Which Keys Should I Buy?

Which Keys of Harmonicas Should I Buy to Get Started?

Many novice players ask us for advice about which keys of harmonicas they should start out with. To determine which keys will be best for you to buy, ask yourself these two questions:

1) Will you be playing solo, or with others?

If you intend to play solo, or simply for your own satisfaction, then any key can be used. In other words, any song can be played in any key, regardless of what key the original composer, or artist, may have selected.

However, if you plan to play with someone else, such as a duo or group, or to play along with a favorite recording, your key selection would be governed by those situations.

2) What kind of music do you want to play?

In order to know which keys of harmonicas to buy, it is necessary to first determine which style of playing you will be using, 1st Position or 2nd position.

If you want to play simple melodies and folk music, you will probably be playing in 1st Position. This means you would start from the blow, accenting the blow notes and blow chords. You would use a C harp to play in C.

If you want more “expression” for playing Blues, Rock, Country and Pop music, you will probably be playing in 2nd Position. This means you would start from the draw, accenting draw notes and draw chords, and bending. You would use a C harp to play in G.

90% of today’s players use 2nd Position for Blues, Rock, Country and Pop music. Click on 1st Postion / 2nd Position or Basic Chords and Bending to learn more about these topics.

It’s important to understand that although the note layout for each key of Major Diatonic will be different, the PATTERN of notes, chords and bends will be the same. This means that once you learn to play “Jingle Bells” on a C Major harp, you can play “Jingle Bells” on any key of Major harp (G, A, Bb, Low F, etc.) using the exact same blow/draw patterns.


The following information relates to the Major Diatonic tuning click this link here now. To learn more about the Melody Maker™, Natural Minor and Harmonic Minor tunings, see the harmonicas page. We also suggest that you consult our Pitch Charts to know which keys are highest in pitch and which keys are lowest, for all four tunings.

The biggest selling keys of Major Diatonics are:

C A G D E F Bb Eb – in that order.

If your goal is to be able to sit in with others, jam with bands and play in most any situation, it would be ideal to have all 12 keys, plus Low F and High G. However, if you are just getting started, we feel that owning the first 5 keys listed above would give you enough flexibility to play in many situations.

Click Here to go to the Major Diatonic Key Chart, showing the various keys of music that each key of harmonica can play in, using 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th positions.

Key selection charts are included with every Lee Oskar Harmonica.