I have been listening to Little Walter for that ‘no slide’ approach to playing in D or Eb. Mainly because my band were doing certain songs. Also other players in that genre, like George Smith (who influenced Clarke, Piazza and others), Jr Wells, Carey Bell Smith, and I suppose his protégés, played chromatic in keys beyond D/Eb (assuming harp in C, which is frequently not the case especially with Clarke, Pizza, Gruenling) or positions other than 3rd if you like.
Well, you know, you have to pick the songs. They’re not exclusively chromatic players by any means. Jr Wells didn’t play too many on chromatic, nor Little Walter really. But I like the stuff Jr did. Carey Bell in particular I think was great on his chromatic numbers. There is quite a bit of stuff from Carey Bell. Just thinking about recordings which feature a C Chromatic: On the Lefty Dizz album, ain’t it nice to be loved, Carey plays chromatic on Look on Yonders Wall On the Big Walter “with Carey Bell” album, Carey plays Chrom on the track Have Mercy In his debut record “Carey Bell’s Blues Harp, he plays on Blue Monday At Kansas City Red’s, come on over here, sad dreams, and Rocking with A Chromatic. All those numbers are in Eb, and Carey plays a C harp with the button held in. On the Deep Down album, he plays Jawbreaker and Must I Holler in D or D minor, on a C chromatic On Dynasty, he plays The Gladys Shuffle, in Eb with the Button held in On Good Luck Man, he played Hard Working Woman and Double Cross Harp-master: second hand man, I’m Ready Harpslinger: 85%, Its so easy to love you Mellow Down Easy: that spot right there, so easy to love you Second Nature: heartaches and pain, do you hear?
Big Al Blake plays chromatic onnthe Hollywood fats Band album Rock this House volume 1, on Prettiest Little thing
Billy Branch Chicago’s young Blues generation; I need you so bad Satisfy me: crazy mixed up world
Norton Buffalo King of the Highway: Hoodoo Roux, shuffalo (in G), she’s driving me crazy (also in G ie second position)
Mojo Buford Champagne & Reefer: Don’t go no further State ofvthd Harp: mo’s stroll, jealous of my baby, come home baby
William Clarke Blowing like hell: greasy gravy The hard way: last Monday morning Serious intentions: the work song Tip of the top: tribute to george smith, chromatic jump
James Cotton 100% Cotton: burner The blues never die: I’m Ready High compression: 23 hours too long
Paul DeLay Burnin’: Paul train Delay does Chicago: beautiful bones, come on home, el train, wait Ocean of tears: if she is Teasin’: my eyes keep me in trouble, hold your hand, alrighty Nice & strong: nice & strong
There are lots more by delay
Also check out Steve Guyger, Mark Hummel, Dennis Gruenling
Some of Little Walter’s chromatic Numbers: Crazy for my baby, teenage beat, crazy mixed up world, blue and lonesome, lights out, Fast Large One, up the line
And Little Walter behind Muddy Waters played I just want to make love to you, I’m Ready, I don’t know why (Eb), Don’t go no further (Eb), diamonds at your feet (Eb)
Rod Piazza has recorded a lot on chromatic
Kim Wilson has recorded quite often on chromatic. Usually only one or 2 per album though.
Junior Wells recorded Slow Slow, calling all blues, and ten years ago. Ten years ago is on the “drinking tnt n smoking dynamite” album
George smith has recorded a lot. Not all of it is in D
Jerry Portnoy has recorded a couple on C chromatic, as did Gary Primich.
Jerry did 3rd degree on Clapton’s album From the Cradle, and Poison Kisses on his own Home Run Hitter album Mitch Kashmar has also done some good work on the Chrom
Ken, I’ve got a cheat sheet. Also, be a little bit wary of the info especially around Paul deLay, because some errors have been found in this work and there could be more waiting to be discovered. It seems mostly correct however.
If you have excel, and know how to use it, you’re welcome to download a copy of my spreadsheet using the link below. I have fun with this toy sometimes.
Does anyone have suggestions for a good chromatic harmonica to start with? I don't want to buy something "disposable" since I hate that idea and think one learns better on solid instruments. I see where the 16 hole instruments are recommended for the low register, but starting out, is that a key part of chromatic blues harp? Is Hohner the way to go, or are the Suzuki instruments just as good for blues?
I also think it would be cool to use a chromatic for some jazzier stuff too.
