Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Mystery harp sound
Mystery harp sound
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Laurie McVay
5 posts
May 20, 2020
6:33 AM
In 1963, a blues artist called 'Danny Boy' recorded a great record, Wild Women. It featured some remarkable playing from an unknown harp player.

Apparently, the harpist turned up to the session without a harmonica (!), so one had to be found on the spot. It's probably this fact that explains the unusual harp sound.

I have good ears, but I've never been able to figure out how the harp was done. It is not played in First, Second or Third position.

The song can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX-cSEjIGOE. It is in the key of A. See if you can figure it out.
nacoran
10261 posts
May 20, 2020
7:48 AM


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Nate
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First Post- May 8, 2009
dougharps
2108 posts
May 20, 2020
8:03 AM
The harp playing on the cut sounds like it is on a C harmonica playing on a song in A, so it is 4th position rhythm playing. 4th on a C easily offers A natural minor, the Aeolian mode of C. You can play A major if you use bending and/or overblows to play major in 4th position. This harp is not really doing that. The blues is somewhat amenable to minor over major and it sort of works, but I would prefer a different harp on this song.

Learning positions can help you out in a pinch if you don't have the key of harp you might normally choose on hand for a song.

I would use a D harp in 2nd on this song if I had one available at the time, but I could get by on a C if I had to.
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Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on May 20, 2020 8:23 AM
nacoran
10262 posts
May 20, 2020
8:03 AM
Sounds like A harp 4/5 draw alternating with a 3 blow with a little bit of 4 sometimes, with 5 draw bending down and going into a 4 draw (maybe bent). I think I heard a little growl... sort of the draw version of a rolled r in a couple spots.

At the 2 minute mark he seems to be doing a 3 draw into a bend down to the 2. Is there a moment in particular that you are interested in?

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Nate
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First Post- May 8, 2009
dougharps
2110 posts
May 20, 2020
8:41 AM
Nate, I harmonically distanced myself from my spouse and revisited the song to try an A harp as you suggested.

I am still pretty sure it is a C in 4th. The chords on a A don't sound the same, and all the notes are there on a C.

That being said, if I didn't have a D harp for 2nd position on the song I would then pick an A in first, then a G in 3rd before I would consider using a C in 4th.
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Doug S.
Laurie McVay
6 posts
May 20, 2020
9:25 AM
Thank you all for the replies. I think that Fourth Position is right. When I play it, the Five Draw sounds a bit shrill, but it's probably all in the technique.
Revealingly, the A side ('Kokomo Me') is also in A, meaning that the poor sod had to hover again around the three draw, two draw and two blow. But it leads to a different sound.
I like the quirkiness of all of this and the way the harp floats in that space between major and minor.

Last Edited by Laurie McVay on May 20, 2020 9:26 AM
nacoran
10263 posts
May 20, 2020
1:34 PM
I can't check 4th right now. It might be. I didn't check the whole song. I was able to get the part I did in 1st. (I think we cross posted Doug, I didn't see your post when I posted.)

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Nate
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First Post- May 8, 2009
wolfkristiansen
443 posts
May 25, 2020
12:12 AM
The singer sounds like he's singing in the key of A. The harp player is using a C harmonica, but playing it in fifth position, not fourth. Fifth position would normally be used for a minor-keyed song in E.

dougharps, you and I agree that the harp player is using a C harmonica. But here are the positions and resultant keys, as I understand them, using a C harp:
C in first-C; C in second-G; C in third-D; C in fourth-A; C in Fifth-E. You can play a minor keyed E scale, in fifth position, by starting with a blow in hole 2. The second and fourth notes have to be hit bent.

Cheers,
wolf kristiansen
SuperBee
6649 posts
May 25, 2020
3:16 AM
Wolf, this strikes me as a very odd thing you’ve posted. Why would the harp be in E on a song in A? If the harp player is using a C harp to play in A, that’s 4th position. All I can conclude from your post is that you think the harp player is way off beam on their approach.


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