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Tell me something I DON'T know

joshofalltradesjoshofalltrades DemodogIt's a play on wordsRegistered User regular
edited December 2011 in Singularity Engine++
No really!

They say you learn something new every day. Fuck that! There are a shitload of days where I don't learn squat. I bet you're the same way. So let's learn a bunch of new things at once to make up for all the days where we sit on our lazy asses and play Skyrim.

So I'm going to kick this off with one of the few areas I have any expertise in: the harmonica. Something a lot of musicians (especially guitar players) get really confused about is the key we harp players choose. I will now make it really easy!

Anytime a song is in a major key and wouldn't sound good with a bluesy harmonica, the key of harmonica to use is the same as the key the guitar player is in. If the song is in G, you need a G harp for this sort of thing. Folk music does this a lot. If you play Dixie on a harmonica, you're playing straight harp. Also you're likely in the Confederate army at a Civil War reenactment, unless you're reenacting the time Lincoln said it was one of his favorite songs. See! You're learning all kinds of things.

Blues is what the harmonica is famous for. So when you're playing the blues (most of the time) you're going to play the harmonica very differently. This is where cross harp comes in. You accent the draw notes instead of the blow notes, and you start doing a lot more bending (you can bend the first 7 draw notes of a harmonica, and the last 3 blow notes). This gives you that famous rock and blues harmonica sound, and it also changes the key you're playing in. In fact, the harmonica was not initially designed to be played this way at all, but nowadays we have specially designed harmonicas to make this easy (like the Hohner Special 20, which is actually my personal favorite harp). You'll need to play the harmonica where the song key is a fifth above the harp key. So if your guitar player says, "Blues in E!" you'll need an A harmonica. C harps play in G, D plays in A, G plays in D... etc.

Finally, there's a very little-known style called slant harp. This is for minor keys and special minor blues tunes. An example a lot of you have undoubtedly heard is the well-known opening song to The Wire, Way Down in the Hole.

This has a very special scale arrangement, and you can't be as loosey-goosey as you can on straight or cross harp. You'll have to look it up if you're interested in playing this sorta difficult style. But the trick to finding your key in slant harp is to play a whole note key below the song's minor key. So, if your guitarist says he's in E minor, you need a D harp. If he says he's in D minor, you need a C harp. Easy!

Now it's your turn. Teach me some things!

Friends don't lie.
joshofalltrades on


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