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Harmonica keys available in early days

GUEST,Grahame Hood 05 Oct 18 - 06:24 PM
Jack Campin 05 Oct 18 - 07:18 PM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 18 - 10:51 PM
Ernest 06 Oct 18 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,Splott Man 07 Oct 18 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 07 Oct 18 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Graham Bradshaw 07 Oct 18 - 08:20 AM
GUEST,Jerry 08 Oct 18 - 04:36 AM
Will Fly 08 Oct 18 - 04:39 AM
Will Fly 08 Oct 18 - 04:41 AM
Steve Shaw 08 Oct 18 - 06:02 AM
GUEST,Jerry 08 Oct 18 - 11:04 AM
Tootler 09 Oct 18 - 06:59 PM
Steve Shaw 09 Oct 18 - 07:58 PM
Steve Shaw 09 Oct 18 - 08:08 PM
Roger the Skiffler 10 Oct 18 - 07:00 AM
Jack Campin 10 Oct 18 - 07:28 AM
Steve Shaw 10 Oct 18 - 01:55 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 10 Oct 18 - 03:47 PM
Steve Shaw 10 Oct 18 - 05:41 PM
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Subject: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Grahame Hood
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 06:24 PM

Just a thought. I am involved with musicians playing US string band music and I play dulcimer. I've seen photos dating from the 1930s of informal bands with line-ups such as dulcimer, fiddle, guitar and harmonica. As these bands probably never recorded we can only speculate what they might have sounded like. Were basic diatonic harmonicas available in different keys in those days or only in one, C being the obvious one. Think of Clarkes Tin Whistles, which at one point were the only ones you could buy, being in C only. Until the Generation ones came along (late 1960s?) available in Bb, C, D and G was it? Does anyone know when harmonicas became available in a wider range (thinking of Hohner Marine Bands) or was it always so?


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 07:18 PM

I figured one way to answer that might be to google for early issues of the Sears catalog, since that's where most of them would have come from - but I can't read the pages well enough on my phone. Didn't see anything about key at first, though.

Ocarinas were made in a huge range of keys from the very start, over the same period, and they were aimed at a similar market (proletarian and portable). I'd expect that harmonica makers went some way down the same road.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 10:51 PM

I bought my first Hohner Marine Band harmonica in 1958. At the time, Hohner harmonicas in the key of "C" were readily available, and Sister John Bosco's St. Rita Elementary School Harmonica Band played everything in "C." I didn't know about harmonicas being in other keys until the 1980s - and then I bought "A," "G," and "D" from a local music store that was going out of business.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Ernest
Date: 06 Oct 18 - 10:44 AM

When I first saw the title of this thread I thought you were asking about 19th-century harmonicas - in this case finding an answer would probably more difficult to find out.

The 1930s saw a lot of harmonica bands, orchestras etc. playing all kinds and sizes of harmonicas, so one can assume they were produced in different keys.

You will find proof of harmonicas in different keys on the following site by Pat Missin:

http://www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q38.html

When you scroll down, you`ll find a picture of a model named "Up to date" from 1906 marked as in the key of "A" and further down photos of Marine Bands in various keys from the 20s to the 30s (there is also a model called Orpheus Concert from 1905, but I am not sure if the letter is a "C" or a "G", but I think the existence of a key being marked indicates that they were produced in different keys - if there was only one key available putting a mark on it would not have been necessary. Being a swabian Mr. Hohner would have saved the expense ;0)

Best wishes
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Splott Man
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 05:56 AM

A friend of mine has some very old harmonicas which look like diatonic ones, but are chromatic, i.e. no button, but a full scale of notes.
Could they be this type?

Splott Man


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 07:08 AM

'Think of Clarkes Tin Whistles, which at one point were the only ones you could buy, being in C only.'

I don't think that is actually correct.

Clarkes weren't the only whistle available, a fairly wide variety of whistles was made from Victorian times onward. In keys from high G' down to Bflat (and the odd A). And for a long period of their existence Clarkes were made in various keys (see Dannatt's history of Clarke whistles. Ds were available as early as 1903 and probably before and remained so until at least after the war.).


