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Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:53 pm
by jamesfarrell
Sounds good, except for my playing. Hmm.... where to begin.

The thing that perplexes me most and I know a guy responded a little bit about this, is what key harp to use with what key song.

It's not a direct relation right? Meaning I don't use a G harp for a song in G right? I'm not sure what you guys are saying about position.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:01 pm
by jeffl
You CAN play certain blues tunes in the same key on the harp as the guitar is in (Jimmy Reed is a guy who played in 1st pos. alot) , but 98% of blues harp is played in "crossharp" or 2nd position, where you use a harp that is 4 concert steps above the key that the guitar/piano is in. For example, a tune in G is played with a C harp. A tune in C is played with an F harp. A tune in E is played with an A harp, etc. Playing crossharp basically means that instead of starting the scale by blowing on the hole that has the dominant note of the chord, you are sucking (or "drawing" ) on the 2nd hole of a 10 hole diatonic harp to start the dominant chord.
There are actually 12 different "positions" to play blues harp in, but if you learn 1st (straight harp), 2nd (crossharp), and 3rd (sometimes called the "jazz position", you'll have almost all of it covered-- for blues & blues/rock anyway.
I would learn to play in 2nd position first, then 1st and 3rd.

There are way better explanations than mine available online. If you want to find a learning tool you can relate to, just google on "harmonica positions" and/or "harmonica circle of fifths" to get a 2nd position chart. There is one cheap tutorial book on Amazon for $8., U.S.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:30 am
by jawbone60
one of the biggest helps to me some years ago was a circle of 5ths chart. it makes it very simple to find what harp for what key in what position. after a while you get to know what harp goes to what root key ie guitar key.

what i keep finding out about harmonica is- and this is so true- you can learn to play harp to some extent in a very short time, but to play well it's a lifetime commitment.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:35 pm
by jamesfarrell
The problem for me is that I use all nonstandard tunings as I mentioned. Open B, G , D, Open A but octave lower

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:08 pm
by jeffl
jawbone60 wrote:one of the biggest helps to me some years ago was a circle of 5ths chart. it makes it very simple to find what harp for what key in what position. after a while you get to know what harp goes to what root key ie guitar key.

what i keep finding out about harmonica is- and this is so true- you can learn to play harp to some extent in a very short time, but to play well it's a lifetime commitment.


Jawbone: I agree with your statement about what it takes to play harp well, but I've seen plenty of musicians with natural talent who just figure out some basic licks and are able to pull them off convincingly on stage-- enough to slide 'em right past the crowd without anybody knowing they're not a harp player. I'm talking about singers, guitar players, keyboarders, who occasionally jump on a harp and play a few fills during rock type tunes.
In other words, it's possible to be a passable part-time harper if you're talented enough.
For those of us who have adopted the role of full-time harper-- whether it's alone or racked with another instrument-- more is demanded.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:24 pm
by jeffl
jamesfarrell wrote:The problem for me is that I use all nonstandard tunings as I mentioned. Open B, G , D, Open A but octave lower

The issue remains the same: you just have to figure out what key you're playing in. Non-standard tunings won't make any difference. If you're playin' a tune in D while tuned to open D, your cross-harp key is still G. It's easy to figure if you know where the notes are on a piano keyboard. For example, your in B tuning, you're playing one note below C, so instead of using a F harp, like you would in C, you just drop down a note to an E harp.. and alotta guys don't have E harps. Once you start to fool around with, like jawbone sez, you do it more naturally.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:25 pm
by jeffl
jeffl wrote:
jamesfarrell wrote:The problem for me is that I use all nonstandard tunings as I mentioned. Open B, G , D, Open A but octave lower

The issue remains the same: you just have to figure out what key you're playing in. Non-standard tunings won't make any difference. If you're playin' a tune in D while tuned to open D, your cross-harp key is still G. It's easy to figure if you know where the notes are on a piano keyboard. For example, you,re in B tuning, you're playing one note below C, so instead of using a F harp, like you would in C, you just drop down a note to an E harp.. and alotta guys don't have E harps. Once you start to fool around with it, like jawbone sez, you do it more naturally.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:33 pm
by jamesfarrell
I experimented a little bit with a song that is in Open B last night, with a B harp and an E harp. To me the B harp sounded a little better.

Most of my open tuning songs are based in the I IV V configuration with a droning root note (B, D, G) such as in this song, which is in open B, has the B string droning except when going up to IV and V

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:23 pm
by jeffl
jamesfarrell wrote:I experimented a little bit with a song that is in Open B last night, with a B harp and an E harp. To me the B harp sounded a little better.

Most of my open tuning songs are based in the I IV V configuration with a droning root note (B, D, G) such as in this song, which is in open B, has the B string droning except when going up to IV and V

Yeah, that's the thing... you just gotta see which position is the best to play any tune in. That's why 3rd position (using a harp one full step down from the key) gets used so much... it gives you some notes that you don't get in cross harp as easily (thus the jazzy sound).
The tough part with playing in other positions is that the licks are on different holes than the ones you're accustomed to in straight- and cross-harp.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:45 pm
by bottleneck
james,do you live near philadelphia?? i have any number of bullets you could try.

www.shakeylee.com

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:20 pm
by jamesfarrell
Thanks man, I'm in Massachusetts.

So let me get this straight. Got in a little disagreement with my bass player.

So if a song is in E, harp would be 3 steps above that or is the E included.

Meaning

Key of E = A harp

or

Key of E = G harp

I found a site with some midi blues tracks and was going nuts on the harp. Having a blast. However I'm not use to breathing like that. Something in my sternum cracked, LOL.

My bass player said it was scary that I could play like that only having 1 hour on the harp. I mean it sounds alright, but I don't think I'm that good with only 1 hour of playing. LOL.

I'll post a clip and ask you guys if I have any potential.

Also are there any sites that have tracks that I can play with that tell you the key of the song?

Thanks

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:18 pm
by jeffl
I don't know what terminology the bassist was using, but I kinda get where he was coming from: to play crossharp for a tune in E, you use an A harp. It's four key designations up, but it's really 3 concert steps: E to F is one whole step. F to G is another whole step. and G to A is another whole step. That's 3 concert steps, but it's 4 designations.
It's just like counting numbers. Numbers 1 to 3 is 3 designations (1,2,3), but 1 is only 2 away from 3. For me, it's always been easier to just count up four whole keys. It is helpful to have an understanding of the relationship of halfsteps and whole steps in a major concert scale. The piano keyboard has 12 notes, but 8 of 'em are in a major concert scale, and if you look at a keyboard, say in the key of C, you'll see that the scale is laid out: whole step, whole step, half step. Whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. The reason you use a harp built in a different key is primarily to reach the "blues note" in the scale, which is a flatted 7th.
To play any instrument, it's helpful to have a knowledge of major and minor scales in different modes, and the sounds they produce. There are good explanations of these available all over the web.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:55 pm
by allanlummox
I keep a copy of this handy Image

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:05 pm
by jamesfarrell
That chart I don't understand. Is on the left the key of the song?

How I approach it is like this. If the root of a song is the E chord, then I use an E harp, or A harp (3rd position?) is that right or would it be a G harp.

Re: Who knows harmonicas?

PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:31 pm
by jeffl
The key of the song would be the "straight harp" column, or the 2nd from the left.