Harmonica Key Chart


Concert Key: This is the key that the band is playing in. You will also be playing in this key, but you may be using a different key of harp.

Straight Harp - Easy! the band plays in E then you use an E harp. No calculations needed. Straight harp is good for down home delta blues on the low side of the harp and shrill (but cool) Jimmy Reed style stuff at the high end. It tends to be simplistic and there are not a whole lot of good bend notes. Some of the usual bends used in cross harp are not available.

Cross Harp (2nd Position): This means to play in harp whose key is a fourth above the concert key. If you want to play cross and the band is playing in the key of A you count up on your fingers, 1-A, 2-B, 3-C, 4-D. So you use a D harp. Cross harp is the standard way of playing Chicago style blues. Lots of good notes and bends are easily found. Bend all the notes from 1 to 6 and they sound cool. There are very few bad notes in cross harp.

Slant Harp (3rd position): I have only rarely heard of third position being called slant harp, but it's a neat name, so I'll keep it. The slant harp concert key is one above the harp key. So if the band is playing in D step down 1 to a C harp. Slant harp has a minor sound to it and is good for minor blues. This is because the flatted third is available to the player without a bend. Always bend the 2 and 3 holes. All draw notes sound good. Don't blow until you are out of air.

How to use the chart. 1) decide if you are using 1st, 2nd or 3rd position. 2) go to the matching Concert Key column, 3) go town the column until you find the key that the band is playing in. 4) go to the left most column to find the corresponding harp key.

Harp Key
(This is the key that's
stamped on the Harp)
Concert Key
Straight Harp
(First Position)
Concert Key
Cross Harp
(2nd Position)
Concert Key
Slant Harp
(3rd Position)
B-Flat B-Flat F C
B B F-Sharp D-Flat
D-Flat D-Flat G-Sharp (A-Flat) E-Flat
E-Flat E-Flat B-Flat F
E E B F-Sharp
F-Sharp F-Sharp D-Flat G-Sharp (A-Flat)
G-Sharp (A-Flat) G-Sharp (A-Flat) E-Flat B-Flat



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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


Harp Frequently Asked Questions