We have a friend that plays the harmonica while strolling thru the park with his wife he plays the
270 in different keys
he has this large
that came from germany and he was wanting to know where he could learn to play this maybe even find someone that
did know how just to be able to listen to it
, like a string bass, can provide that deep low octave note you hear starting each measure of music. In 4/4 time, it would be on beats
1 and 3, with a higher 5th note or chord on beats 2 and 4. That "um-pah, um-pah" pattern is a big basic addition to any band playing contemporary dance
or show music. There is a book called "Learning To Play The
". I do not see it on the Stagepass.com website, so perhaps you can Google it to find the publisher.
I do not know where you live to suggest a professional harmonica player, but you might ask the local High School music teacher or a local wedding band.
Jerry please help me ! I am an experenced Harmonica player. Ive been in a couple of Good bands and get to sit in with some other bands.
Recently I have been running into Guitar Players that are tuned a half step down and I have trouble picking the right Harp. I know that I am just
playing cross harp, but things happen so fast on stage going from song to song that there is no time for the bands to wait on me to find the right harp.
Ive been all over the Inner Net looking for a step down chart and can't find one ! I'm not the sharpest guy and theroy drives me crazy, But I can play.
Would you have a chart for all the keys so that I Play Half Step Down with these good Players, so that I could grab the right Harp in a hurry ?
It sounds like all you need is a chart of the notes in the chromatic scale:
C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, B, C
If the song goes down a half step, say from A, then it becomes Ab. Your harp will simply go down a half step, say from D to Db.
I'm playing a song with the capo on the 1st fret. I play the song in D. What key would the harmonica need to be in, in order to
Thanks for writing.
Although I am not a guitar player, it sounds like you are raising the pitch a half tone. Therefore the key of D will sound like D# or Eb. While you could use a harp in Eb, or cross harps in perhaps Ab or Bb, I usually suggest seeing what notes you will need for your song and / or solos and then pick the right one.
Of course, a chromatic harmonica will have every note but Diatonic harps do not. That is the idea behind using cross key harps. Pro players have them in all keys and sometimes switch in the middle of a song for their solos. So, a little planning first and then I hope this will work better for you.
Please let me know,
I'm just begining to learn harmonica and im strugling to bend notes any advice would be welcome.
Bending is easier when starting with the draw notes. As you draw, try to angle down the harmonica against your lips. You should also have the
single notes isolated. Try using my "Straw Method", as described in other questions here.
It doesn't sound like you are using a method that includes bending techniques. I suggest that you get a good method and stick with it. I suggest
learning how to learn using real music notes too. You will understand everything much better and you will learn like all instrumentalists do, from
real notes. It should be well organized to take you beyond where you seem to at right now. Have fun !!
Jerry, in the song Long train Running by the Doobie Bros., the key of the song is G but what key harmonica should I use to play this? G or C?
Also, why is that you usually use a harmonica a fourth up from the key,ie D harp for a song in A?
The reason cross harps are used is because they have notes available that are not in the original key's
. This lets you play more jazzy
and adds additional scale notes. It helps tp know what notes you will want for the melody and solos, and that will determine the choice of harp key.
Most of the time, the standard cross harp keys work. See the chart I printed for another question of mine.
This is why I so encourage beginning harmonica players to learn using real notes and using a school type teaching method that does this. Everything
becomes so much clearer after that.
Jerry, I just learned a TOM PETTY song called "Last dance with Mary jane" in Am. Am I correct in assuming since the relative major key is C,
I should use an F harp? reply thanks
If you are talking about cross harps, then you can use the F, if it has the notes you will want. If you are talking about the relative minor key,
then the relative minor key to C Major is A minor. Write back if you are still not certain.
Jerry, Thanks for the site. I like Tony Joe White's music. He doesn't use complex chords on guitar either. What key harmonica would he play? Sounds
similar to Bob Dylan to me. I thought I might get a harmonica and have a go
Many harp players use different keys for different songs, so the answer would not be so easy.
My advice to you would be to get a
, like a Bluesband or
in the key of C. Get an instruction book that uses real
music notes as the method, not arrows or some other non-musical method. Stagepass.com has methods like that.
Take your time to learn how to play and you will enjoy the adventure for a long time into the future.
I've already learned the blues and how to do draw bends. If im playing a blues song in G, I know that the 1-6 holes r best to play with but they
tend to sound very repetitive. Can the 7-10 holes be played to sound bluesy? If so can i have some simple riffs/licks.
Thanks for writing. It sounds like you are progressing well. It is always difficult to give players examples of riffs to play, as it should really come
from your own creativity level as well as practice and listening to other players.
