What Harmonica keys do you need?
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Harmonica Blog

What Harmonica keys do you need?

What Harmonica keys do you need?

What Harmonica Keys Should You Buy?

For diatonic harmonica the logical order is :

First get a harmonica in C. C is the best key to get started because the length of the reeds is average and it's also the most common key in music. Out of all 12 keys a harmonica in G has the longer reeds and a harmonica in F# has the shortest reeds, C is right in the middle for reed length. A C harmonica allows you to play easily in the key of C as well as bluesy tunes in G and D and it is also one of the best option to play in all 12 keys on a single harmonica.

Hohner Meisterklasse

Hohner meisterklasse diatonic harmonica key of C available in all 12 keys

The next keys recommended for intermediate players are: Harmonica in A, D and G. Those keys are the most common harmonica keys used in Blues, Country Music and Rock (along with the C)

Once you have those 4 harmonica keys C, D, G, A you can extend the collection to Bb and F (or Low F when available).

The Bb harmonica is a very good choice for jazz standards as most of them were written and played on Bb instruments such as the Trumpet and Tenor saxophone.

Then harmonicas in E and B can prove useful in some Blues, Country and Pop/Rock contexts.

Last but not least harmonicas in Db, Ab, Eb and F# are much less common and needed but they can be great for some Jazz and Swing tunes or Blues songs in Ab, Eb, Gb, B, Bb.

For the chromatic harmonica player the key of choice is C that's the one you'll hear 95% of the time. On the chromatic harmonica it is easier than on a diatonic to play in all 12 keys on a single harmonica. Next in line would be a G chromatic harmonica and Low C for a lower range or Bb for the saxophone and Jazz buff.

Also note that 14 and 16 hole chromatic harmonicas are only available in C.

Suzuki SCX-64 chromatic harmonica

Suzuki SCX-64 Chromatic Harmonica

Most harmonica models are laser labeled on the side of the comb which makes it unpractical in live situations. You can relabel the side of the comb with 3D stickers that are easier to spot or why not label the top covers with 2D stickers that make it very easy to see.

 Harmo Harmonica 2D Key Label stickers 137

Harmonica key stickers for Hohner, Seydel, Suzuki, Lee Oskar, Harmo harmonicas