Keys and scales

Hey all.
Sorry if this is a silly question. I’m so into this course, I’m feeling the need (want!) To buy harmonica’s in multiple keys, but know this is not required just yet.
I have a lee Oskar C major diatonic and and melody maker (haven’t used the MM yet).
If there is a song I like in the key of G, just to clarify, do I need a G major harmonica, or just the c-major in second position?

I am finding things a bit difficult regarding positions; I am used to hearing the note referred to rather than 4 draw (piano and guitar learning), for instance, when thinking about theory.
I appreciate terminology for harmonica is generally referred to as 4 blow/draw etc so I’m sure I’ll learn as I go, however I feel like there is a simple link I can’t get my head around.
Not sure if the question even makes sense, but any guidance/responses, would be greatly appreciated
Thanks
Dan

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Hey, Dan!

Thanks for the post! I was wondering the same thing about buying different keys to play different songs.

My limited understanding is that you can play the Key of G on a C-harp in the 2nd position, BUT it would require you to play bends to hit the all the different notes or you could play it an octave higher than normal to avoid the bends.

A good example of this is Happy Birthday, which is normally played in Key of G. Without bends on a C-harp, it uses the higher holes (6-9) and sounds super high-pitched and not nearly as appealing as when played in 2nd position or on a G-harp. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to bend yet…. HAHA!

Hopefully, others will read this, correct me if I’m wrong, and share their more experienced insight!.

Thanks again for sharing!

Paul

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Hi Daniel @daniel.annable2 and Paul @pnicholas1967

I think that for both of you the best advice at this early stage of your harmonica development is to slow down, go to the Theory section of this forum and read some of the very good and informative posts concerning harmonica keys, scales, positions, etc. and learn your C Richter tuned harmonica inside and out so that you can pretty much instantly say which note is being played for each hole (draw, blow or bent) – and then start thinking about the questions that you both have asked in the previous two posts in this thread. :wink:

For example: there is only one single major scale that can be played without at least one bend (draw or blow bend) on a standard Richter tuned harmonica: the major scale in the key of that harmonica (and then only from hole +4 up to hole +7).

Until you learn the note layout of your harp, it is difficult to make the decision about how to play a song in a particular key (such as G major, A minor, B minor, D minor, E minor or F major). The answer depends on factors such as your skill at bending, whether the melody is major or minor, what sort of riffs do you wish to play (some are relatively easy to play rapidly in for example 2nd position on a C harp but extremely difficult to play on a G harp in first position: such as the decending bluesy riff Db C Bb G), etc. Also as more food for thought: you can use an F harp in 3rd position or a D harp in 12th position for G melodies and your decision is often based on that major/minor question, your skill level, the feeling that you wish to evoke, etc. :exploding_head:

So my advice is to read those excellent posts I refer to above (in the Theory section of this forum), to continue polishing your skills on the C harp, and to improve your knowledge of the harp’s note layout. :face_with_monocle:

I know that is all a lot of work, but learning to play a diatonic harmonica well is actually just as much work as learning to play just about any other musical instrument. :point_left:

Best regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Hi thanks for your response.
Think something may have been lost in my question wording
Every part of me wants to get ahead of myself, but I am not actually doing so. I have watched the videos on theory, and need to obviously watch them again.
However, I was just wondering what a good harmonica player would reach for when playing, accompanying a song in G major.
Would it be G in first position on a G harm or C in second.
Maybe I’ve missed a video detailing this, but it was more out of interest than anything else.
Appreciate i may have across as trying to run before walking; must be the excitement of the course. However, I just ask questions as they pop into my head.

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Great advice by @pnicholas1967 and @Slim

Let me add a thought or two, which might help.

I had similar concerns when I started, thinking in error, that I needed to have a certain key to play certain songs. This just is NOT TRUE.

We can play virtually any song played in any MAJOR key on our trusty C harp. It may not sound exactly the same, but the harmony should be recognizable, if played correctly.

Remember, the whole idea behind keys and scales is that the each scale will have the same intervals between notes, regardless of what key are in. This took me a while to figure out.

I’m with @Slim in terms of getting new harps. First master the C, and then branch out to other keys as you get more adept on the C.

Much of my learning has come by taking the excellent advice from @Luke on the website and from others here on the forum, and then just trying to reproduce the sounds I hear.

