Hey all,

I went out today and bought my first harmonica (a little late coming, i know). I bought one in the key of C. My question is, does that mean I have to compose all my songs in the key of C if I wish to use my harmonica in them?? My theory is a little rusty...

Also, apart from Bob Dylan, what other acoustic artists use a lot of harmonica?

Neil young?
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The key of C or A minor (technically not a key itself, but the notes are exactly the same as those in the key of C). It will easily do a G or Em also. There is no F# in those, but neither is this note on your harmonica. If you leave the F alone, you'll be fine. It is possible to play in other keys, but the more flats and sharps a scale has, the more notes you'll have to avoid playing, up to the point were your harmonica is useless. For example the key of B leaves you with only two notes to play and five to leave out, which is neither practical nor musical.
To be able to play all keys, you should have twelve different harmonica's. You could also consider a chromatic harmonica, but the more you'll have to use the slide, the more tricky it becomes. Even an ace chromatic player like Toots Thielemans never wanders too far from the key of C. Besides; you can't accompany yourself on guitar with a chromatic.
But it's not really necessary to go all the way. For example; playing along with Neil Young's brilliant 'Unplugged' record only takes a C, G and D.

Harmonica is such a common instrument in the blues, country and folk tradition that it is hardly feasable to mention particular artists. Probably a list of American singer-songwriters who don't use this instrument is much shorter.
Wow thanks Marcel Veltman, that helps.

Another question for you: I noticed the harmonica has 10 holes in it, each with their own corresponding note. What notes are each of these? Does sucking and blowing into the harmonica produce the octave of that particular note?

Sorry for my sucky knowledge of harmonicas and music theory - i'm a newb on both.

Go to this Wikepedia article:
It's clear, complete and will learn you that the sequence of notes is not always the same on all sorts of harmonicas. Since yours has ten holes, it's most probably a diatonic blues harp.
However; I find it hardly necessary to know which notes I play on harmonica. It's difficult to distinguish between positions anyway. The little numbers pressed in the body are unreadable when playing and if you keep to the right key, you won't have to worry about patterns to use for skipping the wrong notes, likie one does when playing guitar or keyboards. Play a harmonica like you use your vocal cords; just don't mind.
Also keep in mind that there are 2 ways to play the harmonica. If you want to play folk and blues you will play what is called 2nd position or cross harp. When you play 2nd you want to you a harmonica that is a 5th below the actual key. So if you want to play blues in the key of G then you need to use a harmonica in the key of C and then you bend the notes on the harmonica to match the missing notes in the scale
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yeah wikipedia was going to be my last resort. I just wanted to hear from actual musicians first. Thanks guys!

Someone posted in a thread a while back all the keys that you can play with a harmonica in...it was handy, I just haven't been able to find it again. Anyone know where I find it?

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It is possible to 'bend' notes on a normal harmonical (i.e not chromatic) to play notes not in the key the harmonica's in, but I'm buggered if I know how or which ones can be bent. Anyone out there who does?
How may The National D help you waste your time?
^the lower the note the easier it is to bend. Bending on a harmonica bends the note down. You can only bend notes when you are sucking in (draw) the better you get at bending the further you can bend notes.

hope that helped
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yeah that does help cord, as always.

How do you go about bending notes? I know it's to do with the muscles in your throat... what do you do with them??

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Someone posted in a thread a while back all the keys that you can play with a harmonica in...it was handy, I just haven't been able to find it again. Anyone know where I find it?

No, but this would have been in it.
Take a diatonic harmonica in C. You can blow it over C major and A minor. You can try a little bit of some other scales on it too, as long as you manage skip the wrong notes.
In blues, country and rock, however, the out of scale notes of C major exactly coincide with the in between notes of the G scale, while the most important right notes are to be sucked rather than blown, which makes for easy bendings and vibratos. It is called cross harping and it means that a C harmonica is even better suited to play G blues than a regular G harmonica.
The same goes for all other keys. A D does D major and B minor and can cross harp over the key of A; G will do G, Em and D blues and so on and so further.