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Graham Bradshaw
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 08:20 AM

I think the explosion of interest took place in the early 60s when the harmonica was used in pop music. Beatles "Love me do" had harmonica on it, and the blues boom spawned Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, Yardbirds and their various copyists, all of whom featured harmonica. Sonny Terry earlier played harmonica and there were many copyists of his style around the folk and blues clubs of that period. I think it was then that Hohner brought out the Echo Super Vamper which was the 'harp' of choice for all the blues players. I bought mine in several different keys from Bells of Surbiton, who were Hohner main dealers. I'm pretty sure they were available in every key, and I know several players who seemed to have a full set, which was necessary as guitar players were using capos and playing in all keys. Bob Dylan was also a big influence in this - we all had harnesses made of old wire coat hangers!!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 04:36 AM

The Beatles were quickly told to lose the harmonica by Epstein or Martin, so it sadly rarely featured after that. But yes I think they were available in all 12 keys here in UK from certainly the 70s, but some music shops only stocked them in C and G, not much use for blues players of course. Later on, you could get ones in minor keys, harmonic minor and natural minor, but from the Far East. Chromatic harmonicas were Wilde available of course.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 04:39 AM

"We all had harnesses made of old wire coat hangers!"

We did indeed! My harmonica heroes were Sonny Terry, Little Walter and the original Sonny Boy Williamson. I also liked Mox Gowan when I first saw him at the Cousins (Mox is alive and well and living in France). Mox was the first player I saw to have a bandolier with harps in all keys, and I soon acquired my own set.

When I played harp with a mainstream jazz band, the most used keys were Ab and Eb - crossed, of course, to fit in with the brass and reeds.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 04:41 AM

Sorry - I think it should be Mox Gowland - memory, memory...


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 06:02 AM

"All twelve keys"

Hmm. My favourite brand, Suzuki, don't make them below low F. For years I used Hohner Special 20s in low D, great for Irish tunes, then they stopped making them, "replacing" that model with one that cost nearly three times as much. Humph. But I hear that, from early next year, Lee Oskar will be making low-tuned harps down to low D, costing the same as their standard harps. Oskars are known for being bomb-proof ((almost!), and they play nice as long as you're up for a touch of tweaking, so I'll be treating myself. Someone is sure to mention "another" brand that does low keys. If you PM me I'll tell you why you shouldn't buy one!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 11:04 AM

Yes, Special 20s were good value, but presumably because they had plastic combs, compared to Marine Bands, but also tarnish proof covers as I recall. The G was about the lowest though, so Hohner F’s were high and squeaky., and guaranteed to getting the dog howling. Or was that a wolf?


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Tootler
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 06:59 PM

Alright, Steve Shaw. Air your prejudices amd tell is what you don't like about said brand.

They're my harp of choice. They're good quality, have good tone and play well.

Otherwise I play cheap tremolos, especially for those that get heavy use as when the reeds go, I can afford to replace them. The main problem had been finding keys other than C, but it turns out ebay is my friend.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 07:58 PM

No prejudices, just rock-solid multiple bad experiences, both with regard to meself and a good mate of mine. Maybe you've been luckier. No I won't name a brand in public nor will I succumb to guesswork. I've done a lot of article-writing inside the hallowed word of the harmonica and I won't tarnish my reputation by sounding partial apropos of brands that I consider don't cut the mustard. I have had certain experiences but I haven't done the science, you see.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 08:08 PM

And if you buy decent tremolos they will stay in tune and you won't have reeds going very often. I have Tombo Band Deluxe models in D and G which I've had for donkeys' years. I've never had to do anything other than the rare slightest tweak to keep the tremolo in order. You can get them in any key. They project far better than any Hohner tremolo (some of which I quite like, however) and they are easy to maintain, which basically just means keeping them clean. They're all metal and plastic and you can wash them under the tap.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 10 Oct 18 - 07:00 AM

I seem to remember seeing a booklet "How to play blues harmonica" which came with a C harp. Presumably a bit optimistic.
RtS


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Oct 18 - 07:28 AM

My guru Iain Grant used to play mostly Tombos in the last few years of his life. Better value than Hohners, lasted longer and you didn't have all the hassle of trying to source replacements that you did with Hohner. He still had some specialist Hohners in his bag but the ones he kept on the 6-way spindle were Tombo.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Oct 18 - 01:55 PM

Quite possibly the finest tremolo player in Ireland, Noel Battle, will play only Tombo Band harmonicas.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 10 Oct 18 - 03:47 PM

Missin knows more about this stuff than anyone else AFAIK. E.g.:

http://www.patmissin.com/articles/BRQ1.html


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Subject: RE: Harmonica keys available in early days
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Oct 18 - 05:41 PM

He does indeed. Pat is the fount of all harmonica knowledge. He can play a bit too.


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