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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > C tabs on a G harp?
C tabs on a G harp?
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1 post
May 25, 2019
2:47 PM
So, beginner here, no musical background really, but I memorized some 'C' tabs on a simple Lee Oskar 'C' harp,

For example,
Amazing Grace:
6 7 8 7 8 -8 7 -6 6

But then somebody gave me a Hohner MS 'G'. I was surprised to find that those exact notes played on this new harp seemed to make the same music. Lower, but otherwise I can play all my songs and they sound fine to me.

But looking at the note charts for the different Harmonica keys, none of the notes should match up.

So is my ear broken? Or what's going on?
5976 posts
May 25, 2019
7:14 PM
You’ve just discovered something about music.
It’s relative.
It’s not the notes, it’s the relationships.
Your C harp has the notes C D E F G A and B
7 notes.
Do you know the scale that goes: do re mi fa sol la ti do?

That is a major scale

In the key of C it’s C D E F G A B C

In the key of G it is G A B C D E F# G, which are the notes of your G harp

If you play 4 blow 4 draw 5 blow 5 draw 6 blow 6 draw 7 draw 7 blow on any key of standard tuned diatonic harp, you will get this scale. The note names are different but the relationship of each note to the next one is the same.

The reason is that the major scale has only 8 notes, if you count the octave, which you must. It has 8 notes, but 7 intervals between the notes.
If you look at a piano, you see black notes and white notes
Those are all the notes in a chromatic scale. If you play each key in order, starting on C, it goes: C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B and then the next note is C and it starts again

That’s 12 note names. Each note is the same interval distance from the adjacent note. That interval is called a semitone.

There are a few things to notice.

First I should say that the sharp notes can change their names. A sharp is the very same note as Bb for instance. Whether it’s better to call it A sharp or B flat depends on the context. It will become clear.

Notice there are 12 different note names in the full chromatic scale but only 7 different names in the major scale.

Also notice that in the chromatic scale there is no sharp/flat between B and C, nor between E and F

That means that the distance between B and C is only a semitone, whereas the distance between C and D (for instance) is 2 semitones (or a whole tone)

Now if you consider C major, you’ll see the distance between the notes is whole tone, whole tone, semitone, whole tone, whole Tone, whole tone, and then a semitone again to get back to C

This applies to a major scale in every key. The key name is the same as the name of the first note.
Remember, major scale sounds like do re mi far sol la ti do

So in C is cdefgabc
In G it’s G A B C D E F# G
In D it’s D E F# G A B C# D
In A it’s A B C# D E F# G# A
In E it’s E F# G# A B C# D# E
In B it’s B C# D# E F# G# A# B

F# it’s F# G# A# B C# D# E# F# Wait. What? E#? There is no E sharp!
That’s true, but to avoid confusion (?!?!) the rule is that you don’t have 2 notes with the same letter name in the same scale. I mean you can’t have A and Asharp in the same scale, or C and C sharp, etc. in the case of the Fsharp major scale the F is already taken so E sharp is taken to mean the note more commonly known as F.
This is the same principle as used when deciding whether the note is flat or sharp. Don’t worry if you don’t get it.
It’s mainly an issue for written music, the important message is that it’s all relative.

It’s good if you have access to a keyboard. Much Easier to see the relationships and make sense of it.
5977 posts
May 26, 2019
1:48 AM
I am sitting in a power outage ... ha! The power came back just as I was typing that sentence! Was off for 2.5 hours...
I was about to say...so to fill the time I’ll try again and try to keep it simple.
But now I have power I probably better do something like make dinner.

Do you have access to a piano keyboard?
That’s the best way to see what’s going on.

Just locate the note C on the piano and play the white keys from C to the next C
It goes Doh ray me Far so la tea doh

Play blow draw on your C harp from 4 blow to 6 draw then play 7 draw and 7 blow

Same notes.

Look at the piano keyboard.
There is a black key between C and D, and between D and E. There is no black key between E and F. There is a black key between F and G, G and A, A and B. There is no black key between B and C.

Each key on the piano is one semitone away from the adjacent key. There’s nothing special about the black keys except the colour and size. So when I say “each key” I’m including both the white and black keys.