Last Edited by Hamerman on May 06, 2020 9:20 AM
For 12 hole, Suzuki CSX48 and Hohner CX12 seem to each/both have a lot of fans
I know the bargain priced Easttop is also often lauded but I don’t know the specific model. It’s maybe 1/2 - 2/3rds the price of the Suzuki/Hohner.
The Kongsheng Lyra interests me but I have 5 12 hole chromatics already so I haven’t gone there. Have read good reviews, hard to know with reviews sometimes.
I think the jazz body on the cx12 is preferable to the standard but it’s a significant extra cost and hard for me to really appreciate how it’s justified.
Now I have been playing the jazz about a year, a little longer, and I no longer find the standard such a facefull, so I expect if I’d persisted with it everything would have been ok.
I’ve repaired quite a few Hohner 270s and while I really love that harp I think for someone starting out it’s maybe not the greatest choice. The 270 Deluxe is a different animal though and I think an ok choice. It’s kind of like comparing the Marine Band 1896 to the Deluxe. Basically the same but easier to take apart and service.
Wooden bodies though, are a concern. They are prone to a couple of problems. Nailed wooden combs are maybe the most problematic.
I mean, that’s the reason I’ve serviced a few 270s, because they get problems that can be a bit hard for people to sort out for themselves. Some of those things can be avoided with care but still, there’s no argument wooden combs are higher maintenance.
Re 16 or 12, most of the advice points to starting on a 12, but it would not be the end of the world to start on a 16. Might depend on what is inspiring you. If it’s the tenor end of a 64, then you’ll be bugged by not having that. An alternative might be a tenor tuned 12 hole
The other consideration is keys. 12 holes are available in multiple keys but 16s only come in C. An alternative might be a 14 hole Suzuki make a 56 reed harp and that could be the best of both worlds, taking you down to the G below middle C.
It looks like the Suzuki SCX Chromatix are getting good reviews, so I think I'll be ordering one. Guitar Center has the 64 for $219 shipped. When I was in high school I played in big bands, and dabbled in clarinet, thinking I'd graduate to sax. As it turned out my talents as a bass player were needed more as the school had lots of great sax players. It seems to me that a C chromatic is like a flute or soprano sax, for example, in that it is a band instrument that is not a transposing instrument. It would be a different approach, more horn-like, than a diatonic, which pretty much requires mastery of bending. Does that sound about right?
Also thanks to SuperBee for his list of chromatic songs to check out.
Got my Suzuki SCX64 on Saturday and I', very happy. A different animal from diatonics. I can see why people would want to go with a 12 hole chromatic, as it is quite large. Plus you can get other keys. For a second 12 hole chromatic, what would be the most useful key? I would think D or A, as per diatonics. Then just play cross harp as you would for the middle section of the diatonic. Is this sensible?
Hi, Hamerman, I suppose it depends whether you are comfortable playing 2nd position on the Chromatic. I think the most common ‘blues’ approach is to default to 3rd position 2nd is less common. I expect this is because of the relative difference in need to use the button In 3rd you always have the minor 3rd right there in draw hole 2, 6, 10, but in 2nd position you have to remember to activate the slide when you play draw 3, 7, 11 if you want to play the minor 3rd rather than major
The flat 5th involves a button push in both approaches, and the dominant 7th is a plain note in both.
There may be other reasons for popularity of 3rd over 2nd too, but I’d have to think about it and I’m a bit rushed right now
Extra keys? I think G is popular (puts you in A if playing 3rd) and I feel like I’ve noticed Bb is fairly common, but really comes down to what you need for what you do.
I’m playing everything on C harps still but that could change. Im still a baby at chromatic, but I could happily just play it for my own enjoyment. That’s what I’ve been doing almost exclusively since March
Just looking at my list I can see that Bb chromatic is relatively common; employed fairly frequently by William Clarke, Rod Piazza, Estrin, Guyger, Ryan Hartt, Primich et al
F is possibly the next most common I’m seeing, followed by Eflat
On this list, the 3rd position approach is overwhelmingly common.
This is a list dominated by the popular North American players, up until the early 2000s. All the names as mentioned above plus others you might expect to see; DeLay, Lynwood Slim, Johnny Dyer, Hummel, Musselwhite, Bell, Little Walter, Cotton and many more
C is the overwhelming key, and 3rd, or “3rd with button held in” is the obviously popular approach.