I have been playing guitar and harmonica for a few years and have only known the proper harp for the song b/c of finding out. I wanted to know if you
could tell me how to determine the right harp for songs w/ and w/o capos. Also, what would be the difference in blues harps and a harp such as a
special 20 (which is what i use). Thanks and love the site.-Zach
Hi Zach, Thanks for writing. Blues Harps and the Special 20 are diatonic
and the notes are the same, as long as the harp key is the same.
The key is stamped somewhere on the front outside plate. Potentially, every song could call for a different key harmonica, depending upon the notes
in that song. Therefore it is not possible to know which harp will work best for you. You must analyze your songs to see what notes you will need for both
the melody as well as solos you are able to play.
I have both a Hohner Golden Melody and a Special 20 in the key of C. I really like the Special 20. However, when I reach hole 8 on the Special 20 it
seems to be tuned differently than the Golden Melody. Is there a chart which illustrates what the blow and draw notes are on the Special 20?
Unless I misunderstood your question, both
you describe are 10 hole diatonics in the key of C.
They are both tuned the same, so you got either a candidate for warrenty exchange or a collectors piece.
I would have the dealer change it if you are unhappy with the sound. The Special 20 is a great harp.... one of my favorites.
Hi Jerry, I'm just lirening how to play harmonica I have a book with a dvd teaching how to play My question is how do I change chords and how do I know
when to change the chords
in the book it has a no cirle around notes 123 indicating I'm to blow the notes. and cirle indicating I'm to draw the notes 123
here is how they've set it out
blow, draw, blow, blow, draw, blow thats the start of the song "Frere Jacques"
I'm stick on the "blow,Blow" part
hope you can help me thanks jakki
Hi Jak, I do not know the method you are using, but if you start on hole 4, "Frere Jacques" is, BDBB, BDBB BDB, BDB, BDBDBB, BDBDBB, BBB, BBB
I will let you figure out the corresponding holes to the above, and that should work for you. Start on hole #4.
In my band we have just a couple of songs where we use the harmonica. We use a G Harmonica and we're playing in the key of G on the guitars. We
recently tuned our guitars down 1/2 step just to make singing more comfortable at our age so I thought we should look for a corresponding harmonica as
well. I ordered in an F# harp only to discover that the whole thing is a full octave above the G that we were using. The sound is not all what we
want so...where to go from here. Should I look for another F# harp in a lower octave (does that exist)or try to re-learn the songs using cross harp,
Thanks for writing. The simplest solution would be to go to a cross harp. That would also open up more blues type playing possibilities too.
There are numerous charts on the web and in previous questions here to guide you in your selection.
A chromatic harp would be another solution, although a more complicated one.
Please feel free to write back with more questions.
An elderly gentleman in my church, who plays different
all in different keys,has ask me to look for him a harmonica that has all the
keys. He said, it would be a big harmonica. I've been searching the web and I have found some that have two keys and one that was called a sextet
(one that contains six tremolo
). I am not having any luck. Do you know of such a thing? Thanks
I thought I had seen a promotional harmonica that was actually 10 different
pieced together into one big unit. I do not recall where I saw
it, but it did seem like it would be a little heavy and somewhat cumbersome. You would also have to remember where each key was as you would constantly
be turning it around for each harmonica.
Of course, a
would be usable in all keys, but I am certain your friend knows that
I know that to properly play blues harmonica, "cross harp" technique must be employed-- playing a fourth up from the key you are in. I would like to
play a MINOR blues though, what harmonica should I use? If the song is in E minor-- should I find an A minor harp (or it's relative major, the C harp)?
Or do I treat it like an E blues and get an A harp? I can find plenty of cross-harp charts and advice while googling-- but the minor tonality is
totally ignored! Any advice?
I have not come across a question quite like yours. I would suggest looking at the notes available on each possible choice of harp and then pick the one
that gives you the most notes you want. It would also depend upon your level of playing and ability to improvise. If you can read music, that will help
in your choice.
I have just started playing the harmonica. So far I can only play single notes cleanly and easily by curling my tongue into a U. Is this an
acceptable method, or will it inhibit the quality of sound? Should I persist with trying to learn the straw method you recommend, or will my current
method be ok?
I have had many students that tried to use the method you are describing. The problems include that your tongue will start to feel like it is
getting a blister if you are rubbing against all the holes and blocking out surrounding notes, as you are trying to do.
Stick with my straw method. You will block out the surrounding notes, and it will feel more natural as you get the hang of it. If you lightly wet your lips
before you start, you will see how smoothly everything works.
A little practice and you will find it much easier and also a lot less messy.
Jerry my father gave me this harmonica and looking at it these past months has sparked my interest and i really want to learn how to
play. One problem I have no idea what kind of harmonica it is. It has 48 paired holes to blow into and it is a yamaha that says virtuoso.
