Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

The lowdown on the Mississippi Sax. Just for Google, this section is about harmonicas.

Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby bagpipe » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:25 pm

Hopefully this isn't a stupid question - if it is, feel free to mock me! :D

I'm a relative newbie on harp. I currently have 4 Hohner Special 20s in different keys - G, A, C, and D. I frequently jam with friends around a campfire at night, and I always have trouble locating the correct harp because the Special 20s only have the tiny embossed letter distinguishing the keys - almost impossible to see at night, especially when alchohol is involved!
I was thinking about buying one of those multi-harp carrying cases and making sure I keep them in the same order. Or I had also thought about trying to mark them somehow to make them easier to recognise. Any tips? Stop drinking so much ?
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby jeffl » Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:46 pm

There are several systems for handling this problem. The system I use is to paint the keys on top of the comb (I play primarily SP20s) with a mixture of white hobby paint and "night-glo" lacquer (I store my harps in the case standing up on their bottoms) . It picks up any faint light, including campfires. I buy the paint at craft stores. It's cheap and it'll dry up in the bottles before I use it all. I paint sharps as "plusses" and flats as "minuses"... they're easier to paint for a ham fisted putz. However, I've also trained myself to put the harps back in the case in the right order while under the influece of beer. BTW, I do recommend that you purchase some kind of case or holder that suits your practical needs. Harp management is a big part of playing them... watch a video of Rod Piazza playing and you'll see that he's constantly lining up the harps to jump into his next tune-- like an ant hauling food back and forth-- and setting them on his wife's piano or one of his amps ( of couse, he'll frequently use more than one harp on a single tune.)
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby wolfkristiansen » Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:56 pm

Hi bagpipe, I'm not the first to have thought of this, but here's what I use: red nail polish. I paint the key in a big letter on the top cover plate of the harp. It's on the right hand side; i.e. by holes 7 to 10. When you pick up your harp, you make sure the nail-polish letter is top side and right side-- that ensures you don't put it to your mouth upside down and get a high pitched squeak when you really meant to play a ballsy low note. (I know, "ballsy"; I'm dating myself).

If your campfire circle is so dark you can't even see those letters, you'll have to use your ears to find the right key. It's doable with practice. You might have to go through a few harps to find it, but hey, it's a campfire jam, right? Good luck.

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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby NEONMOONY » Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:24 am

I use white mailing labels. I set up the key letters on the computer (although you could hand write them)in a very large font, print them out and then cut them up . I get two to three keys per label . For example, I can get A C D on one label but a minor takes more space than a major, (depending on the size font you use, but I use one that takes the full "height" of the label) so I might get, say, Am E. Then I cut them with a scissor and stick them on the harps, always in the same location, that way I not only can see the key in low light but I know without blowing which way to hold the harp. It has worked well for me in dimly lit bars.
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby jbone1 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:03 am

like jeff, i have my harps in a particular order, which makes sense to me at least! i recently tried putting a new Bb manji in the mix, in the top section instead of the bottom where i keep all my flats, and forgot it was there, called a song off in E, and had a train wreck at the start of a song! the Bb is now where it belongs.
since i play out a lot i keep 2 harps of my "high mortality" keys. my top shelf harps in order are- 2 A, 2 C, 2 D, a low F and regular tuned F, and 2 G. bottom shelf is 2 Bb, an Ab, a Db, and an Eb. which in a way doesn't make a lot of sense since i use Bb and Eb a lot and have to move the top shelf to get to the flats, but it works for me just the same.
there have been countless times where i either didn't hear the key, or it wasn't told to me, or whoever called it off was mistaken. i have learned over time to quietly find the right harp key to go along.
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby TNFrank » Wed Nov 03, 2010 9:46 pm

TurboHarp makes some glow in the dark lables for Harmonicas that would be real handy. Check out their web site for more info.
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby bottleneck » Wed Nov 03, 2010 10:24 pm

for years i used a different harp for most keys.eg,MB for A,sp 20 for G,bushman for C etc.that was a fast way to tell harps apart.

now i've taken to putting highly visiable dots on GCA&D.one dot for g,two for C etc.those are suzuki manji's.then if i add keys i know the Bb or F,or whatever is the bushman or whatever.haha

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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby jeffl » Wed Nov 03, 2010 11:18 pm

I forgot to mention that in addition to marking my harps with nite-glo paint, I'm using a gooseneck battery powered led light over my case. That helps alot. The battery's lasted well over a year of playin' practically every week, but I shut it off when I'm playin' keyboards. I use reading glasses, so I may have to resort to more visibility aids than the younger guys with better eyes. Putting them back in the right order helps the most, 'cuz even if they're marked well you don't wanna be wastin' time diggin' around for 'em.
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby Cincinnati Slim » Wed Nov 10, 2010 6:13 am

I used to peel the little sticker that indicates the key off the box and put it on the top right side of the harp. In the half-light of bars I could usually read the key, and also know the harp was rightside up.
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Re: Finding the correct harp in the dark ?

Postby allanlummox » Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:38 pm

Doc Watson used to file notches on the edge of his harps so he could tell what "flavor" they were.
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