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How to Play Harmonica in Different Keys

Learn how to play the harmonica in different keys from music teacher Marcus Milius in this Howcast video.


"Hi, my name is Marcus Milius. I play harmonica. I got a degree at the University of Southern California, a Bachelor's of Music, in Jazz Studies - Chromatic Harmonica. I play and teach harmonica here in New York City, and I'm happy to show you what I do.
Alright, playing in different keys, on the diatonic harmonica, easiest solution to that is simply owning all your different harmonicas. Each diatonic harmonica is set up in one key, so you need to buy 12 different harmonicas in different keys to play in all the different keys. When you are in the key of A, pick up you're a harmonica, when you are in the key of F pick up your F harmonica etc. On the chromatic harmonica, playing in different keys becomes a little more complicated. You actually have to learn a new pattern for each key. So if I learned a song in the key of A, [Music], I have to learn a completely different pattern to play in the key of C. [Music]. So you'd notice I wasn't pressing the slide, when I was in the key of C, but I was for A. You can also play in different keys on the same diatonic harmonica. So we have a C harmonica here. In the key of C first position, you would want to play mostly blow notes resolving to one blow, four blow or seven blow. That will be your tonic. If you wanted to play in a different key, you might play in second position. Although positions are five notes away, so if you are on a C harmonica, first position is C, five up from that C D E F G. [Music]. You could also play in third position. Third position will be five notes away from second position. Second position was G on the C harmonica, so that is G A B C D, is your third position. [Music].
So it takes a little more work to play in all the different keys or positions on the same harmonica and diatonic harmonica. So you but wanna (want to) think about investing in all the other key harmonicas. Playing your chromatic harmonica, all the notes are there so, playing in the different keys, you simply have to learn the notes and learn all your keys, all your scales. [Music]. And there are 12 keys and each one is different and you just have to learn the scales and then you'll be able to play in all 12 keys.

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