Could you explain this to me. I figuired just by reading the other questions this iss probably not a good starting harmonica.
Thanks for writing. There have been many different types of
produced over the years. The double holes usually produced a tremelo
effect as both rows were the same notes. This harmonica does not lend towards note bending either.
are generally not used for beginners and you would be better off learning first on a 10 hole
, in the key
of C. Once you have a better idea of the instrument, you will be able to see what you can do on your Yamaha.
Hey Jerry. I am in Iraq. When I get some down time I would like to spend it doing something worth while. I ran into a guy who plays the harmonica
but hasnt for a year or two. He said he would help me out and it would get him back into playing also. But he really cant tell me where to start
in purchasing a good harmonica. I looking to spend no more than a hundred bucks for now. I know some beginner kits include books and a cheap harmonica
but iam willing to stick this thing out. I mean I have nothing but time!!! PLEASE help me!
I appreciate your help.
I would like to see you get a method that will teach you how to read real music notes. That will mean you will not be learning a dead end method.
Although I do not use this forum to promote my book
The Perfect Harmonica Method, I am making this exception because Iraq is a place that needs more music and I would like you to
My book is the only one I know of,
that will teach you how to play real music notes, and then use these same note to play dozens of songs, just for
starters. With this knowledge of playing notes, you will also be able to play songs with your friends if they play musical instruments. They will also
be able to read your song notes to play along with you. Music notes are the same all over the world, and that is why you should learn to play this way.
My book also has chords for guitar and keyboard players and if you have access to a CD player and speakers, you can use the CD to give you a drum backup,
as well as a harmonica backup. The whole idea is actually awesome !!! Before long, you will be able to put on little shows for everyone and get paid
extra money to either play more.... or to stop :>)
By the way if you do decide to purchase a book or dvd, make sure you use your APO military address. It's a lot cheaper and Stagepass does
not service Iraq at this time.
Do not start with a
... too complicated for a beginner, and many players never even use them.
The harmonica I suggest a
model, in the key of C, for about $5.00 The Bluesband is made of metal and plastic. The advantage is
that the plastic will not warp in the humid hot climates. You do not need anything more expensive until you have learned enough to have some preferences.
You may wish to purchase an extra harmonica as a spare. Get a couple of plastic travel soap dishes to keep the
better protected than the
cardboard boxes they come with. Do not to get food or sand particles in the harmonica. That is a sure reason to have a spare :)
If you must spend more money on your first harmonica, I suggest the
in the key of C. It is about $30.00, and is also metal and plastic.
It comes with a strong plastic case, BUT, the Special 20 is really not necessary for your first harmonica.
Others models, like the Hohner Marine Band model, are made of wood will warp.
Please write back with any additional questions that come up, or with information you wish to share about yourself and your progress.
Thank you again, best wishes and God Bless you and your heroic work.
Hello Jerry, I have been playing the harmonica since I was a child, and I am now 40. My Dad and my Grandfather taught me. I have always
played traditional songs in a straight harp fashion. I am now trying to teach myself cross harp/ blues harp, and am enjoying it very much.
However, I was wondering if this would become easier for me if I were to learn to read music. What would you suggest as the best way for
an older person, like myself, to learn to read music? And do you have any advice on the best way for me to advance with the blues
I appreciate your help.
Thanks for writing Mike.
The harmonica has been played so beautifully by artists that have never read a note of music.
Therefore I would have to say you could learn cross harping without reading music.
Knowing how to read notes would give you a faster track to understanding what you are doing instead of just playing what sounds
good. Reading would also enable you to select your cross harps based upon the notes you wish to be able to play in different songs.
There are numerous books on the Stagepass website that talk about cross harping techniques. I am certain one of them could help. Give
one a try. If you want to learn how to read music, first get a book that teaches harmonica using notes. Simply because you will know many
of the notes already, you will be able to easily match up the notes you know with the notation on paper.
Blues and jazz are art forms you read about but also "feel" from inside. Get a blues instruction book, listen to the great blues
artists and playback their solos to get a feel for what they are doing. Try to improvise and copy others to develop your own sense of
If there is, what is the difference between a blues and a
A blues harmonica is usually a
. The skill of note bending, as well as using cross harping techniques ( this is answered elsewhere
on this page) in combination with listening to the blues experts and their styles, is enough of an assignment for now.
Thanks for the good question.
Hi, I transposed "the Ghost of Tom Joad" from Bm to Am and now I´m wondering which harmonica I should use instead of D
? (or is D still OK ?)
I am glad you are using real music notation. I hope other readers of this FAQ will see how much reading real music can do for you.
