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Anyone play the harmonica?

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Just ordered one to have a play with as it’s nice and portable. Any tips from any players on here?

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Ooh, what flavour? I've been playing diatonic blues harps on and off for quite a while now - often been tempted to give a chromatic one a go, but I suspect it may be a very different beast to work with!

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As it’s my first one I have gone down the diatonic route too, gone for a Hohner Special 20 in C, it seemed a decent bit of kit for sensible money and gets good reviews.

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Sounds like a good choice to me - my first one was a Hohner (in D). I've since acquired a few Lee Oskars for different keys after a friend introduced me to them, but I still play the Hohner (when the right key comes up!)

I can offer you two tips:

1. Don't expect it to sound great in C. Ironically enough, diatonic harps sound best when played in "second position", also known as "cross position", which is in G. Basically the fifth of whichever key your harp is tuned to. Cross-position gives you a Mixolydian mode, which most harp licks are based on. "First position" (C) can be made to work, but I've only ever got horribly Bob Dylan-esque results from it myself.

(1a. Similarly, they also sound good in "third position" - D in this case - as you get a nice wistful Dorian mode.)

2. Learning how to bend notes is worth the effort. It takes a while to work out what to do with your mouth, but it will give you a lot more control over the instrument once you nail it.

Hope you enjoy it - for such a tiny instrument, it can be a lot of fun!

Edited by EliasMooseblaster
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It's all about playing in 2nd position so that you can bend notes by drawing through the harmonica instead of blowing. I think a C harmonica gives you a G blues type sound when you mostly draw through the instrument (but could be wrong about that). Give it a try over a blues in G.

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... indeed, yes; I have several stashed about the place that I'd forgotten I owned (learned the old grey whistle test theme = stone fox chase, then lost interest) and this prompted me to dig out my most recent.  Tried a chromatic originally but it's all a bit larry adler and the notes don't do that bluesy bendy thang.  Switched to diatonic.

Remember that the key you actually play a diatoncis in is NOT the key written on the side (which is the lowest note); you actually play them a fifth higher.  So if you want to play blues with a guitarist who's playing a 12-bar in E you need a A harmonica to do it, and a C harmonica works best for tunes in G.

Tried a few over the years (including an expensive aluminium bodied Yamaha I could hardly get a note out of), but always come back to Hohner; probs the best sounding is the "blues harp" but the wooden core can go soggy (this is the trad type you're said to need to soak in water (or gin) to make work properly).  The plastic bodied equiv to the blues harp is the pro-harp which is nice, low maintenance and easy to bend.  The special 20 (plastic) and the marine band (wood) plus the big river harp (cheap) are a bit brighter sounding.  There are now so many variants it's hard to keep track!

Compared to the cost of a boutique bass, they are so cheap you can try a few and trash a few (they don't last long as if you bend them over much the reeds give up) so try a whole bunch.

It's a bit of a limited instrument, but always fun and compared to carrying a bass, a big combo, a stack of leads and effects - it is extremely portable.  Enjoy!

 

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Thanks! I bought a special 20 to start with but am now awaiting a Thunderbird rocket in low C (bass player influence showing through). I have been learning a few songs for our new set so haven’t had much time for it in the last week or so but getting the handpg of single notes and bending. Learning the solo for long train running at the mo.

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On 21/07/2018 at 20:43, HazBeen said:

I play like Alanis Morrisette

What?  In a rubber naked-suit in the middle of the road?

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On 23/07/2018 at 23:02, NickA said:

What?  In a rubber naked-suit in the middle of the road?

Well, I do prefer 100% silicone but yes 😂

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