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Author Topic: What key for harmonica?  (Read 3020 times)

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Rags

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What key for harmonica?
« on: October 23, 2018, 08:19:26 AM »

Hello, it's occasionally been mentioned that a harmonica is a good instrument to have for times when it's not convenient to carry a Melodeon around, but what key should I start with? Some tutor websites suggest C, but as a D/G player, who does a fair bit in Em, would I be better to go for G, or do people have other ideas?
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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2018, 08:37:45 AM »

Many harmonica players carry several instruments around with them, pitched in different keys. I know of two players who have about 8 instruments which they carry around in a special case. They simply choose the one they want to suit the tune. They are also proficient at changing instruments mid-tune, holding the second instrument in their hand whilst playing the first, then with a nifty bit of finger gymnastics, swapping to the other.

I'm not suggesting that you go that far, but as harmonicas are relatively cheap, you could go for one instrument in G and one in D. That should cover you for most UK session tunes.
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MatlockBather

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2018, 08:53:27 AM »

just note that a G harmonica doesn't have a low E (see 1 row melodeon layout charts) so is a bit tricky for Em tunes. Of cause you can always retune the extra D into an E....
But as Steve says, G and D will see you through most English sessions.

Harmonicas are great as they take up no space so are fantastic for having in the car, taking on holiday etc.

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george garside

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2018, 09:02:19 AM »

as a kid I started off with a cheap Chinese  in presumably C  as I hadn't a clue about different keys and  several of us in the scouts all bought the same  in C. 

For starters for English sessions I agree with Steve G & D. 

I now have a nice little padded bag  from Aldi (?Camera bag??)lwhich holds about 12.  whjich are Bb,Eb,F,C,G,D,A,   mostly hohner celeste aaand  21 de lux plus hohner highlander, professional 12 (chromatic,

george
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Rags

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2018, 09:04:00 AM »

...also, could you suggest suitable makes models? i'm looking for reasonable quality/playability that I won't be looking to trade up for a few years,

thanks
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Chris Rayner

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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Main instrument a Tommy, also D/G and G/C pokerworks, and a G/C Benny.  A single row 2 stop Hohner, and a new addition to the free reedery, a well used Hohner c-system chromatic button accordion.

MatlockBather

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2018, 09:11:28 AM »

I've been very happy with my Lee Oskar (G).

Si
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GPS

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2018, 09:14:34 AM »

I usually carry harmonicas (harmonicae?) in C,G,D and A, which seems to cover most session situations. As for makes & models, if you're looking at a 10-hole you won't go far wrong with a Hohner Blues Harp or Marine Band, although I'm very partial to a Lee Oskar.

Graham
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2018, 09:35:56 AM »

just note that a G harmonica doesn't have a low E (see 1 row melodeon layout charts) so is a bit tricky for Em tunes. Of cause you can always retune the extra D into an E....
But as Steve says, G and D will see you through most English sessions.
But a D harmonica does have the low E, just like the D-row of a melodeon, so it is good for Em tunes. 
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MatlockBather

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2018, 09:43:47 AM »

Lee Oskar in D added to Christmas present list...
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John MacKenzie (Cugiok)

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2018, 09:45:24 AM »

I have a case with 7 Suzuki harps, which I use to accompany singers and guitar players mostly. If you want to play melodeon style stuff, then you need a tremolo with at least 15 holes. I have a couple of double sided which I use for melodeon type music. They give you the notes you are missing on a 10 hole.

Sir John
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: Hohner Club Modell 1. Bb/Eb, de-clubbed : Early Hohner Pressed Wood A/D : Hagstrom G/C:Preciosa Bb/Eb: Hohner 3515 C/F: 1930's Varnished wood G/C: Hohner 2915 B/E: Hohner Erika C/F: Hohner Pre Corso C/F : G/C Liliput: Bandoneon tuned D/G Pressed wood:

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2018, 10:35:49 AM »

As far as I am aware the brilliant mouthie player ,the late Will Atkinson , played Yamaha mouthies which he had specialy imported.  I have never seen them on sale in the uk.