I am not certain if you will do any improvisation in your new rendition so it may not be a direct switch to another key. Otherwise,
If the D had all your previous notes and you transposed down a whole tone, then a C should work now.
Please look at a note chart for the new key first and see if will work before you buy.
Hi Jerry: I just discovered this site--too good to be true! My husband is 83 and loves music, but has never played an instrument.
He is not in the best of health, and I would love to have him have a new interest. He mentioned that he would like to learn to play the harmonica.
What is the best harmonica for a beginner? And what kind of instruction book should he have that will give him a more immediate satisfaction in
learning than the scholarly type of instruction book? Thank you? Marion
Hi Marion ! Thanks for writing. I would suggest the Hohner
harmonica, or any Hohner model in the key of C. Your store dealer will
know what that means. They are approx. $6 or $7. There are many book with their own quick play methods on the Stagepass website. I think any
one would probably be OK for some quickly learned home concerts. Just look for a simple sounding method and a contents of songs, so you know what
songs will be available to play. If you choose one that comes with a harrmonica, just be certain it is a known brand, like Hohner, and in the key of
C. Most of the supplied
are in the key of C, and that is what you should select, where there is a choice.
Please write back and tell me of your progress. I think I can already hear the applause both your husband, and you, will be getting for this
wonderful musical adventure.
I've been playing the guitar for about 10 years-self taught so technically have the skill of a five
year player w/lessons-and was inspired by listenning to so much dylan to learn to play the harmonica and
was wondering if you had any tips or tricks on how to learn to play a fill with the harmonica while
strumming chords on guitar such as the fill in dylans's blowing in the wind. I can play both parts
by themselves, but when I put the stand on and try to do both it's like trying to hit a ping pong ball
against the wall and bounce a basketball at the same time or harder. I learnned everything else i know
from repitition and am wondering if it's just a matter of practicing both by themselves till they
become reflex or is there a special method of practicing.
Sorry for the essay, but I wanted to kind of paint a situation.Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Oh yeah, money's tight so any book references will be considered but not likely purchased in the near
You already knew the answer!! You
have to just keep practicing, over and over until you get it.
I might suggest playing one or two very simple chords with a fill separately, and then doing just that
together, kind of like baby step coordination. This is like combining the right and left hand on a piano or
especially the piano-accordion, with different shaped notes and techniques for each hand. It just takes
steady, progressive practice.
I play guitar with a harmonica often and i was wondering how does the key of a harmonica change when the key of a guitar is changed with a capo?
A harmonica is tuned to one specific key and in order to change that
key, you must purchase a new harmonica in the key of your choice.
Other than a
, your available notes will always be
relative to the key of the
you are using. The
slide operation on a chromatic prevents you from using it while
playing guitar. You will have no more hands available to operate the
The interesting thing is that, similar to a capo, your note positions
remain the same, except that the instrument tuning has changed.
Try it out with some simple tunes first. Let me know how you do.
Jerry, Is there any reason why I have no problem bending notes on D or C harps,but difficulty with my A or G harps?
Every key harp will have different physical characteristics, such as shorter sized reeds, depending upon the key. You will find the challenges,
therefore, different in the various keys.
Even within one key, certain holes will lend better toward note bending. Since there are different bending techniques, trying various methods may
lend better results for you. You might try to vary the angle and lip pressure you are using as that will always have a direct effect upon the results.
I have inherated 2 very dirty
. 1 is a SUPER CHROMONICA with shift & the other MARINE BAND BY M.Horner. They are filthy and sticking... help?
My condolences on your loss. You do not say whether you already know how to play.
If you want to use the
, then you will need to thoroughly clean and unstick everything. This will probably involve taking apart
for a look inside to see why notes are sticking. You might wind up accidentally bending some reeds or mistakingly soaking the wood
on the inside.
It may be less costly, and more effective, to simply clean up the exterior and save them for the memories they represent. Then go out and
purchase a new
, with a good instruction method, and continue the legacy already started.
Jerry, what, in your opinion, is the simplest and most effective way to learn to bend notes?
There are numerous techniques. For the beginning
student, you will find the draw notes easier to bend. A combination of
slightly lowering the harmonica while drawing a note will produce a
simple little note bend.
Use that as a start and you will see the differences that occur with
different lip shapes as well as varied breath control, combined with
There are many books that address that issue, and I put a small
section in mine as most students do get interested as they get more
comfortable playing their new instrument.
I have been playing professionly in a blues band for about 4 years
now. Always wanting to improve, I like trying different styles. One
that continues to elude me is the sound that players like Shorty
Medlock (Train,Train for example) get where the notes seem to almost
blur they are so fast. Is there a trick to this sound or are they
really just that fast?
