Has it ever occured to you that you asked for suggestions in any harmonica community forum, or inquired about keys of harmonica to buy for a beginner, in a facebook group? What important elements do you need to focus on, when it comes to selecting a key for your harp? Can I play in all 12 keys using just few harmonicas? Let's disclose these all in this article.
Ok, buy a C harp and an A harp. Then an F and a G one!"
When approaching this instrument, you will buy one, then another, and another.. Oh yes, if you're serious about learning harmonica you will buy many.
l've been asked very often which keys we need in the beginning and this is what I suggest my students to buy: C harmonica, and A harmonica.
The C harmonica is easy to find even in the remote places of the world. It is used as a reference when studying music theory and ear training, it simply can be compared to a piano or a guitar.
The A harmonica is lower, relatively easy to play and permits to perform on E blues in 2nd position.
After that, I would buy one F harp for high pitch screaming and crying licks, and a G harp for chord playing and train imitation. Chords sound better on low pitched harmonica, you may also consider buying a low-F harp for chugging.
As you can see, the basis of my choice for a harp is its peculiar sound and the discrete and tangible restrictions to play it. Basically a high pitched harmonica requires specific embouchure, as well as distinctive air level to play it. Some are easier to bend than others, and it really takes quite a while to get used to playing fluently on a different pitched harp. For this reason, if you get a G harmonica, a C harmonica and an F one, you will cover more or less a broad spectrum of all the required skills to play on each key.
Be informed that each harmonica model may differ from the other, so it's not just tuning that matters only, but separate nature of individual instrument, most importantly, you are encountered with.
Another dominating aspect you should never ignore while selecting a harmonica is how many different keys' songs you intend to play on: if you just play alone, every key is good and you just go and pick one gadget, but if you perform in a band or along with a singer, then you should choose your harp keeping in mind the songs you play. Let's take my case for example:
I have almost 100 songs in my repertoire and I perform a mix of minor and major songs as well as some blues style. Not to mention that I sing too, therefore, selection of harp for me depends significantly on my vocal range, but I usually tend to optimize the number of harmonicas in my seat to maximum 6. I have decided to fit all my repertoire with 6 blues harp and to rely on different playing position to cover every key.
Let's take a C harmonica: I can play it on C major songs, on G major and blues songs, on D minor songs, on E minor songs, and also on A minor song. I could also use it on F major tracks if I just play it melodically. As you see, a single harp can fit on different keys, the more you play in diversified positions, the less number of instruments you need to store in your set.
What will occur if I learn a new song that requires a certain type of harmonica which I don't have in my set? I will just rise its key one half-tone or lower it and I will play it on a key that I can manage, without changing the sound of the song much.
In the end of this article, I would like to say that if possible, a harmonica player should buy all the 12 keys harmonicas and may be even twice to have a spare set too!