for the songs used in these books. It could open up a whole new era of learning for the harmonica.

Grant Dukeshire