Thanks for writing. Every master player has their own tricks they will
not divulge. I can, though, suggest a kind of panting, breath
technique to you. Slowly at first, like a dog's panting, with
increased practice on repeated drawing and blowing. I'll bet you will
soon be improvising with a lot of newly found breath control.
Please let me know if this helps.
I have been playing blues harp about 8 yrs, can you please advise me of any instruction methods that teach the styles of JJ Milteau or Paul Delay,
I have most of the advanced techniques under my belt but a lot of their playing is too fast or complex to figure out, any advise would be greatly appreciated.
I would suggest a couple fo things for you.
If you have access to a MiniDisc recorder with speed control, or even an ancient cassette recorder with speed control, you might want to record
your favorite passages and then play them back slowly to see just what is happening in them.
Question: I am working on a acoustic solo project and my style is a bit expiramental-emotional i
wouldnt realy say blues though, more of minor quality stuff. but my
question is i thought that it would be good to pick up the harmonica
considering its one of the few instruments you can play nsync with a
guitar but i am not sure what tuning would be best or if a chromatic or minor or
distilic or what what ever might suit me. i was just woundering what might
blend with a normal tuned guitar? or if i should get like 3 difarent
tunings. thank you for your help, i am shopping with about 30 bucks.
Any information you can give me on this, I would appreciate it.
Answer: There are a number of pro harp players using
harmonica with other instruments. This is usually done using a holder
attached around the neck. It's actually pretty comfortable and these
holders are sold at most music stores. Naturally, if you are playing
guitar at the same time. you will have both hands busy, so a
is not possible. Diatonic
are tuned similarly, depending on
which key you select for the harmonica. A ten hole diatonic will give you
lots of room to create your solos along with the guitar backup. Which you
select will depend more upon the key of your song rather than the tuning
of the guitar. Cross harping, or selecting a
in a key
other than the one you are playing the song in, will give you additional notes (
and also take away some others) that may be helpful, especially for some
jazz and blues solos. Your selection should depend upon your knowledge of
music, ability to "get fancy" with your solos, and your budget (how many
you are willing to purchase).
If you want to start slowly and build on this, start with one harmonica,
and select it based upon a few song you play in the same keys. A chart
found in many instruction books will show you the available notes. If you
need minor tones, then perhaps an Eb
for a song in C
will start you off with the necessary accidental tones required for that C
minor key. Transpose this for other keys, ex., Bb for a song in G. There
are other cross harp possibilities as you get into this.
As you can see, this is not an easy question, as I would want you to
experiment a little and as you find your way, with these tips, you will
also become a better harmonica musician.
Question: I inherrited 4
from my grandfather when he passed away a few years ago.
I would love to play them. But at the moment they are just lying there because i keep thinking how dirty it must be after all his years and
years of playing with his smokey breath.
How can i give them a thourough clean so i can follow in grandpa's footsteps with a peaceful heart?
Answer: I have advised students to avoid using a harmonica that would require significant cleaning. This is usually an older
sibling's harmonica or a used one found at a yard sale. With prices starting at $6 - $7, a new harmonica is suggested.
For you, with a family sentiment attached, you must first ask yourself if you really want to play them, or just keep them as they are, for the special memory.
If you want to use them, cleaning would start from a simple shake out, tapping lightly to shake out dust. If that doesn't do it, you should
see if the body comb (the center section ) is made of wood or plastic. If it is plastic, try running plain warm water through the harmonica and
then tapping it lightly against your hand ( larger holes towards your hand) to shake out most water. Trying to pour anything else, like alcohol,
may leave odors that will keep you from ever wanting to play that harmonica.
Let it air dry overnight and see if that seems clean for you. If any notes seem stuck, you will need to blow and draw rapidly through that
hole to try to vibrate it loose. If it's wood, it may warp or swell if water is poured through it, so don't. You are kind of stuck here.
The next step would be to open it up for cleaning, and you then risk the risk of bending a reed or misaligning something that will affect the sound.
Do not rinse that wood comb anyway. Just rub gently with an old soft toothbrush and do not touch the reeds.
If you do need to open it, please write again and I will go into more detail and perhaps suggest a book or guide to help you.
Since I cannot guarantee any cleaning results, I know what I would do. I would put those four wonderful
in a clear plastic box,
to always have as a precious memory. I would then buy a new Hohner
or similar harmonica, with a good instruction book. Start learning
to play and you will begin on the same wonderful musical journey as your grandfather. All former harmonica players, now in harmonica heaven, will
smile and rejoice at your progress.
Question: Hey Jerry, I am an absolute beginner in harmonica and do not know anything about it except that there are two
kinds of harmonica-the one with and without the knob at the side. I am also learning guitar and I would
like to learn the harmonica to complement the former. Basically, I like to play blues, country and rock. I
would like you to help me choose a proper beginner's harmonica. Please specify the brand and the model.
