Cross Harp Harmonica Notes

Cool Old Harmonica Set
Cool Old Harmonica Set

He said to me at the luau, “Cool so you play cross harp?” The guitarist of the band had me, I was about to fail the pop quiz. I had been playing harmonica for the better part of a month and had just bought my second harmonica, an A Diatonic. I knew enough that the 2 hole draw was bluesy but what in gods name was this cross harp I kept hearing about. I came back with, “For me, it’s all about the 2 hole draw.” He seemed satisfied.

I have been avoiding this post. I had an idea of what cross harp is, but to write a post about it is another thing. Here is the deal. I had answered correctly when I said, it’s all about the 2 hole draw. On a diatonic harmonica, the 2 hole draw is the first note in second position or “cross harp.” If you get nothing else from this post, remember that. If you, like me, want to play blues harmonica, we play cross harp by default. We start with the 2 hole draw. Here’s the deal though, when we play cross harp, the key we are playing in is not the key of the harmonica. That means, when someone says, “Lets play … in the key of G,” we don’t grab our G harp. Second position on G is D and we need to be playing in G. So what harp do we need? What harp has a 2 hole draw that plays a G? It’s the C harmonica.

That’s what got me. I thought to myself, “Crap, I’m going to have to learn every note on every harmonica.” (I know, the name of the site is harmonica notes but I meant my notes on learning to play the harmonica not the notes on the different harmonicas.) I don’t know if I am going to ever learn what notes every hole, blow, draw, bend, over blow, over draw, and chord on every harmonica plays. I probably will eventually know all the cross harp keys though, and probably the notes on my favorite harmonicas.

Here’s a cheat you can use. Take a sharpie and write an X (for cross harp) and the cross harp key on your harmonicas. As you play you will learn the cross harp keys. I got the ideas because the key labels are rubbing off of my harmonicas and I don’t want to get them confused.

I may as well tell you the cross harp keys for all 12 diatonic harmonica keys.

Ab=Eb, A=E, Bb=F, B=Gb, C=G, Db=Ab, D=A, Eb=Bb, E=B, F=C, Gb=Db, G=D

So there you have it, all the cross harp keys and the harmonicas they’re played on.

6 Replies to “Cross Harp Harmonica Notes”

  1. Hi Catfish! Welcome to the great world of playing harmonicas, especially the diatonic harmonicas.

    There’s more than just cross-harp (2nd position). There’s actually 12 positions (I like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th the best).

    Get yourself a copy of “the circle of fifths” that you can use as a quick reference guide to the different positions. It can tell you many things, as well as help you to read music, like determining the song key by knowing how many sharps or flats there are.

    There is also a new book out by Winslow Yerxa, “Harmonica for Dummies” (comes with a CD) that is now available. I bought myself a copy recently… even after playing for 30 years, I know that I do NOT know everything.

    The learning never ends… I make sure it never stops.

    Check into joining SPAH (the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica). Just Google “SPAH”.

    Your fun journey is just beginning…

  2. Hey AirMojo!, Thanks for checking out the site! I think I know what you mean by the cycle of 5ths. It’s that circle keys I kept running into when I was trying to figure out what cross harp is. Is it that you go up another 4 half steps to get to 3rd position (slant harp) and another 4 half steps to 4th position and so on?

    Thanks also for the info on the For Dummies book. I love For Dummies books. My favorite line from their catalog is when talking about the 7 layers of the OSI model, they addes the Lemon Custard Layer to make it 8 because the OSI model is so dry.

    If there’s a Harmonica For Dummies book, I will have to check it out. Thanks for the info. I’ll write a review.

    I have run into SPAH in my searches and have looked at their site. I was trying to hook up with a local dallas group but couldn’t figure out how to get together with them. I went to a meeting but I couldn’t find it.

    Thanks again for the comment, It makes me feel good to know that people are enjoying the site.

    see you soon!

  3. Hey again!

    Check out HOOT (Harmonica Organization of Texas) at:

    On the Circle of 5ths… it is also called the Circle of 4ths, depending on which direction on the circle that you are going… Circle of 5ths is clocwise and Circle of 4ths is conter-clockwise.

    So like you said, when choosing the position you start on the key of the song (say key is G) and count to the left (counter-clockwise) to the position you want to play in… so to play in 2nd position in G, you start on G and count 1(G), 2(C) so C harp… 3rd position in G would be 1(G), 2(C), 3(F), so F harp, etc.

    Do a search on Wiki encyclopedia, its explained in a lot of detail (more than most harp players need), and most is beyond me.

    I keep a hardcopy print of the circle in my harp case, and I have one on my PC desktop screen.

    Winslow Yerxa the author of Harmonic for Dummies, is a walking encyclopedia on the harmonica, and a fantastic harp player of probably any style of harmonica made.

    I ordered my copy from Amazon, but it may also be available in local bookstores.

    Keep on Harpin’ !

  4. I read the wiki stuff and I know what you mean about what they wrote. I decided to go to basics and explain what cross harp is because of all that confusing stuff. I still don’t really get the use of slant harp and the other positions except that it decreases the amount of harmonicas I would need to carry.

    I do think the Cycle of fifths is good to know and I will get into that… when I’m a better player. I’m still struggling with what chords the different harmonicas play.

  5. Hi, I’m a guitar/music theory teacher, songwriter, but not a Diva 🙂 I want to compensate for my lack of vocal gymnastics by learning harminoca. Before buying them I had to learn about cross-harping. I get it. The circle of fifths is a very handy tool in many ways. Thanks for the info. I have a C harp and a chromatic one. Now I know what other keys I need. Like Airmojo said, the learning never stops.

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