Every time I play harmonica, it sounds like someone beating a pie pan.
Bends and overblows still give me the heebee jeebies.
Hello, Harmonica Heroes.
Here's a fun game: create your own
Complete the sentence:
"Every time I play harmonica..."
Examples: Every time I play the harmonica, it weakens the nation.
Every time I play harmonica, dogs roll over and play dead.
For me, playing the Arkansas Traveller tune is easiest on a solo system reed
placement harmonica. It's factory-designed to offer 3 complete major scales,
in the same key, in consecutive octaves. There are no missing major scale notes.
If you are a chordal player, you'll lose some chords on a solo system harp. The
Richter system (standard 10-hole) blues harp has a few chords factory-installed.
The solo system harps are sold only in the key of C, unless you request an F harp
solo system from the Seydel company.
If the key of F tune is written in F, for a piano, play it in F. The easiest solution
is to ask the piano player what key he or she is playing, and play in the pianist's key.
The positions charts recommended in an earlier post will help you to decide which
harp to use. The key of F is located in different positions on different harps, as the
Always look for the easiest key position on the harmonica. If you want to add
improvisations, embellishments, etc., the most commonly used position is second
position. It's sometimes called "cross harp". For example, use a key of Bb harp
in cross position to play the F scale (key of F on a Bb harp).
The arrangement of Glenn Weiser is a different version from
the George-Heaps-Nelson arrangement from his book.
Publishers ask the arrangers to write a variation of a tune,
to avoid copyright legal problems.
The Weiser version has all correct tablature, but the tune may
not be what your ears have heard before.
Since I learned the tune from the Nelson book, the Weiser
version took a few minutes to learn.
The tablature will be the same, regardless of the key in which
it's played. You may play it in any major key, as long as it's
the same key as the piano player in your group. If you are playing
it without a group, you can use any Richter 10-hole major key
Here's the Nelson version's tablature. The Nelson version is in
the key of C, but the tablature will work with a D harp.
Lack of rhythmic notation is the main problem with reading
harmonica tablature. If you don't already know this tune's
rhythms, this tab won't help you.
Two foot taps per measure;
The sign ( - ) is a rest of a half count;
A blow reed has no extra sign; ( * ) is a draw reed;
The sign ( | ) is a measure divider (bar line);
The signs ||: and | are inclusive repeat signs.
||:6 | 7 8 8* 7 6* - | 6 - 7 - | 8* 8* 8 8 | 8* 8 8* 7 6* 6 |
| 7 8 8* 7 6* - | 6 - 7 - | 7 7* 7 6 6* 7 6 5* | 5 4 4* 4 |
||: 5 5* |6 5* 5 6 5* 5 4* 5* | 5 4* 4 5 4* 2* |3 - 4 *- | 5 4* 4 5 4 |
5 5* |5 4* 4 5 4* 6 | 7 7* 7 6 6* 7 6 5* | 5 4 4* 4 |
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
Welcome to the Hormonica Club.
You have many new friends here.
Besides this great website, there are
many free websites for harmonica players.
This next one is just for fun. It has pre-recorded
tunes for play-along, written in hormonica tablature,
not in traditional European music notation.
You may freely download the tunes for practicing,
and freely download the recorded tunes.
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
The bending technique is only available on a single reed per note harmonica,
if:the "interval" (scale distance) between the two factory-installed reeds in a
hole is a whole step or larger, such as C-d, G-a, etc.
Let's look at the solo system note chart and the Richter system chart, for a key
of C, standard diatonic harmonica. In these charts, the large letters (C,E,G)
are exhale reeds, and the small letters (b,d,f,a) are inhale reeds:
STANDARD RICHTER SYSTEM DIATONIC HARP, KEY OF C
||C d |E g |G b |C d |E f |G a |b C |d E |f G | a C ||
Holes 1-6 are bendable (not hole 5), as inhale bends.
Holes 8-10 (not hole 7) are bendable as exhale bends.
Notice the reversal of breath pattern at hole 7.