Please reply as soon as possible.
Answer: Hi Sandee, I have taught thousands of students how to play and I have found that a simple 10 hole
, like the
, in the key of C, will be a perfect first choice. The harmonica with the 'knob' on the side is a
capable of playing all sharps and flats. For beginners, that is taking on too much and a
will give you the ability to play a
great deal of music. Many experienced harmonica players prefer the diatonic for blues and bending capabilities, but let's not get too far ahead here.
I also think it would be a first to play both guitar and
at the same time. A minimum of three to four hands would be needed, a
tough challenge for most of us humans.
You will also need a good instruction book. There are many to choose from on the Stagepass website. Pick one that teaches with real musical notation
as that will integrate with your guitar instruction. Later on, you will discover other excellent books for blues, country and rock styling.
As you increase your guitar skills, you may wish to add other
in different keys, but for just beginning, stick to the basics and you
will do fine. Pick up a travel plastic soap dish to protect the harmonica when you take it around with you.
There are also harmonica stands that permit you to wear the harmonica around your neck, so you will play both instruments at the same time.
I think that is what you are looking for.
Good luck and please write back with your progress.
Question: Hi Jerry, I would like to know how to tune a guitar with a harmonica? My harp is in G and I need to have the guitar in G
to play straight harp.
Answer: Hi Kris. My specialty is harmonica and I do not know your level of ability, but I would get a Guitar Capo and use that to
alter your guitar key, rather than trying to retune it.
Stagepass.com has a book that will help you get the hang of using a Guitar Capo called
How to Use a Capo for Guitar
Are you going to accompany yourself professionally or is this just for fun? Please let us know how you make out. Other readers might get some
good ideas from you.
Question: Dear Jerry, Do you have a cross-reference chart for the harmonica as far as what key to select when your with a band? For example,
if they say the song is in "A", what key of harmonica should I use, etc...
Answer: Thanks for writing.
There are charts available in various books and websites, but the basic idea is that each
's key determines the notes
available; actual notes and notes you can 'bend' into. One common approach for cross harping is, for the key of A, use an D harp. Here's a
small chart for that:
Key of           Use:
A --------------------- D
Bb ------------------- Eb
B --------------------- E
C --------------------- F
An excellent harp player with radical playing ideas once told me if a student has trouble bending notes, and if you want a jazz feel for
a song in the key of C, an Eb
offers you the Eb, Ab, and Bb giving you a basic blues-jazz feel. You will, of course, be missing
other notes you might like. So much much depends upon your level of knowledge and your musical 'feel' for the jazz tunes you are playing. Your s
olo skills will also determine where you can go musically.
I have seen cross harp charts that each contain different information. Check out the following with a Search-Engine, like Google, on your
"harmonica cross harp chart"
You will see there can be different approaches, as well as more complex answers to your question. My opinion is, it depends upon your
musical skill level, your feel for jazz, your ability to bend, and what notes you want to play in a given key. Think it through, experiment,
practice bending, and then decide which alternate key will give you most of those notes. I think you will grow as a musician as you follow this advice.
Please let us all know how you are doing.
Question: Jerry, I am a newcomer novice at this harmonica thing. Someday I will be
able to play great blues, but now nada. Thus, a very basis question: What
is the difference between a diatonic and a
? Which one
is preferred for the beginner blues player? Why?
Answer: The diatonic harmomnica has 7 different tones in an octave ( in the key of C, from C to C). They are like just the white
notes on a piano, with the higher C being the 8th tone in the 'scale'.
has 12 tones ( with C being the 13th tone) in an octave, playable by using a small push button the the side of the
harmonica. This is like having both the white and black notes of the piano available.
While it seems that having all chromatic tones available will be better, many harmonica instructors feel that the
is a better
starting instrument. There are sooo many songs you can play on the diatonic, plus for blues playing, you will eventually learn how to 'bend' notes,
which will make your audience think you are amazing!! You will also use
constructed in different keys ( like A, F etc.) to further have
'bluesy' tones availabe. This is called cross harp playing. Combine those with note bending, and there'll be no stopping you.
My suggestion is to first get an inexpensive
in the key of C, get an established instruction book that teaches you how to play
from real music notes, and practice practice practice. This is the foundation necessary to build upon. Your self confidence is outstanding so I
know we will hear big things from you in the future.
Question: Since I only have time to practice late at night or early in the morning
I would like to know if it is possible to play the harmonica at low volume
and still enjoy it?
Answer: I have taught my students to play softly on purpose. The beauty and
sensitivity of softer playing is enjoyed by all.
