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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Most used harps
Most used harps
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6461 posts
Feb 01, 2020
2:23 AM
You might know of that large list of harp-centric albums which was available on Dave Barrett’s Harmonica Masterclass site. I’ve forgotten the name of the person who created it, so I must make a point of rediscovering that information and give credit for the work.
It’s a massive effort. I think there are over 500 albums listed, broken down track by track, and analysed for harp content ie harp key and position. Some tracks have multiple harps/positions.
There are something like 7000 tracks listed.
I took the list and entered the information to a spreadsheet so that I can search for things, and do some analysis.
It took me a few hours to clean up the info.

There are a couple of things to note about the work, which became clear once I had put it into the spreadsheet form.

There are a lot of recordings which are present multiple times. This especially applies to the older material which is on various and numerous compilation albums. It’s only important if your trying to analyse the data.

There are also quite a few errors. That’s probably to be expected given the size of the task. I think 521 albums, your mission is to listen to every track and write down the key, and the key of harp being played.
There’s bound to be some errors. Big deal, users should just be aware it’s only one person’s analysis.

I suppose the other thing is that it’s only listing albums up to around 2004, and it’s just a collection. A pretty cool collection, but it reflects a particular musical taste.

I’ve shared a link to my spreadsheet before and I’m happy to do it again if anyone wants it. I’ll probably put it up in a subsequent post on this thread anyway, when I get around to it.

One of the analytical things I’ve done is to look at the relative popularity of different keys, overall. I’ve also broken it down by artist, so for instance I know that Little Walter favoured a Bb harp and Jr Wells played a lot of D harp, Sonny Boy II played more F harp than almost anyone else.

I guess that’s all about the keys they like to sing and the positions they favour
Tonight I had a look at my harp requirements for the 2 sets I am playing tomorrow.
I have a Pinegrove holster for the stage. It’s really great kit, but holds only 4 harps, so I thought I’d make sure I had my most used harps in the holster for each set.

I was almost shocked to see how much use I get from my A harp.
With 28 songs, I’m playing 13 on A, 2 on C Chromatic, 5 on C diatonic, 4 on D, and 1 on each of F G E and Bb

So I need 7 diatonic and 1 chromatic.

Anyway, I was surprised to see I’m hitting the A so frequently and the D not so much. I sing in A quite a lot, there are 10 songs in A, and I play the D harp in 4 of them, the G in 1 and the A in the other 5. I do enjoy 1st position!
I play 2 songs in 3rd position and I use the A for 1 of those as well.
With 7 numbers in E, that adds up to a lot of work for the A harp.

I’m glad to have some nice A harps.
Anyway, I’m interested to know if anyone here has an idea of their preference/most used keys.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Feb 01, 2020 2:30 AM
93 posts
Feb 01, 2020
7:43 AM
Cool, I'd like to check your work so when you get chance post up the link.
I only play in 2nd & 3rd position so in order of favorite & most played it's A, D, Bd, 3rd position G
Just got a chromatic and need to get started learning the instrument if anyone has tip/link to site with some Jazz licks/tab or instruction that would helpful.
6462 posts
Feb 01, 2020
1:50 PM
See if this works. You’ll need to download it and it’s a Microsoft Excel file so you’ll need appropriate software to view it, but if you have that it should be quite self-explanatory.

I’ve become aware of some errors, particularly around chromatic harp info, so maybe treat those with caution.

315 posts
Feb 02, 2020
12:09 PM
When i take a quick look at the harps for an up coming gig I see that I use
... C harps in about half our songs (I bring 4 C harps each one a bit diff from the other)
...Em harp, Bb, A... are pretty well divided I use each one for 3 songs.

course that changes a bit but basically that's about it
I use F an D or G less frequently

Last Edited by Spderyak on Feb 02, 2020 12:10 PM

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