Minor Key Labelling

I could work this out for myself, but I think it’s a good subject to raise.

Lee Oskar Harmonicas in minor keys are labelled in respect to the second position.

Is this true of Hohner Minor Keys?

How does this vary from brand to brand?

Is a Lee Oskar Em tuned harmonica, a variation on the A Richter tuning, or the E Richter tuning?

Just some questions that occurred to me, so I assume, might occur to other beginners, and be useful information to have ‘on file’, so to speak.


Great Question Dave - Lee Oskar NATURAL Minor keys are labelled in respect to 2nd position, and that’s also true of Hohner Natural Minor tunings.

So a Les Oskar Em (Natural Minor) is a variation on the A Richter tuning.

For somebody who’s fairly comfy playing in 2nd position, I think it’s a pretty intuitive jump to go from playing in the key of E (on an A harmonica) to the the key of Em (on an Em Natural Minor harmonica.)

If your Hohner is a Natural Minor then everything you’ve been saying about it (in other posts) makes a lot more sense to me. I thought some how you had said it’s a Harmonic Minor tuning?

I’mg guessing that Hohner is the same as Lee Oskar in how they label their Harmonic Minor harmonicas with an H or and (H) somewhere on it. A Lee Oskar Harmonica Minor harmonica would be labeled Em(H).

HARMONIC MINOR harmonicas are labeled in 1st position key and are much more rarely played in the Western world as they have a very Eastern sound - good for Gypsy and Hebraic music.


Thanks Luke, I thought I couldn’t be the only one who wondered about this. It’s a little confusing, and I thought some clarity was needed for the next person who wants to know the same thing.

The minor tuned Marine Band I have is C Harmonic Minor, and certainly seems to be labelled in the first position, it still blows a C and draws a G as far as I can tell.
It’s stamped simply with a small ‘m’ on the upper cover plate, A440 at one end, and C at the other. I can’t see an ‘h’ on it anywhere. The plastic case however, has a sticker with Harm-min C on the end, and Harm- Min - C is how it’s written on the sticker on the bottom with the bar code etc.

It really sounds great playing sad little tunes on it, it just has that ‘feel’ to it. I also like to put a backing track in C on, and play solos in the first position (I guess!). Blow/suck/blow/suck up and down the length of it gives you something like playing up and down a scale on guitar, I find it to be very intuitive. Not blues harp sounding by a long shot, but I like that it’s something a bit different. To get that scale on a Lee Oskar, I guess I go up and down in the 2nd position? I really need to print out the tunings and look at the notes! It doesn’t seem to be popular with harmonica, but I really like to know where the notes are and which notes I’m actually playing!

I debated whether to go for another Harmonic Minor, or a Natural Minor, but decided that the Natural more closely lined up with the minor pentatonic on guitar, after looking at those three different minor scales overlapped on a guitar fretboard.
I’m still learning 2nd position blues harmonica, but the minor tunings seem like I could do something unique with them.

I bought the Marine Band Harmonic Minor by accident really, it was advertised as being a C harp, it was only when I played it that I realised it was different to the Special 20.
I was drinking and harping last night, got carried away and squished it! :grimacing:

I really couldn’t find much online about Hohner minor tunings at all, or where I could buy them, so that’s why I went with the Lee Oskar. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to explore it!


Ok, cool so you’ve got a Lee Oskar Natural Minor on the way? If think you’re gonna love the natural minor!

I can’t remember - are you doing Beginner to Boss? If so, all the 2nd position stuff lends itself so nicely to the Natural Minor tuned harmonicas.

Rock on,


Yep, a replacement for the defective Lee Oskar Natural Em should be on the way Monday. I could have messed around with the one I received, minus the draw 2, but I thought best to send it back unplayed.

I can’t afford the Beginner to Boss course at the moment, I’m still paying off (and living down) all the harps I bought! I bid on just about every Hohner harp I came across, and won too many auctions!
I’m getting a lot out of your YouTube videos though, they will last me quite a while. I still haven’t quite nailed isolating notes while actually playing a riff, and I’m just starting to get the hang of bending. I still can’t play the scales cleanly yet either, so I’ve got plenty to go on with!
My first goal is to record interesting lead breaks for a couple of songs I’ve almost finished with otherwise, I’m thinking the minor tunings might yield some interesting stuff. As with guitar lead breaks, I’ll improvise throughout the whole song, put the good bits together, then learn and re-record parts as needed. I figure not being able to play blues harp convincingly yet might actually be a plus, it will just be whatever comes out at the time!

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Cool. Yeah, good call on the minor tunings. They’re GREAT!