Folk & Acoustic Musical Instrument Specialists

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Harmonica Information and FAQs



DEFINITION


The first of the modern European free reed instruments. a block of 10 or more double sided reeds, mouth blown. diatonic scale.

INTRODUCTION


Blues Harmonicas have 10 holes with a single reed per note, which should be easy to bend. Tremolo models have 2 reeds per note, not designed to bend so easily, usually 24 double holes (making 48). The tremolo models are the ones used for traditional music in Britain and Ireland. Chromatic models usually have 10 or 12 holes, with a slider to provide all the semitones, similar to a B/C melodeon.

SOME TYPES OF HARMONICA


Blues Harmonicas | Chromatic Harmonicas | Tremolo Harmonicas

Blues Harmonicas

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Introduction: Blues Harmonicas have 10 holes with a single reed per note, which should be easy to bend.

Chromatic Harmonicas

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Introduction: Chromatic harmonicas usually have 10 or 12 holes, with a slider to provide all the semitones, similar to a B/C melodeon.

Tremolo Harmonicas

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Introduction: Tremolos have 2 reeds per note, not designed to bend so easily as blues ones, usually 24 double holes (making 48). The tremolo models are the ones used for traditional music in Britain and Ireland.

HISTORY

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The Harmonica first appeared in Europe around 1820 when various inventors began developing existing free reed instruments such as the sheng. Although initially designed for playing European folk music, It soon found a place in a wide variety of genres - becoming synonymous with the Blues and other emerging American music. The Harmonica also suited itself perfectly to mass production, making it the instrument of choice for the American poor and earning it almost instant success and iconic status! Modern music has also embarced the Harmonica and its folksy, outlaw image. Popular culture figures such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young have ensured that it remains one of the most widely loved of instruments!

There are many types of Harmonica, from the most common; The ten whole Diatonic Harmonica (The one you think of when you think of a Harmonica) to elaborate orchestral Harmonicas, gimmicky wierd Harmonicas and specialist Harmonicas with odd tunings and appearances!


MUSICAL STYLES

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About Cross Harp

The 10 hole Diatonic Harmonica, used by most Blues players is usually tuned to a major scale. Each Harmonica is marked with the key of the Major Scale to which it is tuned. A Harmonica player, playing the notes of the Major scale, over a piece of music in the marked key of that Harmonica is said to be playing in "straight harp", or "first position". That is to say, to play "straight harp" over G, you need a Harmonica tuned to the scale of G major.
However, the characteristics of, for example, Blues Music demand that the player is able to achieve notes not available in a normal Major scale, such as the flattened seventh tone and sharpened 2nd. Therefore, to play Blues, you need a Harmonica in a differant key to the key of the song. A Harmonica marked in a key a perfect 5th below the key of the song will provide the sharpened and flattened tones needed to produce this Bluesy sound. Therefore, to play Blues in G, you need a Harmonica marked in C major.
Playing this way is known as "Cross Harp" or second position" and it is a vital technique in blues style playing...

If that did not make much sense to you, dont worry, you'll understand soon enough! (Its all about Major scales).
In the mean time, you can just use this chart to find the correct Harmonica for playing Cross harp in any key! SONG KEY CROSS HARP HARMONICA
A D
A# / Bb Eb
B E
C F
C# / Db F#
D G
D# / Eb Ab
E A
F Bb
F# / Gb B
G C
G# / Ab Db