Re: beginner on blues harp

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Posted by Jeremy Steinberg on December 08, 2002 at 14:40:58:

In Reply to: beginner on blues harp posted by paul fagin on December 08, 2002 at 10:34:26:

: I have heard that you play a harmonica in the key higher or lower than the key the guitar is being played. I mostly play guitar in E. Do I get a harmonica in D or F
: Anyones help would greatly be appreciated.

: Thanks,
: Paul

Hello Paul -

There are several considerations. When you play a diatonic (8 notes per octave) harp, there are a number of positions you can play in, and that changes the key. Typically, harp players play in one of three positions; the most popular, cross-harp, is in 4th position (4 steps down from the key you're playing guitar in, so if you play guitar in 'G', the harp is in: G-A-Bb-C = C harp). This is because the draw notes in 2nd position (cross-harp) lend themselves to a very 'bluesy' tone when you bend them.

Some harp players play in 1st position (the same key as the guitar). And occasionally, harp players will go with 3rd position (3 steps down, so G guitar = G-A-Bb), where you still get the draw bends for the bluesy effect, but it's in a more minor scale effect. Now, there are really 9 other positions (12 different positions for the 12 different notes in a chromatic scale!), but not too many non-professional harp players will go past 3rd position. You get into overdraws, overblows, etc., and 2 and 3-step bends per reed, which are harder, and deeper than the standard one-step bends.

Hope that helps. Practice bends, and practice different positions! Above all, just try to harmonize with your guitar, and let your ears guide you. Regards, Jeremy, the harmonica video man!

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