At some future date, if you can play softly into a microphone, you will
experience a truly beautiful technique, letting the microphone become part
of your dynamics.
You must, of course, still maintain enough breath to sound out all of the
notes. When notes sometimes get stuck, you will need that extra blow-draw
volume for a short while to unstick them, but that is rare.
Yes, I am certain you can find that happy volume medium that you can
practice with and others can sleep with.
Please let us know how you make out.
Good luck in a part of the world that can certainly use more music.
Question: If I have a
in the key of D, does it mean that I can
play also in the key of G, or it has C sharp rather than C so only D
major scale is avaliable?
Answer: You are correct. The C# will prevent a true G Major scale, but there are
two other thoughts.
One is that if you are playing blues or jazz, you might rather enjoy the
'Augmented 4th' (C#) as part of your playing for that selection.
The other is that you can bend that draw 7 down to a C natural. It will
take practice and developement of your technique, but it is possible.
Cross harping is a fascinating study in music theory and the possibilities
are almost endless.
For just plain fun, I would stick with the first thought.
Question: I have a couple different harmonica books. One of the books starts
with C on the second open line from the top being the four blow the other
books start with C being one line below the five normal lines as four blow.
Why is that? and is one right? Also which is more popular?
Answer: The blow 4 on the diatonic C harmonica is middle C and is represented in
music notation by the extra mini line below the original 5 lines of the
treble clef staff. That is why learning the harmonica by real music
notation, rather than arrows and other "crutch" methods, requires a short
course, not only in the basic 5 line treble clef staff, but also in the
addition of those extra mini lines known as ledger lines.
It's not really tough, but rather, just one additional lesson toward
becomming a real beginning musician with the harmonica.
As an additional side comment, the extra ledger line below the Treble clef
staff is actually also the same extra ledger line that is above the Bass
clef staff (C). Putting all that together gives you the 11 lines of the
Grand Staff, which covers most written music. There are some other
instruments that use different clef signs, but they are only choosing and
singling out lines from that same Grand Staff that musically apply to
their instruments range.
Question: Why should I play the harmonica?
Answer: The harmonica is a simple instrument to learn to play and will give you
the ability to entertain yourself as well as others. It is a great stress
reducer and even the ability to play a few simple songs is a great feeling
With kids, they can now be unique at school and camp shows, as well
as feel an identification with all those musicians on MTV who have
harmonica in their groups.
For adults, harmonica playing is a great way to have some fun with
friends as well as for yourself. As they say, it's never too late, and
learning the harmonica opens up a new world of musical understanding as
well as accomplishment.
For all ages, the ability to express yourself through music will open
up a new door to self improvement and personal satisfaction.
Question: Can anyone learn how to play?
Answer: Excepting some physical challenge, of course.
Question: What age is best to begin?
Answer: I have found that children below age 9 will do best with a method such
as Hohner's Rainbow Method. This teaching method simplifies the harmonica
and approach using a special four hole harmonica and a color coded
Between 10 and 110, you are all equal candidates for regular harmonica
Question: Do I need to be a top academic student in order to learn?
Answer: After teaching over 3,000 students, I have found reading, math or other
academic abilities have no bearing upon a student's ability to learn the
harmonica. Some of my best players found the harmonica to be their most
rewarding school subject. While it is important to study all subjects,
especially the academics, the answer to this question stands.
Question: Do I need to read music in order to play?
Answer: This question is asked all the time. The answer is no. There are many
outstanding instruction books which will teach you to play songs using
various methods other than reading musical notes.
In School Systems, as well as for thorough learning, reading music
becomes a necessity. It may take a little more effort, but you then not
only can still play all the same songs, but you have an understanding of
what makes all music work. The same music language required for harmonica
is the same as is used for every instrument. How wonderful for you to now
understand musical notation and be able to play any song by it's notes.
Naturally, easier songs come first.
How fast can I learn to play songs?
How much time will you invest learning? I have known students who have
played simple songs in the first week. There are some methods that
will teach you songs in the first hour using arrows or other reading
methods. My only reserve with those methods is, while you do learn the
song, you still can only play new ones if they have the arrows, which, of
course, is not contained in standard printed music.
What is a good beginner's harmonica?
Hohner has numerous diatonic
priced around $6.00. They
contain the basic musical notes in the key of C. Any of them are fine for
getting started. Naturally, more expensive
are available but
not necessary for the beginner.
What method should I choose?
Try to review various instruction books through a web site such as
Stagepass. While it's difficult to know for sure, you should look for
details such as:
1. Will it teach you to play by learning to read music or another method?
2. Has the method been proven in some way? With so many books from which
to select, you must have a way to measure it's previous success. You want
to commit yourself to one method and then stick with it.