The holes 5 and 7 have notes with a distance of only
a half step (E-f; b-C). There is a total of 12 bends available
on a Richter system harmonica.
STANDARD SOLO SYSTEM DIATONIC HARP, KEY OF C
||C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C ||
Holes 1,3,5,7,9,11 have bends available.
No bends are available in holes 2,4,6,8,10 and 12.
The solo system harps have only 6 bendable reeds,
and the Richter system harps have 12 bendable reeds
Thanks for the compliment.
I didn't know the Orchestra's reed setup.
It's not listed in my 2014 Seydel catalog.
Hello, Harmonica Fans.
Harmonica reed placement systems are listed here.
Harmonica tunings are a different subject, often mis-named
for harmonica reed placements.
Harmonica reed placements are systems of positioning
reeds on the reed plates, used by the manufacturers and
customizers, to permit easier playing, and other uses.
Diatonic harmonicas are those that have only one major
scale factory-installed. They include single reed per note
"blues" harps and double reed per note tremolo and octave
harps. They are mostly of the no-slide-button type.
Chromatic harps are the harps playable in 12 major scales,
factory-installed, on one harmonica, without using performer
techniques of bending and overblowing. They are available
in slide harmonicas and no-slide varieties.
In the following charts, large letters (C,E,G) are exhale reeds,
and small letters (b,d,f,a) are inhale reeds.
STANDARD RICHTER SYSTEM REED PLACEMENT:
key of C, 10-mouthpiece-hole diatonic harmonicas:
(Hohner Marine Band, Suzuki Bluesmaster, Seydel
Blues Sessions, and other brands and models)
||C d |E g |G b |C d |E f |G a |b C |d E |f G |a C ||
The Richter system of reed placement was introduced by
the Josef Richter harmonica company in 1857, after Josef
saw it used on accordions. The Richter system allows chordal
playing (3 or more notes played in harmony, at the same time),
The exhale reeds are placed on the top reed plate, and the
inhale reeds are placed on the bottom reed plate.
STANDARD SOLO SYSTEM
key of C, 12-hole diatonic and slide chromatic harmonicas:
(Hohner Super Chromonica, Seydel Fanfare, Suzuki SCX-48,
||C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C || (diatonic harps)
||C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C || slide out (slide chromatics)
||C# d# |E# f# |G# a# |b# C# |C# d# |E# f# |G# a# |b# C# |C# d# |E# f# |G# a# |b# C# || slide in (slide chromatics)
The solo system of reed placement was introduced and patented in 1907, by W.B. Yates,
of Alviso, California. It was designed for a 12-mouthpiece-hole diatonic harmonica. It allows
easier melody playing, with fewer chords available. The first slide chromatic solo system
harmonica was introduced in 1910, by the Hohner company. It was the "Chromatic Harmonica",
in a 10-hole Richter system placement, with the key of C Richter system on the top reed plate,
and the key of C# Richter on the bottom reed plate. It's name was later changed to the Hohner
STANDARD ASIAN SYSTEM REED PLACEMENT
key of C, 24-double-hole diatonic tremolos and octave harps
(Chinese, Japanese, Korean manufacturers)
||G |d |C | f |E |a |G |b |C |d |E |f |G |a |C |b |E |d |G |f |C |a |E |b || top reed plate ( - ) = no reed
||G |d |C |f | E |a |G |b |C |d |E |f |G |a |C |b |E |d |G |f |C |a |E | b || bottom reed plate
The Asian system reed placement was introduced by World Champion Tremolo Harmonica
player Hidero Sato of Japan, at the World Harmonica Championships in Trossingen, Germany,
in 1929. It has 2 consecutive (no skipping) melodic scale octaves, compared to only one
melodic scale in the Richter system,
In tremolo harmonicas, each vertically-paired set of mouthpiece holes has reeds of the same pitch,
but one of the two reeds is slightly de-tuned. This results in a wavy tone when the 2 reeds are played
together ("tremolo"). In octave harmonicas, the two vertical set of reed are pitched an octave (8 scale
degrees) apart. This provides more volume with easier playing.
