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Old Mar 23, 2013, 07:45 PM   #1
Fool On The Hill
Join Date: Mar 13, 2013
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Default Harmonica help?

I searched for a thread like this but didn't see one, so I'd just like to know, what kind of harmonica would be best to play Beatles songs on? I'm not really sure what the difference is between a harp and a harmonica, but which one would be best for Beatles tunes? I'm just looking for a harmonica to fart around on, so which key would be best to by? Which is the most common key that John played songs in? Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to answer this :)
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Old Mar 31, 2013, 05:31 PM   #2
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Hi, BeatlesBaabe!

Sorry I didn't see this until now—a week since you posted....

What kind of harmonica—or blues harp—you want depends on the key the song is in. Yeah... I have every blues harp from the key of A to G. I play Dylan songs, and just one or two are not enough. Had to get all of them.

For The Beatles, however, certain songs come to mind: "Love Me Do", "I'll Get You", "Thank You Girl", etc. So, you'll need a "G" harp, a "D" harp, and an "A" harp for each song, respectively. Whatever the key the song is in, you'll need that harp.

Now... there is a thing called "cross-harping", however, whereby you use the alternate "blues-tuned" key to play the harp in any given song. An example of this is "Simple Twist Of Fate" by Dylan. That song is in the key of "E", however Dylan used an "A" harp for more bluesy notes. The thinking behind "cross-harping" is you start with the key the song is in, and count up three keys (i.e. E F G A). Keep this in mind when looking to buy the proper harp for whichever songs you plan on playing along to first. John was a bluesy guy, and I'd not be surprised if he cross-harped a lot.

As far as the brand, Hoener is pretty much the brand you'll find.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask me more about this in PM or here in your thread.


Last edited by 62hofner : Mar 31, 2013 at 05:45 PM.
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Old Jan 11, 2014, 08:02 AM   #3
El Gos Coix
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This is a very old thread, but I haven't been here for a while, so I hadn't seen it before.

I've recently started to think of learning to play the harmonica, although I know almost nothing about it... And although it's not the first time I think of learning.

To begin with, I don't know how many types of harmonica there are. Two or three? I've got a 10-hole blues harmonica, a 16-hole diatonic harmonica and a 12-hole chromatic harmonica (all in the key of C), and while at first I thought that the first one was a smaller version of the second one, the distribution of holes and notes is not the same. So I'm going to use my own terminology -harp-diatonic-chromatic- in the following, even if I don't know whether it's right or not.

Focusing on the Beatles, in 'Love These Goon Shows!' (BBC volume 1), John says that he plays a harmonica in 'Love Me Do' and a harp on 'I've Got to Find My Baby'. While I had always thought that by 'harp' he meant the blues harmonica, and that by 'harmonica' he meant the diatonic harmonica (of unknown number of holes), this article explains that for him 'harp' was a diatonic harmonica and 'harmonica' a chromatic one. I haven't read the whole article yet, but it may be of interest to you. The guy who's written it seems to be quite knowledgeable about harmonicas.

Now, apart from the Beatles but related to harmonicas: would anyone explain to me the difference between my first and my second harmonicas? Are they the same instrument in different sizes, or different instruments? The notes in each are (first blown, then drawn):

1) Blues harmonica:
1C/D 2E/G 3G/B 4C/D 5E/F 6G/A 7C/B 8E/D 9G/F 10C/A

2) Diatonic harmonica:
1C/D 2E/F 3G/A 4C/B 5C/D 6E/F 7C/A 8C/B 9C/D 10E/F 11G/A 12C/B 13C/D 14E/F 15G/A 16C/B

3) Chromatic harmonica (without using the button):
1C/D 2E/F 3G/A 4C/B 5C/D 6E/F 7C/A 8C/B 9C/D 10E/F 11G/A 12C/B

To me, the harmonica number 2 is closer to number 3 than to number 1, since -as you can see- the notes are the same in both. It's just lacking the button that allows to play the accidentals (and, well, it's got one more octave, but that doesn't worry me). But the guy who wrote the article on John's harmonicas talks about diatonic vs. chromatic. This would lump numbers 1 and 2 together, and leave 3 alone.

Now that I'm learning from scratch, which one should I use? I don't count number 2, because I think that once you can play number 3 you can play number 2 (and, besides, because it's so wrecked that it's almost useless). So should I learn to play number 3 first, and then switch to number 1, or the other way round? I suppose that different kinds of music should be played with different harmonicas, so my idea is to learn to play them both, but I don't know whether the change is smoother in one direction than in the other. What is a pity is that the distribution of holes is not the same in all cases.

Also, do you know of any good web site or YouTube tutorials where I can learn about cross-harping, bending and so? I've tried a couple of them, but they haven't been of much use so far. I'm starting to be able to bend some drawn notes, but at the expense of hyperventilating and of playing several notes when wanting to play only one!
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Last edited by El Gos Coix : Jan 11, 2014 at 08:04 AM.
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Old Jan 11, 2014, 08:08 AM   #4
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And, incidentally, the song that triggered my interest in harmonicas this time was this one. Maybe not an example of harmonica virtuosity, but one of having a great time playing it, with all those 'uhs' and 'ahs' in between.
Press: What do you think you've contributed to the musical field?
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