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Sep 16, 2019 - 8:57:02 AM
3 posts since 9/16/2019

Hi! I'm new here, so thanks for including me and please be gentle with me... I have a hymn sing at the local nursing home once a month, and usually do a short solo on my harmonica as an intermission (so they can catch their breath!) My favorite harmonica is a old 'Goliath' in the key of C, and I find my way around the tunes I play by ear. Now that I'm retired (I was a shepherd) I have more time to start playing my banjo (5 string, tuned traditionally) again. I've found sheet music (with chords) for the old Scottish tune 'O Waly, Waly' in G major. How do I transpose these chords so I can play it with my harmonica? Sorry if this is a dumb question: it may just be a capo thing, but I really don't know the answer and could use your help. Thanks in advance! #======( ) ;~)s Banjo Smiles on all of you!

Sep 16, 2019 - 9:41:04 AM

6327 posts since 8/28/2013


I am assuming you wish to play the banjo along with the harmonica in "C." If trying to transpose the harmonica to match the banjo in "G" you'd have to use a harmonica in "G."

Every note on the banjo, to reach "C" would need to be lowered a fifth (or raised a fouth. In other words, G becomes C, A becomes D, B becomes E, etc. The same applies to the chords: G major becomes C major, D7 would be G7, C major becomes F major, etc.

While it's possible to do this by changing your fingering, the easiest way would be to capo at the 5th fret. You'd still might need to adjust your right hand picking, unless you have spikes for the 5th string. (The "G" note is in the key of C, but might not work as well as a drone string in that key.)

Sep 16, 2019 - 10:56:43 AM

3 posts since 9/16/2019

That's kind of what I was thinking! And yes, while I have a G harmonica, I am not as fond of it as my Goliath in C. Using a capo will be the best choice for me. Thank you so much for your help! #======( ) ;~)s PrairieSue

Sep 16, 2019 - 11:12:22 AM
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7190 posts since 8/20/2016

Using a capo gets rid of the low notes and unless you have a spike at 10 it will sound funny. Why don't you tell us what chords are in the song and we can tell you which ones to use so you don't have to use the capo?

Or you can use this cheat system:

and that will bring us back to Do oh oh oh.

Edited by - Mooooo on 09/16/2019 11:14:54

Sep 16, 2019 - 11:16:38 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)


23459 posts since 8/3/2003

Why can't you just play the banjo tuned in open G and use the C, F, G chords on the banjo ? No capo needed.

Sep 16, 2019 - 11:33:16 AM

179 posts since 4/11/2019

That would be easier than trying to capo the harmonica by far.

Sep 16, 2019 - 11:39:17 AM

108 posts since 8/25/2009

If you want to capo the fifth string as well as the other four, there are several simple alternatives. There used to be a Regan capo, which is now available as a "Strum Hollow" capo, with a pouch for the capo. It is my favorite, at around $15.. There's also an "Uncle Earl" "suspender capo", about the same price, which has an elastic, and a "Banjo Highway" capo which is around $60.

The only disadvantage to the Regan capo was that it was tempting to store it on a string above the nut (on the peghead), and it was likely to fly off and get lost. The Strum Hollow's pouch avoids that danger.

Sep 16, 2019 - 12:10:42 PM

6327 posts since 8/28/2013

Sherry makes a good point, at least for the actual chords. But if you plan to play the melody as well as the chords on the banjo, you'll need to transpose the notes.

If you restrict yourself to playing melody on the harmonica and simple chords on the banjo, Sherry's method would be pretty easy.

Sep 16, 2019 - 3:32:07 PM

3 posts since 9/16/2019

I've been thinking that I'm NOT coordinated enough to blow the tune and do any kind of fancy finger work so I probably will just play some chords. It's a work in progress for sure, so we'll just have to see how it all works out! Thanks!!

Sep 17, 2019 - 6:36:39 AM

3285 posts since 3/28/2008

Do you know the number system? Take the chords in the key you now, and translate them into numbers. Then take those numbers and translate them into whatever those numbers stand for in the new key.

This works for ANY two keys.

Sep 17, 2019 - 9:32 AM

4536 posts since 8/3/2012

It has been a long time since I have played harmonica, but if you play cross harp (2nd position) on a C harp, doesn't that give you the key of G?

Sep 17, 2019 - 9:41:39 AM
Players Union Member



1376 posts since 8/8/2012

OldBlindGuy has it right. Play the C harp in second position for G.

Edited by - pickn5 on 09/17/2019 09:42:36

Sep 17, 2019 - 9:49:15 AM

4536 posts since 8/3/2012

Who says it's hard to capo a harp?


Sep 17, 2019 - 10:40:15 AM
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895 posts since 8/7/2017

Ira's got the right idea, I use the "Nashville Number" system a lot. The system predates Nashville, but that's what it was called in my music books. It makes it easy to figure out the chords (and melody notes)  for a new key if you know the chords & notes in the original key.

Starting with Do, number the notes 1-7. Here it is for C (no sharps or flats) and G (one sharp on F) btw, I can't get the numbers and letters to line up vertically very well, sorry.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
G A B C D E F#

The most common chords in folk music are the 1, 4 and 5 (these are often written in Roman Numerals, with upper case letters for major chords and lower case letters for minor chords)

So 1 4 5 = I IV V (all major chords)
key of C = C F G
key of G = G C D

Hope this helps. You are doing a nice thing with your singing and playing for others :-)

Edited by - BrooksMT on 09/17/2019 10:48:31

Sep 17, 2019 - 11:17:45 AM

2506 posts since 4/19/2008
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Originally posted by pickn5

OldBlindGuy has it right. Play the C harp in second position for G.

Let me finish that sentence Play the C harp in second position for G Blues, Rock & Mixolydian tunes. The OP.s tune is in Ionian Mode which calls for straight harp, first position.

here it is in D

Oct 7, 2019 - 4:37:54 AM
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3195 posts since 12/6/2009

here's what Ira was eluding to;
also on several occasions I leave the 5th at G often while capoing C at 5 ( it goes with C F G ). But do yourself a huge favor. Learn to play in keys at the basic chord positions.

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