Q: What is a bass harmonica?

A: Extending the description in part 1 and from "Bass Harmonica" 30 Aug 94 WY:

Hohner Bass No. 265 is a two octave instrument, Low E (same as on a bass guitar) and two octaves up. All the notes are blow, and have second reeds tuned an octave higher to give the note more bite.

There is an Extended Bass (Hohner No. 268) that goes on up to C a sixth above the high E on the regular bass. This is a HEAVY instrument.

The Bass is actually two separate bodies, with one placed above the other, with the two held together by hinges on both sides, allowing you to angle the two mouthpieces in towards each other, or out away from each other.

The bottom row has all the natural notes - it's just a C major scale, running from E to E.

The top row is not in C# as you might expect. It's in Gb. Why?

Well, the primary activity in most simple bass lines is to play the root and the fifth of the chord. it's easier to move between these notes if they're on the same row. Most chords have perfect fifths. The C scale does not give you a perfect 5th above B (F is a diminished 5th). B doesn't even occur in the C# major scale, so this would be a poor choice. The B major scale would not give you a perfect 5th on (or Bb), so that's out, too.

It just happens that the C scale and the Gb scale in combination give you all the perfect 5ths on one row or the other.

here is the layout for the regular bass:

F Gb Ab Bb B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb B Db Eb

E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E

Note how the hole placements are staggered, to put the flat/sharp notes in between the natural notes.

Both F and B are duplicated. The Extended bass continues this pattern up to concert Middle C (written an octave higher - bass and guitar are both written an octave higher than they sound) -- "Bass Harmonica" 30 Aug 94 WY

 

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I cleaned up my tab for Sonny Boy's Help Me and made it into a short book. There's a Kindle version for 99 cents, and if you buy the paperback you get the Kindle free.

Playing "Help-Me" In the Style of Sonny Boy Williamson II: A step by step, note for note analysis of some of Sonny Boy's Signature Riffs

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The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into JT30.com in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

Picking Up Blues Harp

A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

Usenet Articles


Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old Harpamps.com website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.


Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

Harp-L Archives 1992 to 2002


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Harp Frequently Asked Questions