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  • harmonica question

    if

  • #2
    Originally posted by keithwell
    if i want to start playing harmonica to accompany my acoustic which should i starts with?? as in the key of the harm..

    i've heard c is the "regular" key. but also a f and e. which do i need?



    get a Mel Bay primer and video on beginning harmonica... that will demystify the confusion you are experiencing about the different "keys" of harmonica playing.

    basically, you can use a harmonica to play in atleast two keys,, depending whether you play "straight harp" or "cross harp"...

    so what key harmonica you use depends on what key the song is in,, PLUS how you stylistically approach playing it....

    cross harp sounds more like blues,, straight harp sounds a bit more country or folky...

    PLUS,,, some manufacturers make harps in minor keys as well,, which changes everything,, plus,, ytou gotta choose whether you want to play a diatonic scale harp, or a chromatic scale harp,, OR,, maybe even a tremelo harp.......

    So you see, it's pretty simple, isn't it?

    Columbia SC, USA
    bluesman at large/musician for hire
    current passport-no travel restrictions

    Comment


    • #3
      I agree with getting some instructional video or book CD. Most method books, when accompanied with a CD, will do the examples on a c harp. For that reason alone you will want a C harp.

      If you get serious enough about playing harmonica you will end up owning one for every key.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by fingerpicker
        I agree with getting some instructional video or book CD. Most method books, when accompanied with a CD, will do the examples on a c harp. For that reason alone you will want a C harp.

        If you get serious enough about playing harmonica you will end up owning one for every key.


        and if you get really serious,, you'll have several in every key!!! AND a bunch of different brands/styles of harps
        Columbia SC, USA
        bluesman at large/musician for hire
        current passport-no travel restrictions

        Comment


        • #5
          Our keyboard/mandolin/harmonica player uses a harmonica that is (on a guitar) five frets higher than the key we are in.

          In other words, when WE are in G, his harp is in C. When WE are in A, his harp is D. He plays a blues style.

          Don't ask me why, but it works.
          I'm keeping in mind that that another term for scoring a lug song to sheet music is "staff infection".............
          the artist formerly known as DRF

          Comment


          • #6
            and if you get really serious,, you'll have several in every key!!! AND a bunch of different brands/styles of harps


            Right on Moos.!! Those little buggers add up, too!

            Ezstep- that method of playing is what is called "cross-harp." Great for blues/rock.

            Comment


            • #7
              In my basic rudimentary understanding the reason this Crossharp solution works is that basically you are using a harp 1/4 above the root. ie. if song is in C you are using an F harp.

              This has the effect of playing a C major scale with a flat 7th. (the b-flat from the F scale)

              The flat 7 sounds nice with the blues.
              Picker....
              The Duct Tape Motto- If ya can't get the job done right... just get it done.

              “As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it.” — Dick Cavett

              "Also, it is important to remember that basses have 4 strings. Not 5 (that would be a banjo), not 6 (that's a guitar), 4 strings... and the bigger and fatter you can get them, the better the tone you'll achieve. No, I'm not joking."
              - Fletcher

              "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side"... Hunter S. Thompson

              Comment


              • #8
                Major scale w/flatted 7th=Mixolydian mode. Very common rock/blues scale. Works well with major and minor pentatonic scales, too.
                Qualis vir, talis oratio?

                --Phil

                Comment


                • #9
                  see

                  FAQS: Harmonica Types

                  The answer is it depends on the key of the song and the style of play.

                  There are two basic types of harmonicas (aka harp) 1) chromatic - contains all 12 tones 2) diatonic - contains 8 tones particular to a given major scale.

                  It sounds like you are thinking more of diatonic. If the song is a blues or blues rock type of thing then you want to play cross harp. As others have noted this means a harp in a key other than the song. For the venerable 12 bar blues in E, one needs a harp in the key of A...the fourth above in the E major scale or if you prefer, 5 frets up. Why does this work? For those who like a little theory, you are playing in an E mixolydian mode by using an A major scale. In particular, it gives the previously noted flat seventh (D). Another way to think of it is getting most of the E minor blues/pentatonic scale notes. It's missing the flat 3rd and flat 5th (the blue note) but these can be hit by bending technique (somewhat difficult to do on a harp). Conceptually it's the same as bending a note on guitar except that the note is flattened instead of raised.
                  That bending is a very important part of the sound. Really skillful players can get any of the other missing notes by bending.

                  The concept applies in any key...blues in A requires a D harp (e.g. The Pretrenders "Middle of the Road")...blues in G requires a C harp. As noted, a blues harmonica/harp player will need a variety of harps to sit in on blues songs and be able to pick up the key quickly to choose the correct harp. The most common are:

                  key of song - key of harp
                  G - C
                  E - A
                  A - D
                  C - F
                  D - G
                  F - Bb

                  If you want to be able to play blues in any key, then you have to have 12 harps but the above are the most common.

                  For a major or "country" sound (think Neil Young), then the key of the harmonica should be the same as they key of the song.

