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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > E or Low E more used???
E or Low E more used???
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18 posts
Feb 19, 2022
1:18 PM
I play blues and some country and bluegrass.

I need a diatonic in the key of E and curious if the Low E or E is used most often.

I honestly tend to prefer the lower versus higher tone but I'm curious if the songs typically played on an E would sound strange on a low E.
399 posts
Feb 19, 2022
6:37 PM
In my experience: Regular E for country and bluegrass. Not a lot of blues in B, but low E could sound great, as long as you can cut through the mix.
7056 posts
Feb 19, 2022
10:40 PM
Regular E is far more useful ime. Low E has its uses too but it’s kind of a special application. There’s a reason the standard range was standard for so long.
Just my pov, of course.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Feb 19, 2022 10:40 PM
94 posts
Feb 20, 2022
4:56 AM
I pretty much only use my E harps in 1st position While the upper register of a regular E harp is tough to blow bend consistently (and it's shrill), the lower end in 1st is really nice. It bites and has nice ability to be heard.

The low E in first sounds really rich on the low end (not cutting through the mix as well) and the high end is easy to bend but lacks some definition of notes. Worth keeping one around but it's a rarely used harp.
2286 posts
Feb 20, 2022
6:32 AM
While I enjoy the sound of low harps a lot in the right circumstances, and I have low C, D, Eb, E, F, and F# harps, I find that low harps don't cut through the mix well. In order to be heard low harps require a band that exercises volume restraint and more amplification than higher pitched harps.

I use the low F (in 2nd) the most of my low harps, but often switch to a regular F in the same song. I use my low D, but usually when playing in Em in 3rd playing in the middle and upper octaves.

I have never used my low C, Eb, or E harps in live performance.

If a song suitable for 2nd position is called in Db/C# I almost always use a low F#, not high. Usually those songs are songs in which the guitar is tuned down a half step and would usually be played on a G harp. Sometimes it invoves guitar with a capo. Low F# is my standard harp in that key.

I find low harps slower to respond, so in music that calls for fast runs I choose the higher pitch harps. If I need to cut through the mix I use higher pitched harps.

Doug S.
101 posts
Feb 20, 2022
1:18 PM
I have a slightly unusual use for low-key harmonicas.

I play in a blues harmonica ensemble (not many of those around!). Arranging songs for multiple harmonicas (up to 5) means a bass line on the low octave of a low-key harmonica (usually C, D, E or F) is used for the bottom end. That is partly because I find playing my bass harmonica for any tune that is fast or long is too hard – only blow notes means my head starts to spin! So I tend to use the bass as a ‘jug’ in jug band style songs like ‘Cocaine Habit Blues’.

The low key harps add interesting tools to the toolbox
93 posts
Feb 20, 2022
4:05 PM
Have to have a regular (high) E for Little Walter's "Tell me mama" alone! Also, on some recordings (pitch a little off?) and E harp is on Charlie McCoy's "Back Home in Indiana" a fast cool song that traditional "Trad Jazz" players usually know so it's a great one to pull out if sitting in with a Dixieland/Trad Jazz band. I started out in Bluegrass bands in 1970's and they will sometimes use Capo but usually 5th fret to play in C but sometimes B. I agree on the higher E cutting through mixh but I had a Swing Band 10 years and had 1 or 2 horns with me, with a big amp and good mic the Low harps sound fat (phat) and I preferred Low F, F# harps often. If you are doing county & bluegrass I would pick standard E first, then add a low E soon after.....good for 1st position in E and 3rd position in F so very useful if you get into those areas.
1683 posts
Feb 21, 2022
3:07 AM
The low keyed harps can sound a bit in-distinctly murky in my experience, and I would not hesitate and go for a regular E. They also tend to last longer -- the shoorter reeds hold up better if you´re hard on the harp.
752 posts
Feb 22, 2022
9:09 AM
All the low tuned harps work great, when there is no "volume" issue. Solo on rack or accompany a acoustic guitar. Especially low F --its not overly high pitched and mixes in an 'non-intrusive' way with an acoustic guitarist or yourself.

However in "any band situation", I would have the regular higher octave ready. The low tuned might get lost in the mix.

I agree with Teton John "as long as you can cut through the mix"

In A band situation. If in Key of "D" Im either gonna play chromatic through 'vocal PA'----a [regular G and playing the high register more] and have a "high G" ready,in case. My Hi G saved me a couple times, sitting in with knuckleheads who play to loud.

Cutting through a loud band playing in Key E or D can be tough. Thats why when in D I have the 3 options of chromatic in C, regular G or high tuned G-----But u have to play softly on the high G --tiny reeds that can choke when u don't want them to.

Many harp players are close minded. They won't try anything new.

I hope u Keep yr open mind and try whatever u can afford. Its good to know, what u don't want as well.Bcuz u tried it

Last Edited by snowman on Feb 22, 2022 10:50 AM
19 posts
Feb 23, 2022
5:12 AM
Thank you very much! I always appreciate your opinions and enjoy hearing about your experiences playing harmonica. This is such a diverse and knowledgeable group!!!!

Sincerely, Doug
737 posts
Feb 25, 2022
3:59 AM
Other options to consider is a Lucky 13 or Will Wilde tuning (though not sure if the latter has a low E). These will - more or less - give you both registers

Last Edited by GamblersHand on Feb 25, 2022 4:00 AM
206 posts
Mar 26, 2022
8:02 PM
Depends on the song and genre. I have a full arsenal of low register harps including LLF and LG. I typically use my LF and LF# more than the standard registers. Rarely use HG. Still using some low SP20's that I purchased years ago when you could get a good harp for $22. Not anymore...Hohner discontinued SP20's in low register in favor of the more profitable Thunderbird. And yes, I have a few Thunderbirds.
Wailing ptarmigan
26 posts
Apr 10, 2022
12:24 PM
I can vouch for the Lucky 13 Harp (not that I am any kind of expert). I took a chance on one in F for 1st and 2nd position - my justification was 1) didnt have an f harp and 2) F is kind of high, so the extra 3 low holes might be cool. Can confirm the low holes are cool. The harp overall bends quite easily, but it does take some practice to bend those lower notes - and a bit more air than I am used to. definitely a quality instrument in my mind anyway. If it is representative of the quality of the rest of the East top units, then they are pretty good value.

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