[Harp-L] What key is the band in?

Tin Lizzie TrackHarpL@xxxxx
Wed Nov 2 09:09:49 EDT 2016

I start with a C harp, because it’s fastest for me to match a chamber that I play to a pitch that I hum.

I hum with the song being played (or with the bass player) until I’m confident that the note I’m humming matches the home-note/key of the song.

Then I very quietly, off mic, play on my C harp until I either match the note that I’m humming, or find that the note I’m humming isn’t on the C harp.  If the band is loud (and when is it not?), it helps to block one of your ears with a finger.  I can bend to pitch, so I have a few more notes to compare than just “the white keys of the piano”, but you can do this with just the middle octave on the harp if you need to.  If I get a match, I note what chamber/breath direction I’m playing, match that to the name of the corresponding note, make that my working hypothesis as to the key of the song, pull the appropriate harp for that key, and double check  that 2-draw (if I intend to play cross harp) or 1-draw or 4-draw (if I intend to play in 3rd) or 1-blow (if I intend to play in 1st), etc., matches the note I’m humming.

If the note I’m humming isn’t on the C harp, then it’s between two notes on the C harp.  I figure those two notes, what’s the note in between, and that’s my working hypothesis for the key of the song, and I proceed as above.

I’ve gotten so that I can do this in less time than it takes for the band to play the first chorus, and most people don’t mind if the harmonica lays back for the first chorus, anyway.  Serves ‘em right for not telling you the key of the song at the outset.

Tin Lizzie

On Nov 2, 2016, at 8:24 AM, Mike Schmitt wrote:

> Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2016 20:46:21 -0500
> From: "Mike Schmitt" <mike at xxxxx>
> Subject: [Harp-L] What key is the band in?
> Are there any tips to figure out what key the guitar player is in? It seems
> like who ever starts the song does not share it and by the time I ask the
> song has already started. Maybe it's just an experience thing? 
> Mike Schmitt

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