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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Key of H
Key of H
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423 posts
Aug 21, 2023
8:00 AM
Got my first harp in the key of H
Actually it is the key of H moll.

I had been confused on this for a number of years but never researched it.
The key of H in German if I understand it properly equals the key of B
So this harp is B minor.

Therefore if I am thinking it through correctly, there is no H flat.
Bb would simply be labeled the key of B

Have any others come across this before ?
I could see this a bit confusing. I'm thinking this is more familiar with any of the European players here.

I would be curious of any more info...thanks
1688 posts
Aug 21, 2023
8:33 AM
Supposedly a misreading, since the German/North European "Fraktur" typeface makes a lower case "b" very much resemble a (lower case) "h", and therefore the monk copyists as time went on institutionalised the "h" and then also the "H".
424 posts
Aug 21, 2023
2:37 PM
Thanks, that was interesting.
I wonder if Hohner is still using key of H or if that got retired because of any confusion.

This harp is H minor. As it turns out it is a harmonic minor not a natural minor.
I was curious so I checked it out with a tuner.
10422 posts
Aug 22, 2023
5:27 PM
"Supposedly a misreading, since the German/North European "Fraktur" typeface makes a lower case "b" very much resemble a (lower case) "h", and therefore the monk copyists as time went on institutionalised the "h" and then also the "H""

I saw a video recently, similar theory, but slightly different... trying to remember by who... that went into the history of the development of keys. Bb was (and is) more common than B, so when music said it was in B they meant Bb. On the rare occasion something needed to be type set in B they needed a natural symbol, but most type sets didn't have a natural symbol, so they used the H or h... same result... since it was the only common key that used that symbol they just shortened it to H.

I've always wanted a key of H, or better yet, and H moll, but there always are keys I need more.

I wonder if I got a low tuned one if I could get it labeled LH moll...

I've seen an Italian harmonica labeled in Do before. I wonder if any of the Asian brands label their harmonicas for their internal markets (aside from maybe the fact that Asia seems to use C# over Db and Gb over F# fairly frequently...)

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First Post- May 8, 2009
3134 posts
Aug 22, 2023
9:22 PM
My Harmonetta has the H for B and B for Bb.
Drives me nuts!
1689 posts
Aug 23, 2023
11:22 AM

As I hinted, there might be other explanations for this peculiarity -- and a friend of mine is very decided upon the use of H, "moll" and "dur" (minor/major) and has given me firm reasons for it (I´ve forgotten them). But CDEFGA*B*C has a certain argumentative weight, and I follow that.

Many musicians are a bit afraid of the key of B -- which is a pity, I like it very much on harmonica, 2nd pos E harp, or A for 3d -- and in quotidian use here in Sweden B has often become Bb, pronounced "Bess", just to make things more complicated.
1582 posts
Aug 29, 2023
5:54 AM
In my travels, I have managed to accumulate an eclectic collection of vintage harps. I am not really a collector - as in I don’t go in search of specific items to complete a set or anything like that. I just look for interesting things that I can get at a good price. I have at least one harmonica – possibly a Marine Band – in the key of H. And I have a few vintage Marine Bands in the key of B, which are actually B flats.

The Sonny Terry Estate harmonicas included one Marine Band that was labelled in the key of Es, which was actually E flat. This harp has been purchased. And I have one listed currently that is labelled C/s, which is C# or Db. Based on this, if the key has a lower case “s” after it, it means flat and if it has a slash “s” it means sharp. Go figure. Sonny toured extensively in Europe, including Germany, and it is likely that these harps were provided to him by Hohner while overseas. I do not think that they were ever offered with this labelling system in the U.S. I could be wrong though.

Here are the listings on my website, which will include some photos.



Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
426 posts
Aug 31, 2023
2:15 PM
That was very interesting. I had wondered if the harps labeled B would actually be Bb on that method of using H. I would think it would be hard to know ahead of time on those.

Very interesting about the Sonny Terry estate harps as well. I saw him many years ago in Cambridge Mass when I was a young fellow. Always felt fortunate to have had the chance.

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