So you see the ‘doh ray me’ (starting on C) does not include any black keys.

If you start on any key other than C you will need to include at least one black key and skip at least one white key to keep the relationship between the notes and get that familiar ‘dough ray me far so la tea dough’ scale.

That is the basis of what keys are all about.

It’s all about the relationships of 1 note to another. The distance between 2 notes is called the interval. You can play any notes you like, if the interval between the notes is the same, the effect will be the same. It will be higher or lower but the ‘tune’ will be the same.

That is why you need 12 standard diatonic harmonicas to have a full set.

The good part is that if you can play a song on one harmonica, you can easily play it in a different key just by using a different key harmonica.

Okay I’ll stop there. With that much information you can look up things in Wikipedia and start to build an understanding. Wikipedia is pretty good for its music articles.

Oh, 1 more thing though. It’s a good idea to learn the note names and locations on your C harp. It’s quite easy and it will help a lot.

There are only 3 blow notes C E G, and there are 10 holes. So from 1 to 10 it’s C E G C E G C E G C. The Cs are in 1 4 7 10. The Es are in 2 5 8 and Gs in 3 6 9. You’ll get it in no time.

The draw notes are easy too. The first 2 are D G then it’s B D F A, B D F A.

It’s really worth learning this. Trust me.

Last Edited by SuperBee on May 26, 2019 1:53 AM
2 posts
May 26, 2019
11:37 AM
Thank you two! That's a very clear way to explain something that an hour of googling only managed to make more confusing. Now it all makes sense.

So I guess the downside of playing C tabs on a G harmonica is only that it would sound wrong if I was playing with another instrument?

The piano is a good idea, but it will have to wait, I'm on a sailboat in the Pacific currently. The harmonica is just a good way to pass the nightshift!
25 posts
May 27, 2019
9:24 AM
Great explanations SuperBee, I had a couple of ah ha moments!

Question: While playing a tune in the key of G, if I play the same notes on a C harp that I played on a G harp, is that considered cross harp? I'm guessing that I would have to play the notes lower on the C harp using more draw notes.
Jeff B

Last Edited by Pickn5 on May 27, 2019 9:42 AM
5982 posts
May 27, 2019
3:31 PM
Hi, Jeff.
yes, if you play a C harp in key of G, that is known as cross harp, or 2nd position.
Your tonic note for G will be in 2 draw (G) and the notes of the G major chord will be in 1 2 3 4 draw
That’s D G B D. If you add the 5 draw (F) that is the dominant (aka ‘flat’) 7th and so all the first 5 draw notes will harmonise with a G7 chord.

This easily available flat 7 in the cross key is probably the main reason that cross harp/2nd position is so popular for blues music. The other main reason is the relative ease of flattening the 3 draw and getting the ‘blue’ 3rd (which is somewhat akin to the minor 3rd, but is not exactly the same idea. Close enough though that it’s probably not worth splitting the hairs)

Your blow notes on a C harp are all C E And G, which are the notes of a C major chord, so they’ll harmonise with a C chord, anywhere you blow.

If you were playing a song in key of G on a G harp, you have the full major diatonic scale. On the C harp you have only 1 different note, which is the F/F#.
If you need the F#, it’s easier to play the G harp, because it’s a relatively hard note to get from the C. You either have to overblow the 5 blow, or do a semitone draw Bend on the 2 hole.
You can obtain an alternate-tuned C harp, where the note in 5 draw is raised a semitone, to F sharp. This is sometimes known as ‘country tuning’ or ‘jazz tuning’. I believe Charlie McCoy made use of this fairly often. It allows all the advantages of the cross harp draw chord while giving the melodic possibility of the major scale. There are other good things about it too but that’s a study in itself

Last Edited by SuperBee on May 27, 2019 3:36 PM
26 posts
May 28, 2019
4:23 AM
Thanks SuperBee. I really like your detailed and easy to understand explanations. I have a long way to go in my harp learning journey and I'm still learning first position in my lesson book. My question arose due to information that came up in a YouTube video that I wanted to verify.
Jeff B
5988 posts
May 30, 2019
5:39 AM
Thanks, Jeff. I'm pleased to hear you find it so.

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