Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Need to find out a harp key
Need to find out a harp key
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Xpun3414
179 posts
Feb 10, 2011
4:47 PM
Hi guys...

Ive been trying for a few days now & haven't turned up anything. I was wondering if any one knows what harp key Sonny Boy Williamson II uses in the songs "Sad to be Lonesome" & "Born Blind".

Also is there Windows software to help w/this. All my music is MP3.

Thanks guys,
Jimmy
groyster1
844 posts
Feb 10, 2011
5:22 PM
sonny played in the key of C a lot but dont know about those 2 songs
rpoe
232 posts
Feb 10, 2011
5:32 PM
This site has been posted in the past. Nice resource. I scanned the list quickly and saw born blind and sad to be alone.

SBII Keys

here's a snippit:

8 – Born Blind - F, Bb Harp (2nd Position)
9 – Ninety Nine - F, Bb Harp (2nd Position)
10 – Your Funeral and My Trial - D, G Harp (2nd Position)
11 – Keep Your Hands out of My Pocket – F, Bb Harp (2nd Position)
12 – Sad to Be Alone – C, F Harp (2nd Position)

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Last Edited by on Feb 10, 2011 5:34 PM
Xpun3414
180 posts
Feb 10, 2011
5:48 PM
Thank you rpoe.
Joe_L
1053 posts
Feb 10, 2011
6:08 PM
Don't forget, Sonny Boy II recorded several versions of his hits along the way. Make sure you are both talking about the same set of recordings. I believe the above tunes are the versions recorded for the Chess label.

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rpoe
233 posts
Feb 10, 2011
6:34 PM
@Joe_L - checking the site linked, you are correct. The snippit is from a "Best Of" Chess set.

The site also lists another label that matches the Sad to Be Alone song/harp key. Most albums listed for SBII on the site are some version of compilation from Chess.

@Jimmy - let us know how it works out.

I'm curious :-)


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Rob

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nacoran
3799 posts
Feb 10, 2011
7:37 PM
There is a plug-in for Windows Media Player called Muse-On. It's not supported in newer versions of the player, but you can download an older version of Media Player and use it.

Sometimes it will crash, but when it doesn't it works pretty well. It will show you it's best guess of what key a song is in. Even when it's off it's usually off by one step. Then you can edit the metadata for the song. There actually is a column for song key, but it's set to hidden by default. Once you have the metadata saved you can turn off Muse-On and WMP will be stable again.

Once you have a bunch of songs keyed and the data save you can even sort by key.

http://dbhovel.com/Extras/MuseOn.aspx

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Xpun3414
181 posts
Feb 10, 2011
9:39 PM
Sorry..should have said which one's Im lookin for.. but that was right,its the Chess ones... & that music plug in, rocks ! Thank you all for your help.
As always I can depend on all you guys to help. You Rock!
Greg Heumann
1042 posts
Feb 10, 2011
10:15 PM
A basic skill every harmonica player should have is the ability to figure out the key of a song. The band leader doesn't always tell you, and it is crazy cycling through a bunch of harps trying to find what works. Dave Barrett taught me the method I use. It was hard at first but I've gotten better and better at it.

You need to know two things: one is the pitch (you don't need to know its name) of the root note of the song. This is the root note of the I chord but sounds OK with every chord. You need to listen to the music and HEAR it. I usually hum this to myself if I'm not sure.

The other thing you need to do is memorize the names of the notes on holes 1-4 of a C harp. You don't need to know any other holes or harps. These are C-E-G-C on the blow notes, and D-G-B-D on the draw notes. MEMORIZE THAT NOW. It isn't hard!!! Now, LISTEN and hum if you need to, then find the root note on your C harp on one of those holes. If it isn't one of those notes, can you bend and find it? Knowing that 2 draw is a G, if you have to bend a whole step to match that note, you're then in the key of F. If you have to bend the 3 draw a half step you're in Bb. get it? Dave calls this using the C harp as a pitch pipe. As I've gotten better, I can try a note, then say to myself "the root note is a half step below this" and get the answer without even having to play the actual note. All of this is the beginning of good musical listening anyway - learning to hear roots, intervals, chords, etc.

