Blues harmonica....What key should i get? What's the "Selmer" of harmonicas? [Archive] - Sax on the Web Forum

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newking70
05-27-2017, 07:00 AM
Anybody with some first hand knowledge & recommendations, i would appreciate it.

nachoman
05-27-2017, 09:20 AM
Anybody with some first hand knowledge & recommendations, i would appreciate it.

Hohner Marine Bands are pretty much an industry standard. Seydals- for new production harps- are very nice pieces of kit indeed

1saxman
05-27-2017, 10:47 AM
The key you get depends on the key you need to play in. Typically blues harpists play 'cross harp' which is how I learned many years ago. In 'cross harp' you use a harmonica pitched a 4th above the concert key. For example, to play in 'C', you would use an 'F' harp. Considering the state of your knowledge on harmonica, you should probably get a set of them with extensive instructions. Look at the 'Piedmont Blues' set by Hohner which is what I use - its inexpensive and covers all the bases and comes with good instructions. Being able to play harp well enough to do it in public is fairly easy if you have an ear and can play music in the first place. It can come in handy as you can play sometimes on numbers that don't have a sax or horns!

vbluesman
05-27-2017, 03:18 PM
Get a A, Bb,C,D, F and G harp. That will cover 90% of the keys guitar players like to play in.

littlewailer
05-27-2017, 03:26 PM
Get a A, Bb,C,D, F and G harp. That will cover 90% of the keys guitar players like to play in.

I thought E covered 90% of what Guitar players like to play in?

nachoman
05-27-2017, 03:41 PM
I thought E covered 90% of what Guitar players like to play in?

Good point but in blues terms, that's an A harp.... I play tenor and blues harps on a lot of gigs. Other band members trying to use my set list key scribbles get really confused :)

ratracer
05-27-2017, 03:44 PM
Hohner Marine Bands are pretty much an industry standard. Seydals- for new production harps- are very nice pieces of kit indeed

Yup! +1 for Hohner...


The key you get depends on the key you need to play in. Typically blues harpists play 'cross harp' which is how I learned many years ago. In 'cross harp' you use a harmonica pitched a 4th above the concert key. For example, to play in 'C', you would use an 'F' harp. Considering the state of your knowledge on harmonica, you should probably get a set of them with extensive instructions. Look at the 'Piedmont Blues' set by Hohner which is what I use - its inexpensive and covers all the bases and comes with good instructions. Being able to play harp well enough to do it in public is fairly easy if you have an ear and can play music in the first place. It can come in handy as you can play sometimes on numbers that don't have a sax or horns!

This! (the rest should be gospel as well! All of above quoted for emphasis!)

mi000ke
05-27-2017, 09:06 PM
Another vote for hohner marine band. And vbluesman nailed the core set of keys.

1saxman
05-31-2017, 05:54 PM
I thought E covered 90% of what Guitar players like to play in?

Funny. When I started playing out in 1961, the guitar players did do a lot of stuff in E, like Honky Tonk (really F) and Walkin' With Mr. Lee (really in Eb). Playing in E did do me a world of good though because I'm still playing Rock & Roll and the guitar players are still playing everything in E, A, D, G. Its really for the singers mainly but some because of the guitar players too. One sax giant who really amazed me doing a lot of stuff in guitar keys was King Curtis. Memphis Soul Stew for example has the spoken intro in E but modulates to A for the balance of the song.

hakukani
05-31-2017, 06:00 PM
IMO, if a tenor player isn't proficient playing blues in G, A, and E, the horn should stay in its case. :)

Now that I'm 'officially' retired, maybe I should get a set of harps...

littlewailer
05-31-2017, 06:00 PM
Funny. When I started playing out in 1961, the guitar players did do a lot of stuff in E, like Honky Tonk (really F) and Walkin' With Mr. Lee (really in Eb). Playing in E did do me a world of good though because I'm still playing Rock & Roll and the guitar players are still playing everything in E, A, D, G. Its really for the singers mainly but some because of the guitar players too. One sax giant who really amazed me doing a lot of stuff in guitar keys was King Curtis. Memphis Soul Stew for example has the spoken intro in E but modulates to A for the balance of the song.

For sure.

I've been playing R/B and blues and rock for a while and it always makes me laugh when guitar players say "Is this key ok for you?"

It makes me assume that they haven't been playing with the right folk......

As long as it's not F# major Concert then I'm fine.

Even when it is I try my best to just stick to the blues scale and some passing notes.

nvilletele
05-31-2017, 06:03 PM
I always liked the Hohner Blues Harp. But they're a lot more expensive than I remember when I bought a couple way back when.

