How to Play the Blues Harp

Your Essential Signpost to Resources and Help on the Internet and Elsewhere

What harps do I need?

Most people start with a ten hole diatonic harmonica in the Key of C - mainly because most music stores stock these but, to be able to to try and pick up riffs by ear from CDs, buying more than one harp will speed you on your way.

As a starter, C; A; and D will do - these will enable you to play in second position (cross harp) with blues in G, E and A respectively.

If you add G and B flat harps to your collection, you will be able to play along with most things on the Blues Harp Boogie CD.

If I'm not sure whether I have any aptitude - should I buy the cheapest harps possible?

This is a matter of personal choice but if you are unsure, you would do well to spend the money on a good single C harmonica and persevere with that until you are more certain about your aptitude. It is my personal experience that cheap harmonicas can be very unrewarding in terms of their set up and tuning and even a fairly good player would find it difficult to get the full range of expression and volume from them compared with a "standard" Marine Band, Lee Oskar or Special 20.

Personally, I have found that the Tombo Folk Blues (Tombo make Lee Oskars) is a very cost-effective choice and, looking through my current set of harps that I take to gigs, I find that I still play one that I bought in 1998. Most of my other harps are Hohner Special 20s which are very well sealed and responsive but I also have three Marine Band de Luxe and the new Seydel 1847. At £35 for the Marine Band de Luxe and more than £50 for the Seydel, these last two are unlikely to be a beginner's first choice.