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Top Six Harp Keys

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Ricardo
Jul 16, 2009 10:34 AM GMT

If you can only bring six harps, which harp keys would you bring to a Jam?


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Comments (18)

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Jul 16, 2009 11:20 AM GMT
John P Replied:

You need seven: A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F and G. With these, you will be covered for 95+% of the tunes that get called at a typical blues jam.


Jul 16, 2009 3:20 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

A D chromatic

in diatonics

C, A, G, G paddy Richter for Em.


Jul 16, 2009 8:22 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I also carry around Ab, Low Eb, and Low F, which works great when you're working with horns, even more so if you're playing as part of the horn section.


Jul 16, 2009 10:02 PM GMT
John P Replied:

I carry 13 harps in my performing set: 12 standard keys and High G. Unike BBQBob, i don't mess around with the low tunings. BUT, after the 7 harps I suggested in my first post, the next keys i would add are Ab and E.

If you have A, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, E, F, and G, you're covered for about 98-99% of the tunes that get called at most jams, unless it's a jazz band.


Jul 17, 2009 3:18 AM GMT
Ricardo Replied:

Interesting combinations...a few are over six though hehehe.

My top six would be in order of preference:

C, A, D, Bb, Low F, G


Jul 17, 2009 10:50 AM GMT
John P Replied:

I use Eb for Bb in second position and, more often, for G minor in fifth position. Keyboard players tend to play blues in Bb like guitar players tend to play in E. So, if the band leader plays keyboards, Bb tends to get called a lot.

I use Ab all the time for C minor in fifth position.


Jul 17, 2009 6:33 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

John P, I use the low tunings in those keys because the range meshes better with horns, plus you can attack more like a horn, wheras the standard tunings in those keys too often tends to be way too shrill against horn sections.


Jul 17, 2009 6:36 PM GMT
Kingley Replied:

For me it would be: A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F.


Jul 18, 2009 4:50 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Joe, If you can play second, you can play fifth. Just use 2 blow for root, don't bend anything but draw 3, and try to stay away from draw 5 and draw 9 except on the V chord. The breath pattern for the minor pentatonic scale in fifth is the same as the major pentatonic scale in second. Fifth is very useful for natural minors (minors that have a flat 6), since it's actually pretty hard to hit a really bad note playing natural minor in fifth position.

Btw, some blues bands play in Bb a majority of the time. I couldn't function without an Eb harp.


Jul 19, 2009 9:50 AM GMT
John P Replied:

In fifth position 3 draw is the five. So, you bend it a 1/2 step for flat five and a whole step for four (can't get four any other way in the low register). I am able to play all sorts of material in fifth that i was never able to handle on a diatonic before I learned fifth. And it's not difficult at all.

Btw, if you are interested, you can look under the topic "4th and 5th Positions" where i diagramed out the blues scale and minor pentatonic scale for fifth position. in fifth position, it's very easy to play in all 3 registers so you can use the entire harmonica.


Jul 19, 2009 9:52 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

BÞ on a C harp - 11th position - is a nice key to experiment with when you get your OB technique down. One thing that gets me down about playing with blues combos is that some band leaders want no more than the same licks in different keys over their standard 12-bars. Minor keys? No, harps don't do those, do they. I can play freely in six keys on a C harp, which is more than some guitarists lol.


Jul 21, 2009 1:24 PM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

I'm jazz player, and I carry about 40 harps to jam (all 12 keys + all low + extra harps for most keys + chroms). But usually play Bb, C, G, Ab, LowF, chrom.


Jul 26, 2009 2:31 AM GMT
Tony W Replied:

If you can play 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position, (that is all I can play) any of the mentioned combinations should work well. If not, change the key of the song so you can play.



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