I’m new here, some call me ‘Farticus’, some call me ‘Old Farticus’, a term that does not offend me since I truly am getting on a bit.
My first venture into Harp playing occurred 60 years ago when I played Church music on a Hohner Chromatic, which I still have, it needs some work but it still plays tolerably well, since then I have sung my way through Oratorio, Gilbert and Sullivan, Skiffle, Clubland, and Barbershop Harmony, and, in my latter years I have returned to the old ‘Mouth Organ’ but this time concentrating on ‘The Blues’.
I hope to meet folks on this site who share similar interests and look forward to making new friends here.
Would love to get to know others on this site who might be able to help me also. I am as yet to buy my first harmonica and so confused as to what to start with. Perhaps my idea of the Hohner Chromatic C is not such a bad idea after all. I so want to try blues, but maybe I should just start at the beginning. It’s so typical of me to want to run before I can walk! LOL. I am an aged female from New Zealand and might even get my husband interested also.
Nice to hear from you, can I help you with your choice of Harmonica? I currently have 28 Harmonicas, I don’t tell you that in order to boast or to appear more knowledgable than I am, but to give you some idea of how serious I am about playing a decent blues on a half way decent Harmonica, In that number of 28 I have three Chromatics, two new ones (Suzuki, one in C one in A) and my old Hohner Chromatic that I have had since I was 15 yrs old, I used to play it in Churches with my mother on piano but that’s another story,
I was really fascinated to see how Chromatics have developed over the years and that’s why I bought them, I only play them occasionally, but, since my interest is the Blues they don’t fit the bill for that style of playing, if you want to play the Blues you need a ‘Diatonic’ (it’s a form of a musical scale) 10 holes Harmonica and there are lots of makes and models,
After a lot of trial and error I have settled on four makes, (1) ‘Dannecker’, made here in England, very expensive, £100/200 pounds each, I have four and they are very special and I love to play them for their tone, weight, looks etc but I do not play them exclusively, I also have Seydal harps, 3 or 4, excellent quality cost around £75/85, Hohner Crossover Harps, I have a dozen or so, big sound, notes bend easily (note bending is a major blues harp technique) and very reasonable cost £45.000 or so, and last but not least Suzuki ‘Manji’ M20. this latter would be my recommendation to you, a recent step forward in Harmonica manufacture, cost somewhere around £65 in UK money, but worth every penny. don’t just take my word, google the above makes and read the users comments.
I hope this gets your juices going and remember you are never too old to learn, I am making nice sounds on the harp after just a couple of years and I can impress non harp players but of course an experienced Bluesman would see my deficiencies.
Hope to hear further from you,
Thanks so much for your response.
I realized after I posted the above message that I was talking through a hole in my neck! lol. The harp I was thinking of buying was a Golden Melody diatonic, and with your added input, have now ordered it, so hopefully I will eventually get to play the blues on it. I read some really good reviews online about Golden Melodies, so I don’t think I’ve made a mistake with my first purchase. They are supposedly easy to blow, so hopefully I won’t have heart failure in my first efforts! lol.
I am so impatient for it to arrive and am hoping I’ll be able to bend notes with my first attempts. I don’t want much, eh? Mind you, I’ve watched enough demos on bending notes on YouTube to think that I should be able to before too long.
Once again, thank-you for your help. It’s also good to get some feedback when posting in here. I see so many posters getting no replies at all, so I am grateful for yours.
Please check back here because I’ll be letting everybody know how I’m getting on! It would also be good to be in touch with a pro such as yourself!
My pleasure, keep in touch.
Just as an amendment to my last message to you, I forgot, I have two Golden Melodies that I keep in my car at all times in case I have to play the blues in an emergency :D, I shall be driving my wife to the Supermarket today and, whilst she shops I will be playing my backing tracks on the CD player and blowing seven shades out the Golden Melodies!
Bet you can’t wait for the postman!
I watched some great videos on YouTube last night, one of which was a review of the new Hohner Crossover. I actually wanted to find out what is meant by “crossover” but never got to find that out, but I heard the most magnificent stuff played by Marko Jovanovic.
Is “Crossover” just a name or does it mean something?
There will probably be arguments in this household once the harp arrives because husband said he wasn’t interested, but I know he will be itching to have a go!
Am hoping the postie is on his toes today, but…it could be days yet.
Update. It has arrived! Am not proficient just yet! But I’ll be doing my utmost to get the sounds right.
