Re: [Harp-L] harp key???

"Franklin Wagman" wrote:
<A buddy of mine plays accoustic guitar and I taught him to play a little harp on a neck rack.  Recently he down tuned his guitar a <half step for his act, but now finds nothing works in second position.  Is there another position which might work for him?  I <donÃÂÂt know enough about theory to figure this one out.  Can anyone help? 

Whether your friend knows theory or not, I'm surprised that he hasn't figured out that all the chords he played in standard tuning will be a half-step down, too.  Isn't that why he tuned it down in the first place?  I'm also surprised that he hasn't realized that when he's playing two instruments, and he drops the pitch on one of them by a half-step, the other one is not going to be in tune with the first unless he drops the pitch on that too.  A harmonica is a fixed-pitch instrument, like a piano (bending and other pitch modification techniques aside); it doesn't automatically adjust itself to a new pitch.

So Phyllis is right, of course--he needs to play harps that are tuned a half-step down (or he needs to learn to bend and overblow better than Howard Levy, which will take him a lifetime, if ever).  And he needs to tell anyone playing an instrument with him that he's tuned his guitar down a half step too, or they'll be out of tune when they play with him.

Finally, if he's got an "act"--meaning that he plays out in public--he really should invest in a little bit of theory training, at least enough so that he knows what "half step down" means, and which notes are a half step down from which other notes, and maybe even what notes are contained in the chords he's playing.  I appreciate that lots of people playing out in public don't know much theory, and I wouldn't advise him to go for a degree in the subject unless he really wants to, but he can't go very far, and certainly can't go very far playing with other musicians, if he doesn't know a few of the essential concepts that musicians use to communicate with each other about the music they're playing. 

In case anyone wants to argue at this point that all the old blues guys didn't know what notes they were playing, don't bother.  They didn't know theory like Stravinsky did, but they certainly knew that they needed to switch harps when the key of the song changed, and they certainly knew which harp to pick up when it did. 

Regards, Richard Hunter

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