I’m looking at 460 tracks, and around 330 use a C
About 55 of the remainder use a Bb
Those numbers are rough because my data needs cleaning up but it’s still quite a fair indication of the general lay of the land
Interesting how the keys work out. If guys play in 3rd, then that puts the C harp in D. But Bb? That means those songs would be in C. Not a common blues key I would think. Maybe a G would be good for playing 3rd position in A?
I saw in the other thread that you had several Hohner CX harps. The review say the slide is noisy. What are your thoughts. I like the Suzuki 64 I got, and was considering a 48 in a different key, but Hohner is sort of the standard.
10th Position Jimmy Rogers Harp Throb [Inst.] - Db, Bb Chromatic w/ lever in (3rd Position) John Weston One-Sided Love Affair - Db, Bb Chromatic w/ lever depressed (3rd Position) Little Charlie & The Nightcats Coastin' Hank [Inst.] - Db, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) w/ lever depressed When Your Woman Is Gone - Db, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) w/ lever depressed for entire song 3rd Position Charlie Musselwhite What's New? [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Dave Specter Hopeless - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Roll Baby Roll - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Dennis Gruenling & Jump Time Ropin' It [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Gary Primich Mr. Freeze [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) September Song [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Texas Love Kit - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Gary Smith Twilight Time [Inst.] - Db, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) w/ plenty of lever work George Harmonica Smith Boogie'n With George [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) / Chicago City - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Jamie Wood Early In The Morning - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Jamie Wood Hock That Rock - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) John Weston Phony Woman - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Johnny Dyer Everybody Talking - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Little Walter That's It [Inst.] - C, Bb Harp (3rd Position) & Lynwood Slim Ain't Gonna Cry - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Scream'n And Cry'n - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Mark Hummel Third Time Out [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) & Mitch Kashmar I'm Sorry - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Omar and The Howlers One Room Country Shack - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Paul deLay Blues In The Night - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Second-Hand Smoke [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Rod Piazza Tangled With A Woman - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers Ain't Nothing Shakin' - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Goodbye My Lover - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) High Flyin' Baby - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Love Doctor - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Low Down Dog - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Low Down Dog - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Scary Boogie - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Tough And Tender - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Ryan Hartt Empty Wallet - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) True Love - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) & Bb Harp (3rd Position) What Kind Of Woman Is That? - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Slim Harpo I've Got To Be With You Tonight - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) My Baby She's Got It - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Sonny Boy Terry Let's All Go To Miss Ann's Playpen - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Tight Dress - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Steve Guyger Monkey On A Limb - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Steve Potter Hang On Now [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Jump Back Baby - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) William Clarke Blowin' Like Hell - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Blowin' Like Hell [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Iodine In My Coffee - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Walkin' [Inst.] - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Easter Bunny Boogie - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd Position) Multiple Paul Oscher Alone With The Blues - C, Bb Chromatic (3rd) &
About the CX12 slide; it makes a noise for sure. It sometimes annoys me if i sit and record my acoustic playing. thats all. i think the advantage of the CX12 in ease of care and maintenance easily outweighs that little problem
the last 3 months i have my cx12 to hand almost constantly. if i was using a 270 i think i'd be much more annoyed by maintenance issues than i am buty the clacking of the cx 12 slide. but yes, you hear it on a recording if the only things are your harp and the slide
there are some errors in the file. Some are in the source document, some are in the way i bought the data across to create a spreadsheet.
TMF has mentioned the name of the original creator of this list and i should remember so that i can credit him, but i keep forgetting.
I do know something like an origin story for it though. i believe the compiler was a student with david barrett and undertook either from his own inspiration or at DB's suggestion to go through his album collection and try to identify the key of each song, and the key of harp used. This is more challenging for some records than others, where there are multiple harps, multiple players. There were according to my count, 521 album titles, and something like 7000 tracks. that works out around 14 tracks per title so seems about right. Some of those albums are collections so especially with the earlier artists there are quite a few tracks which appear multiple times.
521 is a fairly large number of harmonica-centric albums though, so its a decent sample even with the duplications.
This must have happened in the early 2000s; maybe 204 or 2005. i think there are some albums post 2000 but i'm vague on all the detail now.
With an exercise this large, its understandable that there are some errors. With the chromatic songs and Paul DeLay, Winslow has informed me about some of the errors, and i attempted to remember to correct them. I hope I've shared the updated version, but if people download it of course you can maintain your own copy. That is one of the attractions of having a spreadsheet version. The main bonus of making a spreadsheet for me is that it allows me to search and categorise the information. It took me quite a few hours and it was the thought that i was creating something which would make a useful contribution to the community which really drove me to do it. Of course, i wasn't entirely motivated by altruism, but i am pleased to share it.