It doesn’t always work, and I often go to tabs now to figure out certain parts of certain songs, but with just ONE harp, you can have a whole lot of fun and play just about any song in any major scale! :relaxed:

This was a huge “oh, duh” :bulb: moment for me.

Another thing that helped, in terms of learning, was when I blew my 4 draw on my first C harp. Since I couldn’t get a new one at the time, I was forced to get used to playing the upper scale. While it can get a little scary and squeaky up there, along with a lot of encouragement from @Luke, I began to get the hang of it. Whenever a song had a 4 draw in it (D note on a C harp), I just moved to the upper scale and played it there. Same thing works if our bends aren’t working on the lower scale or in 2nd position.

With this being said, we definitely need to have to be in the right key to play along with a song on the radio or to play with others. Otherwise, we will be “off key” and we won’t harmonize with the sound no matter what we do.

Ideally, as @Slim so cleverly points out, if we can hit our over blows and bends, then the sky is the limit, as we can switch to different positions to get different keys on the same harp, but as I’ve found out, this is easier said than done. :wink: This is why most people just grab the right key harp and be done with it :thought_balloon:.

To play a song in G, you could go to second position on your C harp, but the 3 draw bent a full step can be tricky and it’s the 2nd note in the scale, so the other option is to simply play it straight up in first position in the key of C. The tone will be off, but you should be able to work out the melody in the middle register key of C, with no bends.

As a final thought, and since you play other instruments, perhaps start thinking in steps as @Luke suggests, rather than in notes. The Major scale intervals always stay the same, so thinking in steps rather than notes makes it easier to navigate the harp when trying to use different positions and then once learned, the theory crosses over to other harps, and in other keys, and other tunings I suppose. I’ve yet to buy an alternately tuned harp.

Above all, have fun and keep on harpin’

:notes: :sunglasses:

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Hi Daniel @daniel.annable2

I was not pointing you to any videos but to messages posted here in this forum in the Theory section (click on the link in my message to get there, and then start reading the relevant posts/messages).

Also read carefully the message from Bobby @HarpinBobbyMcB because it also contains important tips that you need learn. :point_left:

And as I also mentioned, a “good” harp player does not simply & blindly always go to (for example) a G harp or a C harp to play a melody in G (major or minor). There are other factors that this “good” player will consider, and I mentioned several in my message.

After you have done your readings in the Theory section and have spent some time understanding and integrating this knowledge into your musical development you most probably will still have questions. We are here to assist you, but you must also prepare yourself by using the valuable tips, tricks, information and advice already present in this forum.

Best regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Ahhhhh… and the penny drops for me, thank you.
I mentioned earlier in the thread, I’m quite impulsive, want to learn and have everything now, but have managed to keep it under wraps due to the calming nature of the course.
I only have the two harmonica’s because there was an offer whereby for an extra £10 I got the lee Oskar MM.
It’s funny, and coincidental reading your reply; I have just had a 4 hour drive. I played the music theory lessons in the car and heard just now (got home a couple of minutes ago) Luke speaking about I II III IV V etc.
Didnt really sink in until your message just now :relaxed:, so thank you, and thank you all for your support.
I’m impressed I appear as though I play instruments! I can play a few chords on guitar (in c major) and understand chord structures on a keyboard. But this has come from my use of Ableton live.
I’m a singer, and up until a year ago, used to gig with a friend who is a great guitar player. We are/were called “1 and a Half Men”; I’m short and he is tall :smile: (4 followers on Spotify :rofl:)
He wanted to continue with the type of gigs we were doing but I grew bored of singing the same old rock and roll songs.
I now make backing tracks using Ableton and native instruments (while I look for a band). However, my favourite song to sing (Pencil full of lead by Paulo Nutini) contains a great harmonica riff.
Of all the virtual instruments, the harmonica appears the hardest to emulate and I’ve bought two which sound awful, thus leading me to picking up the lee Oskar, then looking at YouTube and finally purchasing the course.
I’m a single parent to 2 girls with additional needs and working full time, so life is really quite stressful. Music is my escape and medicine.
After a few days of the course, I realised that something was changing in me ie my anxiety and stress reducing. A quick Google search revealed the proven mental health benefits of the harmonica, which then I realised had already been published on here by Luke.
Nevertheless I’m now glad I couldn’t find a good virtual instrument because I’m loving it!
I’m not putting pressure on myself for timescales but would love one day to sing the song above and also play the Harmonica riff to it.
I’m still on the chords module and keep revisiting to really try and master the riffs and breathing (I’m struggling with outgassing). I’m finding it so relaxing to do, but my nature is always to understand. So although the advice in this thread is not necessarily relevant to me yet, it may be one day and I already have the answer (hope that makes sense)
Anyway… apologies for the life story. In short, I’m really grateful that people respond because there is nothing better than the experience of others. Had no one responded, I’d probably have a full set of lee Oskar’s on order :rofl:
Thank you
Dan

