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Contrary to what a lot of people think, the blues is not depressing music - Paul Geremia, Frets interview

Author Topic: Yo Harp Players  (Read 738 times)

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Offline NotRevGDavis

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Yo Harp Players
« on: August 22, 2012, 09:30:19 AM »
I'm looking for a knowledgeable resource for Harmonicas and accessories. I would prefer somewhere near the San Francisco Peninsula but on-line would work also as long as there is a human I can contact at the other end.
I currently have a Hohner Big River in "A" and a Lee Oskar in "G" considering the price difference I don't hear much of a sound difference. So I need some direction in what to purchase, if I should purchase a set or collect them as needed.
Got the name, still workin' on the licks!

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Yo Harp Players
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2012, 11:16:04 AM »

  I've been playing Harp since childhood and I play Big Rivers.
  Unlike other Hohner models (Made in Hicksville, New York), they're still made in Germany and they're still made with brass reeds. They sound as good, but cost less than other Harps on the market.
  I totally agree about the sound difference, not being worth the price difference, with the Lee Oskars.
  I also have several Hohner Old Standbys, that cost even less than the Big Rivers but have a perfectly decent sound.

  As time passes, I believe you'll find that your Harp tone has a lot more to do with the chops you develop, than it does, any particular brand name

  I'd also advise to buy the Harps on an, as needed, basis.
  I've got E flats, B flats and F sharps that I haven't touched in years

   Hope this has been helpful

Offline westside ryan

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Re: Yo Harp Players
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2012, 04:53:55 PM »
If you like the plastic harps I'd try out a Hohner Special 20.  I've found both Lee Oskars and Big Rivers to be less air tight.  David Barrett is an excellent harmonica instructor (maybe the best) and has a great site: and has authored a slew of great harmonica instruction books.  Adam Gussow (from the duo Satin & Adam) is another great instructor who has  an active forum at: or you can check out his main site at: He also has hundreds (I think) of free lessons on YouTube:

What harp keys should I buy? (From Adam Gussow's site)

    I talk about this in my book, Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives from Faulkner's Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York.  It depends in part on who you're going to be playing with.  If you're jamming along with blues records, you'll probably be able to get by with harps in the keys of A, C, D, and F.  Those will enable you to play cross harp in the keys of E, G, A, and C.  Many classic blues harmonica cuts are recorded in those keys.
    The next three keys you get should be G, B-flat, and E-flat.  G is the lowest standard harp; except for Dennis Gruenling, almost no harp players record on the low F, low E-flat, and low D harps.  B-flat and E-flat show up with some frequency in the harp repertoire?Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, and Mark Wenner use them?and they?re particularly important if you?re going to be jamming with horn players, since horn players love the keys of F and B-flat.  B-flat harps play cross in F; E-flat harps play cross in B-flat.)
    Once you?ve accumulated G, A, B-flat, C, D, E-flat, and F, you?re ready to rumble.  What about the remaining harps?

    A-flat:  rarely used.  Stevie Wonder plays the solo on ?Boogie On Reggae Woman? on an A-flat harp, blowing the high notes in first position.
    B:  I?ve only come across two cuts in this key harp:  Big Walter plays ?Tighten Up on It? with Johnny Young on a B harp, and Sonny Terry plays ?Poor Boy? on an obscure recording with Brownie McGhee
    D-flat:  A favorite harp of mine for a particular song, ?Gone to Main Street,? but I?ll be damned if I know anybody else who uses it--except for Nat Riddles, blowing harp with Larry Johnson on an impossible-to-find album on the Spivey Records label entitled Basin Free.
    E:  This harp shows up from time to time.  Sugar Blue plays ?Miss You? with the Stones on an E, if I?m not wrong, and ?Midnight Rambler? also uses it.  James Cotton uses an E-harp on 100% Cotton.
    F-sharp:  Very rare.  Mickey Raphael plays his solo in Willie Nelson?s ?Georgia on My Mind? on an F-sharp harp.

    The only other key you might consider is a high G harp.  In amplified contexts, a low G has trouble cutting through, but a high G is right out front.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 09:52:14 PM by Westside Ryan »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Yo Harp Players
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2012, 07:38:37 PM »
Y'all might want to talk to Billy Citrin about this. He's passionate about harps and goes to the harp conferences, in fact he was off to the Dallas conference after Port T.

He chewed my ear off about esoteric ways to get the best out of a harp when we were walking around Fort Worden one sunny enhanced afternoon, most of which was lost on me because I don't play harp much. But it was very entertaining, funny and informative nonetheless, which I found Billy to always be, in the short time that I got to know him.

I owe him an email so I'll send it off and hopefully he might check-in here.


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