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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Minor harmonicas
Minor harmonicas
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3 posts
Mar 02, 2022
6:04 AM
hello fellow harp players!

Lee Oskar has some interesting harps with minor tunings and Lee plays them very well.

Does minor tuned harmonicas worth it? I know I can play minor with a standard harmonica, but I want to know your opinions.

Thanks a lot and sorry for my bad english.

3674 posts
Mar 02, 2022
8:08 AM
The biggest single advantage to playing a harp tuned to a minor key is for chord playing or if you're typical of many harp players needing something you could refer to as taking the easy way out rather than taking the time to learn positions and basic music theory and harp players are NOTORIOUS for that BIG TIME.

The Lee Oskar minor tunings come in natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales and for playing stuff outside of blues, this is where you'd be running across those scales for certain tunes and would come in handy. On a standard diatonic harmonica tuning, you not only have to know your positions well, but to play those minor scales PROPERLY, your bends need to be accurate as hell and that's often not the case with many harp players.

If you do buy them, make sure that you remember this one fact that the company has said since they were introduced back in the mid 80's, is that unlike a standard diatonic, which is labeled in 1st position, they're label in cross/2nd position and a lot harp players are too lazy to pay attention that.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
755 posts
Mar 02, 2022
9:34 AM

Ive been playing with a rack since 1980. About 10-20 years ago I tried a natural minor harp. For playing on a rack, it really helps on some songs.

Im gonna use thrill Is gone as my example. The actual song has Bm 7 -Em7 the turn Gmaj 7 to Gb7. I play it using Cm7—Fm7 turn Abmaj7-G7. U can absolutely play it in 3rd pos or even 2ND . On the rack I use what I call a “F nat minor “ harp. Barbecue Bob is right The labeling is weird for Natural Minor on Lee Oscars

If u play in cross harp when in Bm on a normal E harp U have definite “AVOID NOTES” These avoid notes Are automatically changed on a ‘nat minor harp’. That’s the cheating part. The 3rds and 6ths are already minor or flatted a a half step. This allows me to not only have the ‘minor chords’, while on the rack. But I can play the harp as if I was playing in normal 2nd pos----NO AVOID NOTES.

Checkout Lee oscars website----Find what he labels a “Bm”. harp” then check a regular tuned---u will see the difference----Note [blow 2 5 n 8 ] and [draw 3 n 7} the 3rds and 6ths are already flatted----cheating but makes for easy rack playing.

Nat Minor

Reg tuned


If u want to try one buy Lee Oscar nat minor harp in key “LABELED Bm” ----MAKE SURE THE 1 BLOW IS AN “E” ---This will allow u to play 2nd pos in Bm for thrilli s gone

I made his video about 10 years ago----I play Thrill in Cm ---not Bm
The note on 1 blow is F not C----I relabeled the harp so its not confusing---
So Im playing A ‘ F nat Minor harp’ on rack In Cm-

It takes a while for your ears to adjust to alternate tunings---If u want to try =---ALLOW TIME FOR YOUR EARS TO ADJUST
10396 posts
Mar 02, 2022
12:04 PM
I love minor tuned harmonicas. I can play minor (Dorian, Natural or Phrygian) on my normal harps but the chord options on a natural minor are just killer.

Now, that said, I think it's worth learning to play minors on regular harps since so much classic blues was played that way, but if you want to pick up so minor tuned harps along the way they can really broaden your palette.

Keep in mind that Lee Oskar and Seydel label their natural minors in 2nd position. Hohner labels them in first- but incorrectly- they are laid out the same way as LOs and Seydels, which means they are actually in Dorian in 1st position, not natural minor. Dorian is a minor scale and very useful, but it's not natural minor. Suzuki actually moves the natural minor scale over to 1st position, so their harp is laid out differently.

I've got LOs and Seydels and love them.

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First Post- May 8, 2009
398 posts
Mar 02, 2022
1:24 PM
Hope we don't overload you with info.
So a simple answer would be yes the Lee Oskar are worth it sometimes.
He list all his harps in charts so you can see if it has the notes you want to use in a song.

No matter which other company harps I use I label them always in 1st position it helps me keep it all straight in my mind.

It's always nice to know which side of middle C your harp his on.

Also you can play a minor tuned harp in a major key.
I play the lee Oskar Em in the key of G for one of my favorite songs for example.

The fact he has his harps all charted out is a big help. There are times I don't know what position I'm playing but I do know what notes I need for a tune and I check the charts to see what harp(s) have the notes I want.

Good luck with all.

Last Edited by Spderyak on Mar 02, 2022 1:26 PM
4 posts
Mar 02, 2022
3:42 PM
Thanks guys for the insight!
3020 posts
Mar 02, 2022
6:39 PM
Just to elaborate on what Nate wrote—
Suzuki natural minor harps have the third flattened, just like you would expect, but they tune draw 6 and 10 a half step flat.
So a C minor has Bb and Eb, but also Ab.
No draw bend on hole 6.
I used to retune them for folks, but since Suzuki was acquired by KMC, no complaints.
33 posts
Mar 03, 2022
9:41 AM
I find that sometimes playing with an alternate tuning gives you some new ideas for your standard tuning harmonicas. Also, some things just sound better - the half-step bend on 5 draw, for example, can make some lines sound smoother and more expressive
1558 posts
Mar 04, 2022
7:50 AM
Just an FYI - Lee Oskar Harmonicas has created a nice little niche with alternate tunings such as Natural Minor and Harmonic Minor Tunings. I see a lot of players, who are very loyal to a particular model like a Marine Band or a Manji, but they still have a few Minor Tuned Lee Oskars sprinkled in their sets. What they do not realize is that all the major manufacturers like Hohner, Seydel and Suzuki also offer minor tuned harps. Another key piece of information to bear in mind is that Lee Oskar labels minor tuned harps in 2nd postion. Hohner labels them in 1st postion. So be sure about what you are buying before you pull the trigger.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas

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