Re: Song Keys; What's this Harp?

Date sent:  7-JUL-1995 10:37:33 

>Date: Thu, 06 Jul 1995 10:19:20 -0400
>From: KPGraham@xxxxxxx
>Subject: RE: Song Keys; What's this Harp?
>The "trick" is quite simple, but requires some experience with
>blues and a good ear.

>.... I listen to the song, waiting for the I chord to play,
>and noodle around for the note that sounds right with the
>chord. This note is the key note. 

Just be aware that notes other than the tonic (the I in the key you're 
searching for) might sound right with the chord.  Chords are based on the 
I, III, and V which combine to construct the triad and any one of those 
notes will sound "right".

>It gets easier the more that you do it. 

So true!

>Alternatively I find it a little easier to identify the V chord note. In
>most blues the turnaround ends in a strongly played V note. If
>its cross harp you can't play a good V chord so the harper often
>does a 1 draw. 

Beware...if it's being played crossharp you might just as often hear the 
2drawbend, or some combination of the 4-5-6draws (a Vmin chord) on the 

>Sometimes you searching with a harp that does not have the
>I and V as natural blows or draws so you might have to change
>harps a few times. I once saw Charlie Mussewhite try four
>different harps before he got the right one.

This is probably a rare occurrence for someone with CM's talent...but not 
hard to imagine at all.  If you have to switch harps you should try to 
chose one that is VERY different from the one you just tried.  Like if you 
started out with a C harp you could hit more different keys if you switch 
to an F# or a B than if you switch to a D or a G.

>If you are playing along with an old recording or on a tape
>player you might be "On the crack" so matching might be

The variations between cassette machines motor speeds has always irked me a 
little.  If you're trying to get in tune with a record sometimes it's great 
to have a phonograph with one of those stobe speed thingys that allows you 
to vary the speed of the turntable a little.  Many reel-to-reel tape 
machines also have adjustments for tape speed.  If you're lucky enough to 
have one you can just tune the recording to get it out of the "cracks" 
between the piano keys (shouldn't we say to get it off the "comb" and 
into the holes?)


>You could also ask and if guitar players really cared about the
>harp they would tell you in the first place.

Asking works great if your jamming live.  One guitar player I sit in with a 
lot knew enough about the harp to not tell me the key...he'd tell me what harp
I needed to use (for crossharp).  I don't think he realized the flexibility 
of harps until I played blues in the key of E, on an A harp (crossharp), and 
then a G (4th position), C (5th), and D (3rd) as well.

>There has to be other methods. 

Well, I just pick up a harp (usually I start with a D or whatever I reach 
first) and start to try and play along (with the radio, one-handed, in 
traffic 8^).  I can play 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 12th position on a
diatonic so that gives me 6 keys I can try on any given harp.  If I still 
can't find it I'll switch to another (like Eb, a 1/2 step from D) but if I 
can play along I'll just figure out what position I'm playing in and 
determine the key from that.  Then I'll switch to whatever harp I need to 
play in whatever position I think the guy I'm listening to is using.  This 
ususally works unless I'm listening to Howard Levy and he's playing in some 
exotic position that I just can't handle (yet!).

>I always thought the hunt idea was a little too much of a brute force method.
>I would like it if there were an elegent trick that you could just count
>the beats and divide by 4 or something.

Sorry Keith, sometime musicianship is just not a very pretty sight!  Just 
remember that if you get the desired results then nobody's gonna care about 
how you did it...except another harper!

Bill Long >-- StarGazer --< N2LAG	longwj@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    longwj@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx			   (

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