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What Harmonica Key to Use?   

What Key of Harmonica to Use in a Song?

For determining harmonica keys to use, you first need to find out what key the SONG is in.  If you are jamming with someone, that's an easy thing to do, just ask: "What key is this song in?" and they'll give you an answer and you can go from there.

Important: Sometimes when you are jamming with a band and you ask what key the next song is in, a know-it-all band member will, instead of answering your question directly,
will instead say:
"You need a "x" (fill in the blank here) key harmonica for this song."

 
You need to be firm here and ask again for the key of the song, because you as the harmonica player will be deciding how you are going to play along with the song,

and the key of harmonica you choose to use will be according to how you decide to play along with that song - it is not a set, predetermined thing because the song happens to be in "x" key. You may choose to play in a different "position"
(hence a different key) than the band member is suggesting

Tip: Ask the BASS PLAYER - they think in terms of "root notes" and should quickly give you your answer, without the attitude

 

The key of the song:
 Usually the first and last notes (the low, bass note) of a song is the key that the song is in

- so, if you peck around on a keyboard and figure out that the first bass note and last bass note in the song is a "G" note, then the song is in the key of G.

Knowing the key the song is in is a big step in the right direction, because then you have the knowledge to much more quickly figure out what key of harmonica is being used in the song.

Harmonicas in songs are usually used in two ways (positions):

1. Same key as the song  - if the song is in G, a G harmonica is used.

 - this is known as "first position" or "straight harp" (think Bob Dylan here, or folk-style playing.

2. Harmonica key is 4 steps up from the song - (known as "cross harp" or 2nd position)

example - song is in G, then count up 4 steps in the musical alphabet

G1, A2, B3,  C4

ok, so C is the 2nd position or "cross harp" for the key of G.  Think blues, country, funk, jazz, reggae, rock here.

HOWEVER, although these are almost always the positions used,
there are actually 12 positions of harmonica that can be played. 

But, this should get you off to a good start.

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  1. Anyone Can Play A Song And Sound Stiff.
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