I encourage you to learn to do this. It takes a little practice but it is a skill I use every time I play with anyone other than my own band, and helps correct when the guitar player calls out a song in G and then promptly begins in Bb, leaving you scrambling. Happened to me just the other night. And you never have to ask "what's the key" again.

Of course, once you know the key of the song, you can choose which harp to play depending on the position you deem appropriate for the tune.


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/Greg

BlowsMeAway Productions
BlueState - my band
Bluestate on iTunes

Last Edited by on Feb 10, 2011 10:17 PM
timeistight
16 posts
Feb 10, 2011
10:47 PM
Randy Singer: How to find the key of any song on harmonica
LittleJoeSamson
491 posts
Feb 10, 2011
10:58 PM
I concur with Greg, especially as applying to harp. As sidemen, we are dependent on what the rest are playing in.
If you are lead, it's different. You make the decisions, and dictate the key or keys.

As far as SBII, I follow Kim Wilson's leads as to keys, grooves, etc.
gene
671 posts
Feb 11, 2011
1:48 AM
Another tutorial on finding the key:

PaulM
112 posts
Feb 11, 2011
2:39 AM
A great and timely thread, thanks to the mentors.
My question is concerns minors. I want the band to pick up "Trouble No More"; the version played by Jimmy Rogers All Star Blues Band on Blues Blues Blues. When I use Greg's technique, I "hear" that the key of the song is E, but I also believe I hear minors in this song? My wife is insistent that the song is in a minor key??
PaulM
114 posts
Feb 11, 2011
6:22 AM
OK, I listened to the entire lesson and enjoyed it, but I still have a ways to go. I just tried Greg's method on "Trouble Me No More" and I pretty sure it's in E. My wife agrees, but her keyboard version is in Am, which is likely the source of my confusion. Thanks
tmf714
480 posts
Feb 11, 2011
6:54 AM
That particluar cut was played in the key of E-Kim Wilson uses and A harp in second position.
barbequebob
1541 posts
Feb 11, 2011
8:00 AM
One thing you have to remember when you're doing the tradtional Chicago/Mississippi blues is that there is a lot of flubbing of the line between major and minor and legend has it that the so called blue note was a note purposely hit "wrong" just to get on the nerves of white slave owners and cotton plantation owners. It's also why you often hear 3rd postion in the middle octave of a diatonic kind of playing minor over a major.

One thing many players need to do is pay very close attention to details and things you'll start to notice is that certain key harps have its own individual tonal qualities plus for certain playing positions, certain phrasing patterns tend to show up quite a bit. It takes time and patience but it CAN be learned to a point where by ear WITHOUT a harmonica you can figure it out.
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Sincerely,
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
http://www.barbequebob.com
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
PaulM
115 posts
Feb 11, 2011
8:05 AM
Good, that's what I got. Thanks.

Does anyone know of a version played in Am/Dm? That's the keyboard music we have. Realize we could transpose it, but I'm curious how the minor version would sound if I played it in 3d position?
tmf714
481 posts
Feb 11, 2011
8:35 AM
A quick search shows Muddy doing it in A and G-two different versions-and the Allmans doing it in E.
tmf714
482 posts
Feb 11, 2011
8:39 AM
G harp in third gives you A minor-C harp in third gives you D minor.
PaulM
116 posts
Feb 11, 2011
10:19 AM
I'm gonna work the E/A version. Will ask the keyboard player, my wife, to adjust. Thanks for the assist.
Greg Heumann
1045 posts
Feb 11, 2011
10:41 PM
The method I suggest works for major and minor - the root note is still the root note aka common tone aka tonic. If a song sounds minor, it might influence which harp/position you choose to play in that key.
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/Greg

BlowsMeAway Productions
BlueState - my band
Bluestate on iTunes


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