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Harmonica Chords
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30 posts
Dec 20, 2023
8:42 AM
As my study of the harp has progressed, I became interested in just how many and which chords a diatonic could play.

Search engines turned up little, as everything was oriented around those just starting out, and the sites gave different information.

I even attempt to use AI. No dice.

So, I took the sites I could find. I also performed some self-study based on the music theory sites as well as my own compositions, and came up with the following schema:

On a C Richter-tuned harmonica:

C: (123), (456), (789), (1234), (4567), (7890)
Cy3 / (C dyad): (12), (45), (78)
C5: (34), (78), (90)
Emy3 / (Em dyad): (23), (56), (89)
G: -(123), -(234), -(1234)
Gy3 / (G dyad): -(23)
G5: -(12)
G7: -(2345)
G9: -(23456)
Dm: -(456), -(890)
Dmy3 / (Dm dyad): -(45), -(89)
Dm6: -(3456), -(4567), -(7890)
Fy3 / (F dyad): -(56), -(90), -(23)bb
Bo (Bdim): -(345), -(789)
B07 (B1/2dim7): -(3456), -(4567), -(7890)
Bbmy3 / (Bbm dyad): -(34)b

So, in 1st position / straight harp:

Here, "o" = "diminished", "0" = "half-diminished", and "y3" = "dyad / 3rd interval".

The latter is kinda problematic, as the Roman numeral chord structures don't seem to usually support two-note chords. I guess most music-theory geeks compose for the piano, or at least the guitar, in which you can have these giant monster chords. At most, they'll recognize two-note power chords because those are so prevalent in rock. Two-notes, for them, are not a thing.

But, based on my experience thus far, two-note chords / dyads are a real deal for the harp. For instance, a classic blues progression in chords might be:

-(12) -(45) -(34) -(12)
-(12) -(45) (34) -(34) -(12)

To make it more bluesy and more in-tune with the minor blues scale, we could do:

-(12) -(45) -(34)b -(12)
-(12) -(45) (34) -(34)b -(12)

So, bending the 34 draw together. The schema I came up with includes a couple of bent draw chords:


which seem useful when playing the harp.

I've not included inversions in my schema, as noting those doesn't seem to be functionally useful for the harp player.

Let me know what you think. Can anyone else contribute to this with their own chords which I might have missed?
3143 posts
Dec 20, 2023
7:55 PM
I retune harmonicas to get chords which are unavailable.
I recently retuned a PentaHarp to Augmented.
And I did a retune of a G to a sort of circular tuning I came up with years ago, here is the video.
1106 posts
Dec 21, 2023
8:20 AM
Uncloaking to say that I too was interested in chords on the harmonica, and ended up creating tabulature charts of all available notes for each playing position in standard Richter tuning. With those charts you can figure out how best to play any chord, split, or melody that you want. There was a link to that document in my profile, but that's gone now for some reason.

So I'll relink it here:

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Last Edited by mr_so&so on Dec 21, 2023 10:08 AM
31 posts
Dec 21, 2023
11:32 AM
mr_soNso, I took a look. It wasn't difficult to decode. Yes, this is pretty useful. Thanks, and happy holidays!
2106 posts
Dec 21, 2023
1:04 PM
I was looking more at notes than cords when I made this spreadsheet to help me decide which harp to use for a particular piece of sheet music. The pull down menus allow you to select the key and mode you whish to play in and the spreadsheet will give you the layout of that harp with notes in the mode highlighted. I might try to add a feature where you could select a chord from a menu and it would show you the harp and holes to use for that chord.

3144 posts
Dec 22, 2023
1:36 PM
This site can give you chords too!
2107 posts
Dec 24, 2023
9:40 AM
Gnarly, That is exactly the chart I was thinking of making, but much more refined than I would have done it.
32 posts
Dec 30, 2023
12:59 AM
Gnarly, that is a pretty nifty tool!
3145 posts
Jan 01, 2024
8:24 AM
Courtesy of this guy—

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