I find hohner celeste and  hohner 21 very reasonably priced and decent to play.

george
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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2018, 10:43:50 AM »

The tremolo harmonica sound is an acquired taste. Look at the YouTube examples. I have a Tombo in D. All the notes are there and it is quite easy to hit the right note.... but it sounds a bit like a feeble cat miaow.
My Lee Oskars are loud and sound good in a rock/blues sort of way. My favourite is a Sukuki Bluesmaster - sounds mellow and is a lot easier to play - needs less air than the others  and all the notes speak easily. It also bends really well if you want that.
I believe that the most widely used and recorded harmonica in the west is the Hohner Marine Band. I don't have any experience of it as I wanted a plastic combed model.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2018, 10:12:14 PM by Tiposx »
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GPS

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2018, 11:16:09 AM »

The tremolo harmonica sound is an acquired one. Look at the YouTube examples. I have a Tombo in D. All the notes are there and it is quite easy to hit the right note.... but it sounds a bit like a feeble cat miaow.
My Lee Oskars are loud and sound good in a rock/blues sort of way. My favourite is a Sukuki Bluesmaster - sounds mellow and is a lot easier to play - needs less air than the others  and all the notes speak easily. It also bends really well if you want that.
I believe that the most widely used and recorded harmonica in the west is the Hohner Marine Band. I don't have any experience of it as I wanted a plastic combed model.

I have several Marine Bands; they're brighter toned than a Blues Harp and carry well in sessions as well as on stage.  I also concur with Steve about a D for Em tunes.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2018, 11:42:55 AM by GPS »
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

Squeezing in the Cyprus sunshine

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2018, 11:46:04 AM »

If you want to play melodeon style stuff, then you need a tremolo with at least 15 holes.

Sir John

I'd better start looking for a 15-button one-row, then...... >:E :D

Graham
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

Squeezing in the Cyprus sunshine

baz parkes

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2018, 01:35:53 PM »

I have a 10 hole Lee Oskar in High G which is great in pub sessions as it cuts through the 23 melodeons... >:E

As to tremeloes, Hohner Celestes are good value and easily obtainable.

Bit more upmarket is the Suzuki Hummingbird


If you're not sure the gobiron is for you, the cheap and cheerful Chinese models available on the internet are a reasonable way in  :|glug


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Corinto

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2018, 02:19:54 PM »

I have 3 HOHNERs and 8 SEYDELs ... (and another SEYDEL coming for Xmas) ...

https://www.seydel1847.de/epages/Seydel1847.sf/en_US/?ViewObjectID=8246&Currency=EUR

With SEYDEL you can configurate your own note layout ... click on CUSTOM SHOP ... very interesting ... ymmv.
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John MacKenzie (Cugiok)

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2018, 02:30:29 PM »

Incidentally, one can custom tune harps to suit oneself. The late Steve Harrison, Sage Herb of this parish, used to alter gob irons for his own use.

Sir John
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: Hohner Club Modell 1. Bb/Eb, de-clubbed : Early Hohner Pressed Wood A/D : Hagstrom G/C:Preciosa Bb/Eb: Hohner 3515 C/F: 1930's Varnished wood G/C: Hohner 2915 B/E: Hohner Erika C/F: Hohner Pre Corso C/F : G/C Liliput: Bandoneon tuned D/G Pressed wood:

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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2018, 01:41:16 AM »

Interesting thread. I would recommend the newer premium models, such as the Hohner Crossover (based on the Marine Band) or the Hohner Rocket for those who prefer plastic combed instruments. Or the Seydel 1847 Classic. The Lee Oskar, made by Tombo and introduced in the '80s, was a great instrument for its time, but has been surpassed by the newer premium models in my view.

For tremolos I recommend the Tombo Premium 21. The Seydel Skydiver is also worth a look. Both have the Asian style dry tuning and note layout. For a wetter tremolo tuning, try the Seydel Sailor

Your local music store is not likely to stock these instruments, however they are available online, I recommend Rockin Ron, at https://rockinronsmusicsd.com

Lessons for tune playing, both on 10 hole and tremolo, are at my site https://harmonicaacademy.com

Another approach to tune playing is to use alternate harmonica tunings. To this end I developed "Major Cross" tuning in the '90s. Last year Seydel released a Major Cross model. You can see it in action at https://youtu.be/pK5fb7QuV8k
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Re: What key for harmonica?
« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2018, 07:22:20 AM »

Tony, although I'm not really enamoured with mouth organs, in general, your videos are great! I enjoy them immensely, thanks for posting links to them from time to time.
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