I also have a Hohner chromatic that I had once given to my brother but have since regained possession as an inheritance. Someday maybe I'll learn how to play it halfway decently.

hakukani
05-31-2017, 06:04 PM
For sure.

I've been playing R/B and blues and rock for a while and it always makes me laugh when guitar players say "Is this key ok for you?"

It makes me assume that they haven't been playing with the right folk......

As long as it's not F# major Concert then I'm fine.

Even when it is I try my best to just stick to the blues scale and some passing notes.

When a guitar player asks me if I'm OK in a certain key, I tell them I can play just as badly in any key.

Sacks Of Phones
05-31-2017, 06:15 PM
Get all the keys, that way it's much easier to grab the wrong one when you need it most.

mi000ke
05-31-2017, 06:27 PM
Get all the keys, that way it's much easier to grab the wrong one when you need it most.

A blues/r&B band I was playing in a few years ago was a finalist in a local blues band competition. We were playing our opening number, and we come to the big harp solo and the harp player puts it into his mouth upside down. Pretty interesting start to his solo. At least I never did that with my sax.

littlewailer
05-31-2017, 06:27 PM
Get all the keys, that way it's much easier to grab the wrong one when you need it most.

Or just one Chromatic Harp!

Stretch
06-01-2017, 03:40 AM
Or just one Chromatic Harp!

....or a diatonic harp like the one Howard Levy uses in this video to play in all 12 keys:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koI7Z0h65oY

adamk
06-01-2017, 04:14 AM
When I was a student at The Grove School of Music Tommy Morgan came and gave a demo of some of his harmonicas including the bass which he played for Arnold the Pig on Green Acres.
He had three sets of blues harps which he meticulously tuned to 440, 441 & 442 for orchestra work around the world.

empressdiver
06-01-2017, 06:10 AM
Now, just think...if there were "tenor" saxophones in all the same keys as harmonicas.....this would really dumb down the fingering in playing the same song in several keys.....

And, I can see playing in a particular key to accommodate a singer's preference, or vocal range limitations, but, playing in awkward keys to accommodate a guitar player is not really fair.

KeithL
06-01-2017, 02:53 PM
I always liked the Hohner Blues Harp. But they're a lot more expensive than I remember when I bought a couple way back when.

I also have a Hohner chromatic that I had once given to my brother but have since regained possession as an inheritance. Someday maybe I'll learn how to play it halfway decently.

I know. I was in a store a few months back and I saw one on the rack. The sales-woman caught me turning the package over in all different directions and asked me what I was doing. I said "I'm looking for the rest of them?" She said "What do you mean, there's only that one." "Really, for $48 you used to get a whole set of these now you just get one?" She put the package back on the rack and gave me a dirty look. I felt bad as I didn't mean to insult her or the store I was just shocked that they were 4 or 5 times the price I remember paying for a harmonica.

mi000ke
06-01-2017, 08:52 PM
105217

KevinSax
06-01-2017, 09:27 PM
105217

That's the best ad I've ever seen!
+1 for Hohner Marine Band, or Hohner Special 20

And also, blues harp is played mostly by drawing air as opposed to blowing... aka "crossharp" so use a Bb harmonica to play F blues... up a perfect 5th

mi000ke
06-02-2017, 02:22 AM
That's the best ad I've ever seen!
+1 for Hohner Marine Band, or Hohner Special 20


Imagine how popular Jimmy would have been had he learned to play the saxophone.

toughtenor
06-02-2017, 11:48 AM
You're gonna need a harp for every key... And when a song is not typically a blues tune you're gonna have to switch real quick. Like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPzcZNgVfpA Or get a chromatic harmonica.. and yes, Hohner.

BH9
09-16-2017, 09:11 PM
I like marine band harps. They are much better quality now than they used to be.

A good chromatic is the relatively new design Hohner CX12. A chrom you can learn to play as a chromatic instrument, but meanwhile it sounds good played in D similar to a diatonic. Inhale results in a 6 chord with minor 3rd all over the harp. Or do the same thing with the slide pushed in and you're playing in Eb. Blues harp players call that playing in 3rd position, and that's how the great blues harp players used the chromatic mostly. Little Walter, of course but George Smith, and his students Wlliam Clark and Rod Piazza among others use the chrom to great effect in that style.

You can and should learn to play in 3rd position on diatonic harp too. Just think dorian, and you're there. So diatonics are commonly used in blues in 3 positions. 1st position, which is key of the harp (think Jimmy Reed). 2nd position, a 5th above key of the harp, and 3rd position, one whole tone up from the key of the harp.

BH9
09-18-2017, 05:12 PM
Dennis Grueing prefers Hohner's 270 Deluxe.

https://youtu.be/UTC2-X66Ge8