Playing chords with other instruments

Newbie question here. I have minimal music theory knowledge and so get a bit lost in the discussions of “positions” and “scales” and “chords” and “keys”.

Here is what I want to learn, in layman’s terms:

Playing with others in church, using music that lists chords for the guitar. How does a harmonica fit playing chords (not melody). If the music lists a song with a progression of say C - G - D - C and maybe an occasional A, what does that mean to the harmonica?

How can you make all those chords on a 10 hole C harmonica?
Are the chord names the same for the harmonica as guitar? (if it says “C” chord, does the harmonica play a “c” on the harmonica?

Thanks !


Ok, After reading this article :

I think I have the basics, but let me restate to see if this is correct:

10 hole harmonicas can only play 4 total chords. 2 majors, a minor, and a seventh. Which exact chords are possible depends on the key of the harmonica.

For instance, a C can play: C, G, Dm, G7

A G harmonica can play: G, D, Am, D7

Is this correct?


Welcome to the forum! Glad to have you here. I’m glad you’re playing at church - that’s awesome.

Yes this is correct. A chord is defined as 3 or more notes. But you can play 1 or 2 notes of all the chords. For example on a C harp:

C major: blow holes 1-10 are all in the chord (1,4,7,10 are roots)
D minor: -1 is the root, and -456 is the chord
E minor: 2 is the root, and 23 are both in the chord and will sound good -3 is also in the chord and will sound good.
F major -5 is the root, -56 are both in the chord and will sound good. 1 and 4 are also in the chord and will sound good
G7: -2 is the root, -12345 are all in the chord, as well as 6, all sound good
A minor: -6 is the root. But 23 and 78 are also in the chord and sound good.

So you can’t really play chords on a harmonica the same way you can on a guitar or a piano. We harmonica players have some limitations. BUT you can find things that sound good.

If there is a church band, I recommend recording the rehearsal (just voice memo on smart phone or whatever) and play along at home and work out things you can play that will sound great.

Don’t hesitate to post more specific questions about how to approach certain songs or keys.

Rock on,