The errors i made in bringing the data across are a result of some of the very basic formulae i created. Some songs have punctuation in the title and this messed with my little codes so that i needed to do quite a bit of manual cleaning up, and i obviously missed a few but i am cleaning thow up for myself gradually. there is also some variation in font and spacing, some inconsistency in the 'harp key' field especially where multiple harps are used. Some songs have 'notes' about individual solos for instance. This is mainly in those situations where multiple harps or players are involved. I also had to make some decisions about consistent identification of players. This is also not 100% as i didn't understand all the issues at the beginning, and my process evolved as i discovered things. Some albums, such as Big Walter's album on Alligator "with Carey Bell" are listed under both Big Walter's name and again attributed to Carey Bell.
In short, its mainly straightforward but there are some complicated aspects.
i think there are around 5000 unique tracks listed, both diatonic and chromatic. the bulk are diatonic,by a wide margin.
Wow, that's amazing. I'd love to get the entire file.
When I cut and paste the link it takes me to the Box site and quickly flashes a "Loading Preview" message. Then 2 sheets of Paul Delay are displayed on the screen. I've used the Download button a few times with the same results. I get an excel file named "Blues Harmonica Artist and Key Spreadsheet.xlsx" The file size is 336.9KB The file contains 128 lines of Paul DeLay songs. Maybe I need to sign up for a Box account to get the complete file.
Maybe. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll take a closer look at it and report back. I can move it to google play and share from there if Box is a problem. I’ll see if I have saved it there with the DeLay filter switched on though.
Try it now. or have a look at your download an see if theer is a filter on the first 2 columns. I had it set to filter on both surname and first name ie columns A and B.
The version at the link now has those filters cleared and its sorted alphabetically on surname (column A)
My desktop copy is 794 kb, but looks like i have 2 sheets in the book with all the same info, so duplicated if you see what i'm saying, so if you've downloaded 330kb i reckon you've probably got it but need to switch the filters off.
SuperBee, thank you for posting all the very useful information! It has been a great help. I was able to use the Excel files just fine that you posted.
I still find it odd that Bb would be the second most popular key, as that puts you in C using 3rd position. The sense I get is that it isn't much used by diatonic players because the F harp is so high. It may be that there is a desire to play in C, so a Bb chromatic would get you there. Although I would think a Bb diatonic would be fine for both C (3rd position) and F (2nd position). It just seems that a G chromatic would be more useful as that gives you D in 2nd and A in 3rd, both good "guitar" keys.
I'm following your lead and looking at eBay for well-loved chromatics. I have a bid on a nice 270. It is cheap enough that I can learn to service it and convert to better fittings, while not losing a lot if I trash it. I'll let you know how it goes.
The CX looks like a good option too because of the things you mention. But upgrading a 270 to screws and an ABS comb looks to be fun too. I just wish the 270 had the round holes.
If you’re keen, you can by a 270 Deluxe mouthpiece from Hohner. It’s a bolt on upgrade.
I’m contemplating buying a 3D-printed ABS “powercomb” from BeePee to repair my prewar 280. Not cheap and kind of kills the collectible aspect. On the other hand I paid very small price for the harps and they aren’t particularly rare (although not made in this format for 70 plus years so definitely not common in great playable condition, and this one is very close to being such).
Thanks SuperBee! I'll look into the 270 Deluxe mouthpiece once I figure out the condition of the 270 I won on eBay (yes, my max bid of $50.99 got accepted. Funny it worked out that way. I wonder if there is some sort of trick the sellers can play to figure that out). Still, $50 is a great price if it is in good shape. It seems to be from the pictures. And it includes the case.
Do you have any experience with converting the nails to screws? I've seen some tutorials online about that. I have access to a drill press. I'd have to pick up the correct tap and find the screws. It seems simple enough if I can drill the screws correctly. I've seen prices for the ABS "powercomb" for $60. Is that what you're thinking of?
I think it is awesome you're bringing those old harps back to life. There is something satisfying about that. I'll be interested to hear your experience.
I've checked out some Jason Ricci YouTube videos (they were the first ones to come up) on blue chromatic. I tried some of his tips and it seems to be fairly straightforward. Of course the devil will be in the details of getting it right!
