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What keys to buy.

G A B-Flat C D E-Flat F


 I carry the following harps around with me in a Sears long socket holder bag. It’s a black piece of cloth that has 8 pockets for harps (or long sockets) and rolls up with a strap to hold it together.  I have a Low F, G, A, B-flat, C, D, E-flat, and F. The low G is a Special 20 and the rest are Big River Harps. The bag wraps up and fits nicely in my harp box. The box is a small 1940’s tweed makeup case that I converted for use with harps.  I unroll the socket holder on the top of the amp and I have written the keys of the harps with fabric paint on the pockets so I can find the harps quickly.

The low F gives me a choice when the band plays something in C. I dislike playing in C because it always sounds so shrill on the harp. The Low F doesn’t have so much of the blues harp character and is not very loud, but sometimes it is a nice alternative to the high F.

The B-flat and the E-Flat are good because the band sometimes has brass instruments joining in and they play better in F and B-flat. I used to carry an E harp to the jams, but I found that it is hardly ever used. There is not much need to play in the key of B. I keep an E harp loose in the box in case some joker wants to play in B.

Blues Harp sounds best around the key of G. I enjoy playing my B-flat harp in the key of F. The G harp is the lowest normal harp and sounds deep and sultry.  A is a good harp to have because Muddy liked to play in E and slide players still like to use an open E tuning. Delta blues is often played in E or A.

G, A, B-flat, C, D, E-flat, and F should suffice. If the band calls another key, it may because they want you to take a break from playing. Let them have their fun, but the next song will be in E and you'll be back, badder than ever.

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