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@Slim Thanks! I’ve found @Luke ‘s articles and explanations in the forum to be a great supplement to his videos! They seem to fill in a lot of gaps that can’t be as easily explained in a brief lesson video. Plus, you gain the thoughts and insights from the other players/members, so it’s almost like being in a classroom! A tremendous resource that definitely enhances the course!!

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Hi @Slim .

Thank you, I will do exactly that. I don’t want to rush any part if this process, because it is having such a positive impact on my life.
I think I’ve played “lean on me” 100 times today!

I’ve always loved the harp sound, and although I’ve tinkered with a number of instruments, nothing has ever felt like “the one”, particularly when considering I’m a singer.
But I’ve definitely found my instrument. Not only that, I’ve stumbled, (which is the truth because I was watching numerous tutorials but Luke’s calmness stuck out to me) across a fantastic course and also a great support network.
So thank you for the advice, I am very grateful.

Dan

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@Slim I didn’t even realise I could click on the link in the message :rofl:. Again, another learning point. Thanks again

Dan

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Glad to be able to assist in any way, Dan @daniel.annable2 !! :wink:

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Hey @daniel.annable2 - Yes, you need other keys to be able to play along with songs in the position that is most appropriate for the song. The crude oversimplification of your question is:

1st position is folksy
2nd position is bluesy
3rd position is minor (dorian) and
4th position is minor (natural minor)

I did check out pencil full of lead, and found the version with the harmonica. What a cool tune, btw! I see why you like it. That is first position harmonica playing. I didn’t check what key the song is in, but if that song is in Em, then he is playing a G harmonica in 1st position.

So, yes C harmonica is the best harmonica to learn on, BUT if you want to play Heart of Gold by Neil Young along with the record, then you will need a G harmonica.

And that’s exactly how I recommend expanding your collection, by choosing the key you need to play a song that you want to play.

BTW - the melody maker harmonica is labeled in 2nd position and is tuned to sound major in 2nd position with the blow 3 being tuned up a whole step (so that it’s the major 2nd instead of the root) and the -5 and -9 tuned up a half-step so that they are the major 7th (rather than flat 7th which produces the bluesy sound.)

Hope that helps. Keep on rocking, and hope you can find some other musicians to jam with. (Perhaps consider putting an ad on Craigslist or a flyer at a local music store or bulletin board if you have one.)

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Hey @Luke cheers for the response.
Regarding the melody maker. I have left it in it’s box for now while I try to master what we’re doing in the course.
The offer was good - £50 for the two.
Yes, Pencil full of lead is a cracking tune! I saw him and the band live recently.
Re: a band. I’ve had some offers. But it’s gotta be right you know. Like, one band with a good following on Spotify asked me to be a vocalist, but I need to “feel the music”. They were a sort of “new metal” band and were offering money.
For me, music is my escape. Any band needs to give me something more than what I do already.
Or am I being too picky?
The way I see it, I want to sing/play my heart out. If I don’t feel the music, I can’t do that.
That’s why I’ve started writing some songs. Nothing finished yet, but I enjoy the process.
Keeping jamming my friend! I’m gone g back through the chords lessons before progressing further. Would like my technique to improve before moving on.
What a course though. You’ve really done something great here!

Out of interest, was this the video you watched?
I love one of the comments. “A Scottish guy, with Italian roots, singing jazz. Real diversity!”

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@daniel.annable2 - No I was on Spotify. Great video. Thanks for sharing!

Song is in the key of D - G harmonica, 2nd position. Here’s the jist of the main riff:

-5 5 -4 5 -5 -4 (repeat several times)
6 5 -4 5 6 5 -4
-4 4

You can also play it up the octave
-9 8 -8 8 -9 8 -8
9 8 -8 8 9 8 -8

Rock on,
Luke

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