The question I get asked the most is how to figure out what blues harp or harmonica to use when playing with a band. I have made a chart that takes all the guessing out of this. Don’t be the guy on the bandstand frantically testing out harmonicas trying to figure which is the correct harp to use. Simply follow my handy chart and print it out if you like and put it in your harp case so you always have a reference. Click the button “Cross harp Chart” at the top of this page or simply follow this link to the easiest to follow chart to help you figure out what harmonica to use when playing with a band or other musician such as a guitar player.
Once again, one of my blues loving friends was able to get to a great blues show and wrote an article about it. My good friend Stevie Vegas who is a fantastic drummer wrote the following about the recent Fleetwood, PA Blues Fest. Wish I was there!
“This year I once again had the privilege to catch the annual Fleetwood Blues Festival held in Fleetwood, PA. The festival brings together some of the top local blues acts for an afternoon of great music for a great cause. In return, the proceeds from the festival are used to upgrade the local park.
There were a total of eight smokin’ hot blues bands that performed at this year’s festival. Even though the afternoon rain tried to dampen the event, the temperature of the music prevailed and the bands outplayed the storm.
If you love harp players, the band to see this time around was the James Supra Blues Band (James Supra on harp and vocals; Ray Grimmer on bass; Al Wanamaker on drums; Dana Gaynor on guitars). James had his harps, growlin’, screamin’, and cryin’ their way through a set list of great blues classics. The band also did a fantastic job at arranging some of the old blues standards in ways that made the songs sound as if they were just recorded yesterday. It was great hearing some of the harp lines played in unison with the poetic guitar work of Dana Gaynor. The “comping” work between the guitar lines and the harp replies were also second to none.
James really played his harp with passion and fire. That personal commitment to the music brought the crowd to their feet at the end of the band’s performance. You had to think twice as to whether that thunder and lightning was coming from the heavens or from the stage!
Do yourself a favor and indulge yourself in some intense harp playing with the James Supra Blues Band.”
As a harmonica player, it’s easy to get caught up listening to a few blues harp players. We all have our favorites, mine being: Little Walter, Big Walter Horton,William Clarke, Charlie Musselwhite to name a few.
If I only listened to them, I would certainly get fantastic lessons in blues harp but I would be missing out on all the great music played on instruments other than blues harp.
Listening to players of other instruments is an important part of learning to play music. There is so much to learn about phrasing, note choice, tone and many other aspects of playing music. In addition, by listening to players of other instruments, You will most likely be introduced to other positions on the harmonica and even specialty harmonicas such as the Lee Oscar minor key harps. I have them available here at my harmonica store : http://www.harmonicasongs.net/Harmonicas2.htm
So as an exercise, try taking a song you like with a laid back melody and a solo played by a trumpet, flute or saxaphone and figure out how to play it on your harmonica. Occasionally it might take 2 or more harmonicas to get through a song and that’s fine but in most cases, once you figure out the key and position to play, you’ll be able to play it using one harp.
By learning songs and solos played by other instruments, you will be learning not only a lot about your harmonica but also about the big world of music. Jam On!
This was a short video I made back in 2007 and has become very popular on Youtube with almost 200,000 views! That is amazing for a little blues harp jamming. For the record, I was playing a Hohner Special 20 harmonica in the key of A in second position (crossharp).
I’ve been playing the new Hohner Marine Band Crossover harmonicas for a couple of months and absolutly love playing them!
I’ve been playing Hohner Special 20’s for many years because it was a more comfortable harmonica for me. Hohner improved upon the venerable Marine Band a few years back by creating the Marine Band Deluxe. This harp is a very nice harmonica that solves the comb swelling problem by sealing the pear wood comb from moisture.
Now, with the introduction of the Crossover, Hohner pushes the envelope a little further by using a bamboo comb. Not only does it not swell, it makes the harmonica loud, really loud!
The harmonica is very responsive and fairly easy to overblow out of the box. This is a custom shop harmonica at a retail store price. I still play my Special 20’s because let’s face it, they are great harps for playing blues but when I want to play jazz or blues with a little more finesse, I reach for my Crossovers.
I have the Marine Band Crossovers available in all keys at great prices. Most times I can beat the big name stores on price and you can deal directly with me and ask questions if needed.