The Main Country Harmonica Player Stereotype

Hey, everybody. I got off my lesson with Todd Parrott a few hours ago. It was amazing as usual, but there was one talking point that made me wonder something. I asked him about his SPAH Gospel Show performance during the lesson and how he started playing country tuning in third position. That sorta lead into playing in different positions on a country tuned harp. The ones we mentioned besides second and third are 4th, 6th, and 7th.
Now here’s where I want to talk about the main country harmonica player stereotype in which we all play country tuned harps. Todd had told me that he had a couple workshop students come up to him and say to him that they bought a country tuned harmonica for the event. He continued that even though he plays country style stuff on the harp, he doesn’t really use country tuned harps for these events unless he’s performing on stage. And that’s where he brought up the stereotype that country players exclusively use country tuned harps. He thinks that the stereotype came about because of the name “country tuning”.
Todd said that when the original idea for the tuning came about, Hohner USA needed a name that could sell harps. Since the creator of the tuning was a country player named Charlie McCoy, they decided to go with the name country tuning. Or at least that’s how I remember the story being told. In Europe, the tuning is called Major 7th tuning which honestly sounds like a more accurate name imo. I used to get some questions on Facebook that say “Do I need a CT harp in order to play country?” and I’ll always reply with “unless if you want to play like McCoy or do a lot of melodies, then no.”
I play a lot of country music and I don’t even have CT harps in my arsenal or if I did have them, I wouldn’t use them for country. In my case, I would use them for pop melodies and certain hymns. But I wanna hear y’all’s opinion about this. Why do you think that this stereotype exists?


Hi @KeroroRinChou

Actually I did not know about this “stereotype” – but I’m not surprised that it exists. People who do not know much about music theory would most likely not understand “Major 7” or (as it is also called) “Lydian” tuning, so they would assume “Country” tuning is required in order to play country music.

I don’t personally know any country musicians, but some of my jazz friends use “lydian” (= “Country”) tuning to great effect. I too use it, and I find myself using it more and more often even for blues.

– Slim :sunglasses:


I also believe that there’s a slight misinterpretation from blues players wanting to get into country. They’ve probably only listened to McCoy and think that every country harmonica player sounds like him, therefore considering the tuning. My buddy, Todd and I play a lot of country but we don’t normally use the tuning or sound like McCoy at all. We are both heavily influenced by Terry McMillan and you could hear that influence in our sounds. And let me tell ya that if I had a dollar every time a blues harmonica player told me that I should sound like Charlie McCoy, I’d be rolling in the dough.