3. Ask questions of the web site if you are still uncertain. You are
always free to post a question here.
How do I clean my harmonica?
Wipe the outside with a damp cloth. I do not recommend washing the
harmonica. Always use and carry your instrument carefully and with
cleanliness so dirt is not a problem.
How can I carry my harmonica around so it doesn't break?
I suggest you get a travel soap dish. For 50c or so, you have much
better protection than the original cardboard box. More expensive
usually come with a strong plastic box, but for the beginner,
the soap dish will protect your $6.00 harmonica royally. By the way, check
those 2 little screws on the outside of the harmonica and tighten them
occasionally. I know.... they have a way of getting loose.
How can I play single notes so my songs sound real?
I suggest a method I call the straw method. You shape your lips as
though you were drinking from a straw. With practice, you will soon be
playing single notes. As you get much more advanced, you will need to
learn other methods, but for beginners, keep it simple.
I am having a big problem with playing single notes. You think you can give me some tips?
Someone else had asked about single notes and I realize this is a tough
challenge for the beginner. I have found that my "straw" method works best.
Since we all drink from straws, shaping your lips as though you were,
creates a seal from blowing or drawing into adjoining holes on the
harmonica. If you still seem to be playing two holes, make the imaginary
straw smaller. Don't worry, thousands of my student were able to get it
this way. It is less messy than other methods, and with practice, you will
suddenly seem to be getting it. It really is a practice thing and the more
time you put into it, the sooner you'll get it. Once you do, you will be
immediately be able to tell the difference and be thrilled.
Jerry, I live in Phoenix Arizona and I was given a harmonica and a video on
how to play the harmonica for my birthday. I have gone through the video
and have been practicing, but I am getting a little discouraged. I read
your advice on how to play single notes, but what I would really like is to
take lessons from someone. Do you know of anyone or can you recommend
anyone here in Phoenix who gives lessons on the harmonica. If not maybe you
know of a music company who can put me in touch with a music teacher.
notes. You think you can give me some tips?
Dear John, I believe one of the reasons slowing harmonica's growth is that
there are not many teachers throughout the country. On the other hand, just
living in Phoenix, with it's wonderful weather should really be enough......
I do not presently know of a harmonica teacher in Phoenix. If there are
any harmonica teachers out there in Phoenix or elsewhere, please contact me
and I will go through the usual referrals to be able to recommend you.
Naturally, I would give your information to students like John and they
would, if they wish, contact you.
Perhaps we can start this going, thanks to John's E-mail. Thanks, John and
hang in there. Perhaps you should look over some of the instruction books.
Having the written pages in front of you might, in some cases, better
reinforce each lesson.
How long should a harmonica last? I find notes sticking and going flat
and generally unplayable. I can't imagine an oldtimer going back to settle
the West bought 25
cause he was going to be awhile. Are there
some brands at the lower cost that hold up better? or should I plunk down
There is no way that the
of the Wild West lasted longer than
today's offerings. I am certain many songs were played without the benefit
of a few notes here and there, and with some odd tuning produced by home
built fix-up remedies. The movies, naturally, depict the harmonica as
always in tune and up & running. Not so. I have been using the same Hohner
about 8 years and haven't had any trouble. My students will sometimes suffer from stuck notes.
I know they may be less than careful sometimes, but some hints that may help:
1) Generally, if you let the harp air out after using it, the moisture will
usually dry up w/out creating that sticky problem.
2) Tapping the harmonica lightly against your palm will often free up an
occasional stuck note.
3) Another technique to free up a stuck note is to blow and draw rather
strongly and quicky about 20 times through that isolated stuck hole.
4) If all else fails, you must then take the chance of opening up the
harmonica and gently sliding a small piece of paper around the reeds,
being careful, of course, not to bend them. This is a last resort, last
ditch method as damage may result.
It's usually the saliva or some food that is the culprit. Try the above,
and either stop eating(doubtful) or rinse first before playing. A more
expensive harmonica may be less prone to get stuck, but there is no
guarantee. I like the
as they still have the
rugged plastic body, along with the German workmanship. This is for use as
an instructor. Some professional performers may prefer the wood body such
as with the Marine Band model, for their sweeter sound.
Also worth noting...Hohner has just come out with a line of
that have replacable reeds. So, enough other players have had this same
problem, and that has created the need for this new harmonica. Check out
the Stagepass web for news about it.
Please let me know if any of this helps. If any other readers have some
solutions, I'll be glad to give you credit with your permission to reprint
Send your harmonica questions/comments to Jerry Perelman. Click on the icon below to ask Jerry your harmonica related question. Don't forget to include a working email address if you require a response.