I know that nobody gets the hang of bending notes right off, so I’ll just hammer away at it until I find what works for me.
Congrats on the new Harp, enjoy yourself
I had thought about getting into some fairly heavy stuff about how to play the blues but I don’t want to teach my grandmother to suck eggs! as it were, so I’ll just ask first if you are familiar with terms such as ‘First position’, ‘Second position’ or ‘Cross harp’, and, depending upon your reply (and if you would like me to go down that road), I will reply or not as you wish. in the meantime, remember to breath when you can or you’ll get light headed! ;D
Any help will be greatly appreciated although I think I’ve got the hang of bending notes now. However, is there a different tongue method after the fifth hole as I can’t seem to get quite the same effect as I can on the lower holes.
I have a background in music although I’ve forgotten a lot, but if you explain to me what playing in the “First” or “Second” position means, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. And I still don’t know what a crossover harp is, or what you mean by “cross harp”. I’ve just been listening to a lot of blues played on harmonica using the Hohner Marineband Crossover and I gotta say I like the sound, so I think one of those will be added to the collection fairly soon. Husband is now VERY interested also. Why am I not surprised?
Hi again Bluesman
After thinking about it, I have a fair idea as to what is meant by first and second positions. I only ever learnt the violin, but mucked around on the piano and can read music (with difficulty). I think I could work out how to use other positions without you having to go into lengthy explanations although I appreciate your offer.
OK, here goes.
So, you have your brand new harp which for arguments sake is in the key of C.
Start at the 4th hole. 4 Blow, 4 Draw, 5 Blow, 5 Draw, 6 Blow, 6 Draw, 7 Draw, 8 Blow.
You have just played the scale of C Major in 1st position
(Doesn’t really matter what key your harp is in, if it is a ten hole diatonic that sequence of blows and draws will play a Major scale in whatever key is marked on the harp)
You can play hundreds of melodies using that scale, I play ‘Oh Susanna’, ‘Shenandoah’, ‘The Streets of Laredo’, ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring’, ‘Amazing Grace’, and whatever comes into my head but I never play ‘The Blues’ in that position.
2nd Position or ‘Crossharp’
Draw the first four holes, This gives you a chord of G Major.
Add the 5th hole and the chord becomes G7.
7th chords are restless and always want to pull you to another chord which, since this is a g7th chord will always be C major which you will get by blowing the first four holes (the key of the harp)
Most blues only ever use three chords and you already have two of them by drawing and blowing the first four holes, the third chord is not so easy since it is not just a draw or blow alternative, but has to be suggested by using single notes, can you see already how 2nd position lends itself to playing the Blues, both melodically and chordially?
All this info is available on Utube, check out Howard Levy, Adam Gusso, Jason Richie, and many other top harp men who generously give their knowledge away for free and from whom I have learned so much.
You will probably now see the significance of the Hohner Marine Band ‘Crossover’ harps (of which I currently have nine.
I will close this missive by saying that the best key for your harp is the one that is most useful to you, ie do you have backing tracks, (there are lots of free one on utube) if so get a harp that is in the same key as your backing tracks, but remember that you now play the blues in the key of G on a C harp.
So, Harp key C, you want backing in G, Harp key D you want backing in A, Harp Key A you want backing in E, always five notes away from the harp key, Hope this isn’t too heavy, it’s vital stuff to know.
ps I had done all this before your last message but decided to post it because I think it might be useful to others on the website. Bluesman.
Thank-you so much for posting this information, because I’m fairly certain I would never have worked all that out on my own.
I have printed it out and added it to a little dossier I am compiling of useful info that I come across.
Also, I wasn’t aware that there are backing tracks available on YouTube, so that piece of info is very useful.
Muchas gracias, amigo.
Parece que puedes hablar español, espero que si porque necesito estudiarme un poquito de vez en cuando.
Entiendo amigo, pero mi espanol no es muy bueno, and I’d rather spend any extra time now, practising the harmonica. Mind you, my interest in Spanish has been tweaked a bit now. Perhaps it would help the old grey cells along a bit. Most of my Spanish was learnt at espanglishchat some years ago then I stopped going there and forgot most of what I’d learnt. I always use ‘ciao’ instead of ‘chau’. I know I shouldn’t but that’s just me I guess.
Esta bien, I’ll stick to English from now on unless you have a brainstorm and fancy a little Spanish