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Harmonica Question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bizzaro, Jan 24, 2002.

  1. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    I have to play some harp in my band and I just want to confirm my information on which key to use? A perfect fourth and a perfect fifth will work won't it? So if the song is in G, then I can play a C or D Diatonic Harmonica with the song. Correct? Any other pertinent info will be appreciated. The song I am playing is in G minor pentatonic I think. Is the formula the same? Can I use a C or D Diatonic harp?
  2. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    I know we have learned musicians out there:confused:
  3. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Wow!! I can't believe no one knows this!!!:(
  4. Patience, young padawan.

    Give the thread a little time. I personally don't know the answer to your question, but I'm sure someone here does. Most likely, the man who does know the answer simply hasn't seen the question yet.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    This may be zero help, but I spent a year in a blues band with a harmonica player. He had a variety of harmonicas in different keys. We changed the key of a song if his harmonica in the needed key was damaged or if he happened not to have a harmonica in the perferred key. Most of the time, however, we called the key and he chose a hamonica made in that key.

    Maybe you have noticed John Popper of Blues Traveler. He wears a vest with slots for many harmonicas. I assume each one is in a different key.

    Also when I saw the late, great Junior Wells play shortly before his death, he had several harmonicas with him. A lady in the audience asked him to please play a song on her harmonica. He asked her the key it was in. It was in C. If I recall correctly, he said he didn't like to play in C, but did anyway as a favor to her.

    I know from my harmonica player that it is hard to find harmonicas in some of the less commonly played keys and they can be quite expensive.

    I hope this has been of some help.
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Boplicity is right, for the most part. There are chromatic harmonicas that have a 2 octave range, but they are very expensive and require monster technique.
  7. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    I would bet he played in a different key than the band, and not the same key. That is the question, "which key is best to use". I am pretty sure that if it is in the same key it doesn't work well. I am not studied enough to explain this, I just know it doesn't work. And since I will be playing bass at the same time the chromatic harmonica is out as you have a lever that gives you the half steps I think. I need my hands on my bass. Thanks to all for your comments.
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Bizarro, I checked and found three excellent web sites that have detailed charts on harmonica positions and keys.

    They also have other goodies such as all- harmonica radio stations, harmonica songs in tab (!!!!), detailed lessons both for diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, organizations, history, and other links, plus stores that specialize in harmonica sales and equipment, such as the neck holder for musicians who play harp and another instrument at the same time.

    I hope these links work:




    I hope you will be able to find the answer to your questions somewhere in those links.

    Breaking news! I just found this site that has an active message board, most recent message Jan25, 2002. You can ask your question there and maybe an expert will be able to help you.

    Click on "message board".
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    Harp players talk about playing in "positions" and "cross harp". Let me explain this a bit.

    The standard Hohner Marine Band harp used for blues is tuned to a diatonic scale. So a C harp has only notes in the key of C: C D E F G A B.

    If you're playing blues and want to play in C, the 1 chord is C7: C E G Bb the 4 chord is F7: F A C Eb, the 5 chord is G7: G B D F Notice that a C harp lacks these notes: Bb, Eb.

    So what you do is play a harp of a different key that has the notes you want. An F harp will have the Bb, so many harp players will use a harp a fourth above the key of the song (F harp for C, C harp for G, etc.).
  10. It sounds like you know more about the harp than anyone else here, you might want to check out those sites bop put down;)
  11. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    I posted a thanks from work and it didn't get on the boards? Thanks for the posts. Bo you beat me to it, I was going to do a search for harmonica sites next. Thanks for doing my leg work. I will definatly check them out. Brian I Thought a perfect fourth would work for blues, But now I wonder if you want to play in a major scale do you use the same scale? I will post after I check those sites for info. Thanks again.
  12. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    O K as near as I can figure. You would use the same key harmonica for major key's but you can also use different keys. It depends on your skills. Some are much easier to use than others. It is common/prefered for country and blues to use the perfect fourth of the key the song is in because this will give you the ever important flated seventh. When you do this you have to play "cross harp". This is simply playing the harp in the 2nd position instead of the 1st. First being near the center of the harmonica, The 2nd being toward the low note end. Focusing playing in this 2nd position will put you in the key of the song. Ie: Playing a song in the key of G, you play a C harp in the 2nd position (2nd hole at the low end)and the notes in the 2nd position will be in G. These notes are also draw notes which allows you to bend them. The notes in the middle of the harp are in C. So generally speaking for melody playing you play in the same key. For blues and country you would use a harmonica a perfect fourth from the key of the song. G/C C/F E/A D/G etc.etc.
  13. JimM


    Jan 13, 2000
    Northern California
    go to the fourth above.ie:when my guitarist is in the key of A,I'm playing my D harp.