Learning harmonic keys
To play the harmonica, like many instruments, we need to know the pitch or key of the piece in order to be able to accompany it.
To play the harmonica, like many instruments, we need to know the pitch or key of the piece in order to be able to accompany it. But teaching harmonic keys is not like instruments like piano, guitar or...
Naturally, when playing the harmonica, we pay attention to the key of the piece. But the feature of this instrument is that you can use the instrument made in the same special key. Of course, this issue also depends on the type of instrument whether is chromatic or diatonic.
Stay with us in this article to examine the difference between diatonic and chromatic harmonica keys and also know what instrument to prepare in which key.
An overview of the differences between chromatic and diatonic harmonics
A diatonic harmonica is an instrument usually with 10 holes that sounds one note by blowing it and another note by sucking it. This instrument is tuned in the diatonic scale and has more limited notes and is often used for certain styles such as blues, jazz, country, folk, etc.
On the other hand, we have the chromatic instrument, which is tuned in the chromatic step, has more holes, has the ability to play half-tones with the help of a half-tone called a slide, and naturally contains all the notes.
Also, the chromatic harmonica has more octaves. In playing with chromatic harmonica, you are able to play all Iranian and foreign pieces.
The reason for using these two instruments in different conditions is to approach the real feeling of the piece, in some cases the ease of performing the pieces, and of course the different sound colors of these two instruments.
Browse keys (steps)
Now that we have briefly discussed the differences between chromatic and diatonic harmonica, it is time to examine the topic of harmonic keys.
Each piece has its own key or pitch. In order to play in that particular key, the musician must know what notes are allowed to be played and what notes are not allowed to be played. In instruments like guitar, you can easily move in different steps by changing the fret. Or as another example in playing the piano, you can change the pitch or the key of the piece by changing the black and white keys while playing.
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But there are other rules in harmonica. For this purpose, we need to learn harmonic keys.
Learning harmonic keys
Let's start with the diatonic instrument first. As we said, diatonic instruments have more limited notes and fewer holes. This factor makes us unable to implement all steps or keys on these instruments.
Therefore, for each specific step, we must use the special diatonic harmony of that key. For example, if we want to play in the key of two majors, we should use the diatonic harmonica of key two (C). If we intend to play in the key of F major, we should use the diatonic harmonica of the key of F (F). Therefore, for each piece, we must use the harmonica corresponding to the key of that piece. Considering this issue, you probably think that having a diatonic harmonica is pointless because you have to constantly use the specific instrument of that piece for each piece. But the matter is not that simple.
Diatonic instruments have their own color and sound that no chromatic instrument can have. On the other hand, in these instruments, due to the different arrangement of notes together, we are able to implement some harmonica techniques such as legato in certain situations, which may not be possible in a chromatic instrument.
Another thing to mention is the use of different diatonic instruments to play different chords.
For example, in diatonic harmonica key two (C) you are only able to play a few chords such as D major, R minor, C major, and C minor.
On the other hand, diatonic instruments often have a lower price. In many cases, companies prepare a complete pack of all diatonic harmonica keys and sell them on the market. By preparing these packs and by teaching harmonica keys, you have all diatonic harmonicas in all keys and you can easily use a special instrument according to each piece.
Some chords can be performed in diatonic harmonica in the key of two (C).
The ability of diatonic instruments is not only in covering a key. Rather, they can be used in other steps that are often blue.
In this situation, the word "Position" is used. In fact, you can use other positions on this instrument, and with this, you will be able to perform steps like the blues step.
For this, it is enough to use the tonic note of the key and move it up to the fifth interval of that note. The note you will reach is the tonic note of a blues step, which actually determines which blues step you can play with which instrument. Don't worry, we will check this with an example.
Let's say you have a diatonic harmonica in the key of two (C). Now move five steps from the tonic note of this key, which is the same note as two.
In this case, our destination net will be TB, right? This means that with the diatonic instrument of the key of two, in addition to playing in the D major scale, you can also play in the blues cell scale. This state is called the second position.
Of course, there are other positions that can also be found with five spaces.
This is true for all types of diatonic and chromatic instruments.
In chromatic harmonica, all notes are available, so having a chromatic instrument you can play in all keys or steps. But even chromatic instruments are produced in different keys.
The question must have arisen for you if all notes are available in chromatic instruments, then it should be possible to cover all keys with this instrument. The answer to this question is yes!
But the reason for making chromatic harmonicas in different keys is that by doing this you can move the order of notes on the instruments. By doing this, you can use double notes or certain chords in instruments with certain keys.
For example, in the chromatic harmonica of the key of two (C), you cannot play 2 notes E and A at the same time because each one is in two separate holes, and on the other hand, one needs to be sucked and the other needs to be blown.
If the same thing can be done in the chromatic mouthpiece in the key of C (G) or A key (A). Because in these keys, 2 notes E and La are next to each other.
Or, as another example, how can you play the Faminor (Fm) chord, which includes the notes F, Label, and D, in a chromatic harmonica in the key of two (C)? You cannot do this in any case because these 3 notes are not together in this harmonica.
If we use Eb chromatic harmonica, we can play this chord because these 3 notes are together in this key.
If we achieve a good mastery in the topic of teaching harmonica keys, we can use the appropriate instrument to play each piece according to the desired key of the piece.
Which harmonica is suitable?
If you are interested in playing with diatonic instruments, we recommend using the key of two (C) of this instrument to start learning the harmonica. Because the blades used in this key are of medium size, and on the other hand, this key is more widely used and popular than all other keys.
Among all diatonic keys, C (G) has the longest blades and F# has the shortest blades. But key two (C) has exactly the right and medium-sized blades.
Then, in order to improve your skills and learn harmonic keys, you can go to the other popular keys such as A, R, and G.
If you are interested in making chromatic instruments and playing with them, we still suggest you start with instruments made in the key of two (C). Because most people only use the key of two (C) to play chromatic instruments.