House of Harmonica

Aussie Bob

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Harp tips

Which harp when?

Key of song

Straight Harp

1st. position

Cross Harp

2nd. position

Slant Harp

3rd. position

A
A
D
G
B
B
E
A
C
C
F
Bb
D
D
G
C
E
E
A
D
F
F
Bb
Eb
G
G
C
F

Straight: melodies, folk, country, ballads etc .Root note is 4 blow. Download the notation

Cross: blues, rock, country, folk, bluegrass etc .Root note is 3 blow or 2 draw. Download the notation

Slant: can be used when the key of the song is a minor key. Root note 4 draw.

Any questions?

If you don't have a jamming partner, click here and download the free Mp3 file. A 12 bar blues in G. You need to play your harp along with some music so you can hear it in context.

When you're learning to solo, play short phrases. Don't try to play more notes than you're able to. Relax and leave plenty of spaces between your phases. Click here for a great sample of a nice relaxed style, it's a band called The Funky Beans and it was sent to us by Daryl in Florida, USA, Thanks Daz!

An old harp players 'trick' is to soak your harp in a glass of water (or vodka) for a few minutes before you play. This gives more volume with less effort, loosens the reeds and makes bending notes easier. Make sure you shake or blow all of the water out before you play. Soaking can shorten the life of wooden comb harps, due to the wood swelling and contracting. "The vodka thing really does work...JH

Take a few minutes each day to 'break in' a new harp. New reeds are very stiff and can be hard to work with. Blowing too hard on a brand new harp can permanently 'flatten' the reeds. If you take the time to break in a harp it will last you much longer. JH

Don't share harmonicas. Especially with kids! Tip from Tony, Grass Valley, California.

Going to a party and not sure which harps to take? 'A' is great, so is 'D' and it never hurts to pack a 'C'...if you've got a 'B flat' you might as well take that and your next choice would probably be 'G'. JH

As well as singing in the shower, play your harp in there! This is where the accoustics are best! JH

Alco-wipes are good for cleaning the grunge off the top of your harp.

a C Harp can play in the following keys:

C major, 1st position or straight

G major, G minor, 2nd position or cross

D minor, 3rd position, often referred to as 'slant'

These first three positions are the most common ways (and easiest) to use your harp, but from a C harp you can also play in B minor, E minor or A minor

Therefore on a D Harp you could play in: D, A, Am, Em, C#m, F#m Bm

See it's all about being to isolate a particular group of notes on the harp. In theory you could play a C harp in almost any key but it would mean having to miss certain notes, bend some and not others, only blow and not draw on certain notes...It gets too hard so it's easier to play 1st, 2nd or 3rd position where you can utilise the whole instrument.

FAQs

While filling my car tyres at the gas station,it occured to me that the compressed air would be an exellent way to clean my harp, so I gave it a 'blastout' and now it won't play one note! Is it possible this has permanently damaged my instrument?

You idiot! (true story)

John, What would be your recommendation for a Hand- Held Microphone suitable for harp playing through my amp? Any tips on playing technique? Darryl G., Adelaide.

The really nice harp microphones like the Hohner 'Blues Blaster' and the Shure 'Green Bullet' are great but you need to spend a couple hundred bucks at least, so a cheap option is to buy a cheap mic from Dick Smith or somewhere and a cheap 2nd. hand guitar practice amp from a pawnbroker. As for playing tips, turn the ' treble' setting on your amp back to nothing to reduce squealing feedback. Cup your hands around the mic for more intensity, open them a bit for less.

I can't get a clear 'unbent note from my 2 draw...maybe there's something wrong with my harmonica???? It sounds terrible!

There's nothing wrong with your harp, it's you! If it makes you feel better, the 'unbent' 2 draw note is difficult for most harp learners! Try breathing air in through your nose as you play your note, this should help you play a clear 'unbent' note. Make sure you're not squishing the harp on to your lips too hard. Keep practicing!

What's up with the high notes? I can't get any good sounds up there...does anyone play up there anyway?

Yeah, it's just that the draw notes are now lower than the blow notes so you have to re-think things a bit. Listen to Sugar Blue or Blues Traveler or even Jimmy Reed who is famous for his work at the high end of the harp.

How do I clean my harp? How do I know when it needs it?

As for how, that info should be on this page, as for when...that depends on how much you've been blowing...

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