View Full Version : a harmonica

03-28-2009, 12:11 AM
someone here might be able to help me with this one. i have the opportunity to do a harmonica workshop soon but don't know what to buy to bring along. i have no information except it's a beginners workshop. i know there are different tunings (or do i say keys?) to consider.

would i get 'c' tuning like my uke?


03-28-2009, 02:22 AM
Also you need to know is it for chromatic harmonica or the "blues harp" type. They are very different animals.


03-28-2009, 02:39 AM
You might like to check my harmonica review pages (http://www.ianchadwick.com/essays/harmonicas.htm) for some ideas and suggestions.

There are two types of harp: diatonic and chromatic. Chromatics are almost always in C, and can play any key, but they're much more difficult to learn than diatonics. Chromatics have a slide button on the side.

Diatonics are the standard harmonicas you see in music store cases. Get one in C for sure. That means you can play in C on the uke, and play blues in G. Other popular keys are A, F and D (which give you blues in E, C and A respectively). G is also good - blues in D.

You probably won't need any flats or sharps unless you play blues in F - then get a Bb.

Forget the minor keys, Dorian tunings, etc. for now. But minor harps are also fun to learn and a bit funky.

If you think you want to pursue the harmonica, don't waste your money on a cheap throwaway. They're awful, seldom in tune and the reeds wear out too quickly. Buy something better - a Hohner Big River is a good buy and not too expensive. Or look at Lee Oskar, Hohner Golden Melody, Suzuki Bluesmaster, Seydel and so on.

03-28-2009, 05:52 AM
The local folk music school here tells you to get a Hohner Marine Band in C for the lessons.
I've been thinking of learning to play one too.



03-28-2009, 06:00 AM
Marine Bands are okay, but they use wooden combs. Wood expands and shrinks (and mostly swells with use) and that changes the shape and size of the sound hole, as well as making the comb protrude from the front of the harp.

I really recommend plastic or metal combs. They're a LOT easier to clean. Hohner's Special 20 is the same harp with a plastic comb. Personally, I think you are better off with a Suzuki Bluesmaster. They have great, responsive reeds.

03-28-2009, 07:31 AM
Most beginning harmonica workshops use a C harmonica. A lot of music stores only carry C harps, if they carry any at all.

And I'm sure the workshop is for a diatonic harmonica, rather than the much more complicated and expensive chromatic harmonica.

I would recommend a Hohner Special 20 in the key of C as a good starter harmonica. They are reasonably priced and readily available. (If they weren't usually so difficult to get, I would recommend a Bushman Delta Frost.)

Let us know how the workshop goes!

03-28-2009, 04:58 PM
that's great information. thanks everyone. this is such a great resource for me, and i'm sure, for many. i will get back to you on the workshop. it's not until easter. my mission between now and then is to locate one of the instruments you mentioned. i'll let you know. thanks again

03-28-2009, 05:33 PM
You might like to check my harmonica review pages (http://www.ianchadwick.com/essays/harmonicas.htm) for some ideas and suggestions.

thanks ian. i've looked at your site and found it very helpful. also your comments and descriptions and stories about your ukulele collection make interesting reading.

03-28-2009, 07:47 PM
Splurge and get a bunch of keys, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, and F:




These are a good beginners set. As you blow them out, replace each one with a better harp. The case is padded and secures with a zipper and velcro. Mine is filled with Hohner Pro and Blues harps, now. It gives you a chance to experiment.

Here's a chart JBoy Shyne posted on another forum for playing cross harp and other combinations:


Here's a lesson book and CD set that you can download for FREE from "Blue" Barry Faust, a Tennessee bluesman:


Download the sound files as MP3's/MP4's and then convert them to WAV files to make a CD.

Barry has a more advanced computor course, here:


Barry's courses work best if you have a harp in the key of A.

...and that's not all! (is this starting to sound like an infomercial?):

...how about a FREE online 605 song harmonica songbook?:



03-28-2009, 08:32 PM
Also, Guitar Center has a price matching policy. If you print out an advertized price off the internet, like the piedmont Blues set for $19 bucks, they will honor it. Ric

03-29-2009, 04:30 PM
...and that's not all! (is this starting to sound like an infomercial?):

...how about a FREE online 605 song harmonica songbook?:


you're funny ric and thanks for the info. i can see music will keep me busy til i die.