Hello, Acearl. Welcome to the Harmonica Club.
Here's a list of composers' and arrangers' tools,
free websites for harmonicas.
(converts traditional music notation to harmonica tablature)
(traditional music notation to harmonica tablature)
(a tuner, useable for harmonicas & other instruments)
(slows speed of music, for easier practice)
(converts midi to traditional music notation)
(just for fun, free tunes pre-recorded for play-along.
In harp tab only, no traditional music notation.
The tunes are freely downloadable and printable)
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
Here's one person's process for maintenance/repair
of a Hohner #1896 Marine Band harmonica. Other
players may have different techniques.
If your MB harp has performance problems, not
maintenance problems, other techniques may be needed.
HOHNER #1896 MARINE BAND DIS-ASSEMBLY
1. Removing the metal covers: with a single-edged
razor blade or pen knife, go to the tabbed sides
of the covers (where the nails hold the covers to
the reed plates).
LIGHTLY and carefully pry the covers from the
reed plates. When the nails are rising from the
covers, pull them out with a small tweezers or
needle-nose pliers. Store the nails in a cup, being
careful to not lose any nails. Store the covers in the
cup with the nails, set them aside.
2. Cleaning the metal covers: since your Marine
Band harp is new, the covers won't need cleaning.
Wipe them off with a damp cloth.
3. Separating the brass reed plates from the wood comb:
The reed plates must be removed from the comb for cleaning.
Since your MB harp is new, no cleaning is needed at this time.
[l]4. Cleaning the reed plates[/i], soak them in lemon juice for
about 10 minutes, rinse the plates under running water, about
5. Cleaning the wood comb, Liquids are the enemy of wood
combs. Store the wood comb in a separate cup. To clean the
wood comb, use a clean, dry tooth brush, on all surfaces. If
more cleaning is needed, lightly scrape the comb's "teeth" (tines)
with a small jeweler's slotted screwdriver. NEVER use any liquids
to clean a wood comb.
6. Removing the reed plates from the comb: Go to the audience
side of the comb. With the pen knife or single-edged razor blade,
LIGHTLY and carefully slip the blade between the reed plate and
comb, at the audience side corners. Gently pry the plate away from
When the plate is separated from the comb. gently remove
the nails with a tweezer or needle-nose pliers. Put these
nails in a separate cup, not in the same cup as the cover nails.
The nails need to be re-installed later in the same holes as when
removed. Separation of cover nails from plate nails is important.
Store the reed plates in the same cup with the plate nails.
7. Re-assemble the clean harmonica. The Hohner wood comb nails
are shaped like a fish hook ( J) . That's a design that produces
an air-tight seal for the covers and reed plates to the comb.
The MB was not designed to be dis-assembled.
The Hohner #1896 Marine Band harmonica has been sold since
1896, and was not designed for owner maintenance.
Avoid wood combed harmonicas. The Marine Band harmonicas
have an excellent tone, but they are susceptible to humidity changes,
and liquids. The Hohner #1896 Marine Band is made with 19th-century
materials and parts.
For about the same price, you can get a Hohner Special 20
Progressive (my favorite model); or a Suzuki BluesMaster
or HarpMaster; or Seydel Blues Session or Favorite.They are
all in the mid-price range.
The Suzuki models have equal temperament tuning. They're
designed for players who play mostly melodically (one note at
a time),don't use chords, and/or like to play different scales
(positions, modes) on one harmonica. Chords may be played,
but they may sound slightly out of tune in chords.
The Hohner and Seydel models use either just intonation or
compromise tuning. They're designed to be played mostly in
one music scale, melodically and with chords.
All of the above-named models (except the Marine Bands)
have plastic combs, and screws hold the reed plates and
covers to the plastic comb. Plastic and other synthetic combs
aren't affected by moisture.
An opinion: Plastic combed harmonicas are a big improvement
over the wood combed harmonicas, that have nails holding the
reed plates and covers to the wood comb.