Re: [Harp-L] flat keys

The various harps come in high pitched and low pitched keys. Standard diatonics (blues harps) range from low to high starting with A. A is the lowest key, going through all 12 keys, to F# at the highest in pitch. If you look at a piano keyboard and can identify the notes on the keyboard you can see this. (Nowadays, you can buy low pitched harps. While F is the penultimate in the standard tuning, you can buy a Low F from several companies. And while G is a standard low harp, you can now buy a High G.

If you play in public, and you play every song in the key of C, after a while the audiences' ears will go numb. That is why bands play songs in a variety of keys. Even if you are playing solo this is also true. Also, if you want to play along with recordings: horn driven bands tend to use flat keys: Bb, Ab, Eb and guitar driven bands use sharp keys: C,D, E, G, A, B. Playing in cross harp complicates this some.

Why would anybody need more than a C harmonica? If you are playing with a band and the band is playing in a key to match the vocal range of the singer. That is why a harmonica player needs more than one harp. Now if you have a beginner harmonica book, all the songs are usually rendered in the key of C. But with tablature, you can play any song on any key harmonica. If you pick up an A harp and play the tab, the notes will come out in the key of A. A G harp, the notes will be in the key of G. You do nothing but play the numbers.

Yes there is also a difference in how the different keys play. If you bend notes you will discover that an A harp bends differently --even on the same holes -- than a C or E harp. 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, get yourself an inexpensive set of harps in different keys. Hohner makes two entry level sets of seven harps for $30-$40: the Piedmont (plastic covers) and BluesBand (metal covers, looks like a Special 20). Check the price: whatever the set costs, it's about the price of a single copy of the Marine Band harmonica today. I own both sets and I demonstrate them in my Harmonica 101 class. I prefer the BluesBand because the metal covers are more slippery than the plastic covers. Plus, you get a nice zipper carry case, If you decide you don't like the harps, throw them away and keep the case. If the seven key kit sounds like too much for your budget, Hohner also sells a 3-harp set of the BluesBand.

Hope this helps,

-----Original Message-----
From: Lloyd Short <lloyd.arthur.short@xxxxxxxxx>
To: harp-l <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sat, Sep 6, 2014 9:02 pm
Subject: [Harp-L] flat keys

what's the real motivation for getting a flat key harp. Assuming no other
instruments existed in the world, and acoustic harp only remained, why
should I choose Bb over A or Eb over D? is there a tone difference ? I know
I just gave examples of a key sharp, not flat, but you should get the point
of what I'm asking.


This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.