                  For a straight minor (not bluesey) sound then you need a harmonic in the key of the relative major. For example, the Blue Rodeo song "Five Days in May" is in Em and calls for a G maj harp.

                  Alternatively, you can go with a chromatic harmonica which can cover all keys with one instrument (think Stevie Wonder). It is very hard to get a blues sound from one of these although I've read it can be done.

                  More on point for this board...the most common microphone is the Shure Green Bullet in combination with an old Fender amp to get that gritty and blues distorted sound. A friend of mine uses a Pignose guitar amp to get a nice honk. In a band situation this has to be mic'd for the PA.

                  Have fun, a little "Mississippi saxophone" can add some nice tonal variety to the usual instrumentation and is the poor man's horn section.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Until recently, our arsenal contained a trumpeter and a trombonist--used to do some Chicago and old R & B. Local harp player used to sit in on some of our in-town gigs--he'd play sax parts on harp.
                    Qualis vir, talis oratio?

                    --Phil

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      What brands of Harmonica [blues harp] are the best?
                      I play guitar.
                      I prefer a deeper sound from my harps.
                      I didn't know there were harps in minor keys.
                      I play a lot in the keys of E, A & G but my E & A harps are kind of shrill. I much prefer my C harp - which is lower in pitch. Can I get the others in lower pitches?
                      Thanks

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think his original question was which harmonicas should he buy. If he's going to be doing mainly blues, rock, and country, he's probably best getting an A, C, D, F, and G; that way he can play cross harp in E, G, A, C, and D respectively. Since these seem to be the most common keys for guitar players in the above-mentioned genres, those 5 harmonicas should cover about 95% of what's played (unless the guitar player does something exotic, like tune down half-a-step, then you're screwed).

                        Michael D.
                        Michael D. www.mdlmusic.webs.com "I'm tired of rock-and-rolling Let's get married, Honey, let's go bowling" --Martin Mull

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Robin Sengupta
                          What brands of Harmonica [blues harp] are the best?
                          I prefer harmonicas without wood, cause it will dry out and be hard to play. Lee Oskar is a nice brand.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by crowekd
                            see

                            FAQS: Harmonica Types

                            The answer is it depends on the key of the song and the style of play.

                            There are two basic types of harmonicas (aka harp) 1) chromatic - contains all 12 tones 2) diatonic - contains 8 tones particular to a given major scale.

                            It sounds like you are thinking more of diatonic. If the song is a blues or blues rock type of thing then you want to play cross harp. As others have noted this means a harp in a key other than the song. For the venerable 12 bar blues in E, one needs a harp in the key of A...the fourth above in the E major scale or if you prefer, 5 frets up. Why does this work? For those who like a little theory, you are playing in an E mixolydian mode by using an A major scale. In particular, it gives the previously noted flat seventh (D). Another way to think of it is getting most of the E minor blues/pentatonic scale notes. It's missing the flat 3rd and flat 5th (the blue note) but these can be hit by bending technique (somewhat difficult to do on a harp). Conceptually it's the same as bending a note on guitar except that the note is flattened instead of raised.
                            That bending is a very important part of the sound. Really skillful players can get any of the other missing notes by bending.

                            The concept applies in any key...blues in A requires a D harp (e.g. The Pretrenders "Middle of the Road")...blues in G requires a C harp. As noted, a blues harmonica/harp player will need a variety of harps to sit in on blues songs and be able to pick up the key quickly to choose the correct harp. The most common are:

                            key of song - key of harp
                            G - C
                            E - A
                            A - D
                            C - F
                            D - G
                            F - Bb

                            If you want to be able to play blues in any key, then you have to have 12 harps but the above are the most common.

                            For a major or "country" sound (think Neil Young), then the key of the harmonica should be the same as they key of the song.

                            For a straight minor (not bluesey) sound then you need a harmonic in the key of the relative major. For example, the Blue Rodeo song "Five Days in May" is in Em and calls for a G maj harp.

                            Alternatively, you can go with a chromatic harmonica which can cover all keys with one instrument (think Stevie Wonder). It is very hard to get a blues sound from one of these although I've read it can be done.

                            More on point for this board...the most common microphone is the Shure Green Bullet in combination with an old Fender amp to get that gritty and blues distorted sound. A friend of mine uses a Pignose guitar amp to get a nice honk. In a band situation this has to be mic'd for the PA.

                            Have fun, a little "Mississippi saxophone" can add some nice tonal variety to the usual instrumentation and is the poor man's horn section.


                            My suggestion for starting off, using a rack plus guitar, definitely get ONE diatonic harmonica. First learn to play 'straight' e.g. play G major on a G harp, C major on a C harp etc. Pick the key in which you can most easily play guitar and sing. All that other good stuff e.g. bending, cross harp etc. comes later (I am still trying to learn it). I think most chromatics have a button you need to press, which would not be easy to do if using both hands to play your guitar

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