Hamerman, I'm not sure if you are in North America. If you are i'm sorry that some of my suggestions about Hohner parts may not be quite as practical, as i'm able to deal with the European Hohner and parts are easier to get and cheaper than if you have to deal with Hohner USA. The 270 Deluxe mouthpiece i recently saw someone grumbling about because Hohner USA wanted $60 or more, whereas the European price was about $35. I get parts from Hohner at the cheapest postage rate, but i think i had to look for that. if i'd just accepted the default suggestion it was much pricier.
Yes i used the Powercomb produced by Brendan Power (MBH handle: BeePee). i bought 2 of them and used to restore a pair of 270s. one prewar, one modern. Brendan provided hardware and instructions and has video about how to do the changeover. it is quite straightforward, just take it easy, be patient when you need to be. theres no cutting involved but the idea behind the principle of "measure twice cut once" is a good place to have your mind. I really like the harps i built with these combs.
im currently working on a 270 deluxe which got a bit messed up by its owner doing some reedwork. i'm straightening up the reeds because there were some obvious problems there, but when i came to reassemble and test i started noticing other problems, like the stripped threads in the wooden body which meant i couldn't tighten the mouthpiece. i cut some slivers from toothpicks and glued them in with titebond; eventually the screws decided to hold. once i could tighten the mouthpiece i noticed that i could still see daylight between mouthpiece parts and body; inspection showed the body sitting proud at each end, or alternately gaping in the middle. so i had to attend to sanding that down. i expect this may have been the original problem which led to the reed adjustments, which didn't help and led to further adjustments and frustration followed by despair and finally the mess arriving at my desk
An ABS comb can really prevent a lot of these problems. My client is not interested. He only likes wooden combs, and really he doesn't like the deluxe construction or round holes. He's a younger fitter man than me, and a very good player so i'm neither interested in fighting with him nor arguing as he has my measure on both fronts. i'll just keep working on the harp.
but now i must go buy some speaker cable. I have one little part of the house where i am still the boss and i'm wiring it for sound.
Thanks SuperBee, that did the trick. The download includes Aedlard through Winter. That is a staggering list!!!
Thank you again for sharing it and major kudos to the unknown harpster(s) who compiled the list.
In a way I'm glad I didn't have it until now because I think figuring out the key/position of a song has probably been a helpful exercise.
Nice job on the wood comb fix. I ran into the same problems with a 2nd hand chromatic that I mistakenly thought was in excellent shape. It looked like it had never been played. I took it apart and saw the wood was so warped one of the slide screws pulled out of its hole. This one was convex in the middle. Ditto: The stripped hole was easy to fix but I think it took about 3mm of sanding to flatten the front end. I also flattened the back and naturally the top and bottom faces. Nothing worse than trying to make up for comb problems by tweaking reeds.
I sealed the wood then refinishing the back and ends with a gold metal flake. Wow, lol. I thought the added bling might inspire me to spend more time playing the chromatic. It worked for a month or two.
I don't know how or if you are sealing the interior wood of chromatics but I found a very thin shellac works well for me. I'm guessing about a 1Lb-1.5Lb cut. Something thin enough to run off the brush and penetrate the wood and not leave a built up surface finish. It seems to be a quick and foolproof way to retard moisture absorption. I figure chromatic wood doesn't need the same amount of protection as the diatonic's, not mine anyway :/
Good luck with your wiring. It sounds like man cave project.
From David Barrett (a post on his paysite, from the "tip of the day" thread):
Many years ago Lance H. (a student of mine at that time) created an artist listing that details each album's title, songs, song keys, keys of harmonica used and positions played. Lance did the listing work and I formatted it and placed it on the Harmonica Masterclass website. Someday we hope to update this list and get it on BluesHarmonica.com, but for the moment it remains in its original form. Take a look, it's a nice resource.
I found a mention of that list in an MBH post dating from 2008. I also found the most recent advice from TMF714 which I remembered, but i misremembered because in fact he only said “Lance H.” I thought he told me the full name. Anyway, cheers! To Lance H for the huge effort.
I'm really glad that people find it helpful, John. I'm a bit of a spreadsheet fan. It always irritated me searching through the PDF list for information. I refer to this list quite often myself, so it was worth doing just for me but even more worthwhile if others also find it useful. After much delay and procrastination and disappointment from setbacks, at last I got my finger out and finished that problematic chromatic mentioned above. I thought I'd finished it quite a while ago but I must have been dreaming that i had tuned it because it was way off and I had to take it back for another try. This took me a very long time but eventually I did find a way to tune Blow reeds with valves and comb in situ.