Why C Harp? And what key harp to get next?

I’ve been hearing some chatter here and there about, “why should I start with a C harmonica?” Some people complain that it is “shrill” sounding compared to lower key harmonicas, which is a valid point. I agree, lower harmonicas sound better in their higher registers. But, if you are a beginner just starting out on the harmonica, I still recommend 100% that you start your adventure with a C harmonica.

Here are the reasons to start with a C harmonica:

1.) It’s right smack dab in the middle of the range of harmonicas. The highest key is F, and the lowest regular tuning is G. Both are 4 letter names away. So learning techniques (such as bending for example) on the C harp, it will be easier to adjust the technique going up and going down.

Also, if you think the upper register of a C harp is high, just wait until you play an F! LOL.

2.) Most beginner tutorials, both free ones that you can find on YouTube, and paid ones such as my Beginner to Boss course, are all using C harmonicas. So starting with a C harmonica will enable you to benefit from all of the great beginner instruction available online.

Some times people ask me, “what key harmonica should I get after C?” My reply to this is usually, “But the key harmonica that you need in order to play along with your favorite song to play (or that you’d like to be able to play) along with on the harmonica.” I think this is a very logical way to slowly expand what keys of harmonica you own.

Of course, sometimes harmonicas are sold in sets, like the Fender Blues Deluxe Set of 7. These are great options, because you can save a little bit of money compared to buying one at a time, and they come with a case, and having a case is always helpful. Having all these keys will put you in a greater likelihood of being able to jam more songs with other musicians. And jamming with others is one of the greatest joys of being a musician.

Of course, you’ll need to know which harmonica to grab for which key song, and, if you haven’t seen it already, I have a great lesson that explains how which you can check out here.

One more thought: if you’re wanting to be able to play along with guitarist, and you’re wanting to do bluesy kind of stuff, you’ll want to get an A harmonica, as that is the key you need to play blues in E, and E is a guitar player’s favorite key.

Similarly, if you want to sit in with a band that has a lot of horns, consider and Eb harmonica plays in Bb, and Bb is a common key for horn players.

In summary, choosing what key of harmonica to buy should come from your common sense, intuition, and inspiration. The musical journey is an intuitive one. Enjoy the journey. If you’re wondering what brand of harmonica to buy, check out my article on the subject here.


Excellent post and reasons.
As a beginner, not only in harmonica, but also general music (I’ve had very little to do with music in the past) it only makes sense for me to start with C, because I see it as being to most straightforward scale because it has no sharps or flats (or if you’re using a piano, only white keys)

I will no doubt buy harmonicas in other tunings, when I feel confident enough, and I look forward to hearing how they sound different from a C-tuned harmonica. But for now I’m happy with I have now.


Right on!

I have to say my G lightning blues harmonica sound is really nice compared to my C harmonica more pleasing to the ear

1 Like

I hear ya James!