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Hohner PentaHarp: Intro, Demo & Easy Tabs For Blues, Rock & More

Hello! In today's harmonica lesson I will introduce the new Hohner PentaHarp, designed to play the minor pentatonic scale easily. It's aimed primarily at guitarists who want a simple, logical way to transfer guitar licks onto the harp. I'll give you some tabs and ideas to get you started. Let me know what you think of the PentaHarp in the comments!

When you first open the box, the PentaHarp looks pretty similar to a standard Hohner Special 20, but when you play it you realise it's nothing like one! Hohner are using a tag line that "guitarists will love it, harmonica players will hate it” which is an interesting marketing technique for a harmonica.


The PentaHarp website has more information, tabs and a tool to move guitar tabs to harmonica.


The Note Layout of the PentaHarp

The PentaHarp doesn’t tweak the standard (Richter) tuning, but rips it up and starts all over again. For that reason, you can’t transfer any tabs you know, but this harp is designed exactly for that reason. It's going to blow your mind, either in a good or bad way.


The note layout is extremely logical and consistent. It's called the PentaHarp ("penta" meaning five) because it is aimed at guitarists who want to play licks using the minor pentatonic scale (which is one of the first scales guitarists learn, and a very popular one for soloing). The minor pentatonic is available with absolutely no bends so it's very easy for beginners. Three octaves of the same layout mean you can move up and down the instrument fluidly without thinking time slowing you down.


Beginner Tabs for the PentaHarp

Although it is called the PentaHarp, it does actually contain the full blues scale (which is the minor pentatonic plus the flat five). That extra note is really great, but you do have to be careful because it’s safest as a passing tone, so if you linger on it, it will create too much tension and demand too much attention.


The breath pattern for the full blues scale is simply blow-draw-blow-draw-blow-draw-blow. Ironically, this simplicity might actually throw harp players off because we're so used to Richter that anything different hurts our brains!


THE BLUES SCALE:

1 -1 2 -2 3 -3 4


To play the minor pentatonic, simply skip the flat five note (2 draw, 5 draw, 8 draw).


THE MINOR PENTATONIC SCALE:

1 -1 2 3 -3 4


If you wanted to play the minor pentatonic in its IV chord and V chord forms, you can do so as follows:


IV: 2 -3// -3 4 -4 5


V: 3 -3 4 -4/ 5 6


There are no obvious chords. Although you might find some weird intervals and partial chords if you explore thoroughly, this harp is definitely designed to play solo lines rather than chords. It is however possible to play octave splits all along blows and draws, with a four hole width (blocking the two middle holes with your tongue).


Another quirk of the PentaHarp is that it's possible to play the major pentatonic scale in 10th position (starting on 1 draw). On a Cm harp, 10th position would be the key of Eb (major):


THE MAJOR PENTATONIC SCALE:

-1 2 3 -3 4 -4


The PentaHarp has a full tone draw bend on all holes except 2, 5 and 8 draw. There are no blow bends because of the consistent layout of the harp (whereas the pattern of a standard tuned harp switches at hole 7).


ROCK TABS FOR THE PENTAHARP


Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple) 4 -4 5 4 -4 -5 5 4 -4 5 -4 4

Sunshine of Your Love (Cream) 4 4 -3 4 3 -2 2 1 -1 1


BLUES TABS FOR THE PENTAHARP


Blues Box Shuffle

1 1 4 4 -3 -3 3 3 (x4)

2 2 5 5 -4 -4 4 4 (x2)

1 1 4 4 -3 -3 3 3 (x2)

3 3 6 6 5 5 -4/ -4/

2 2 5 5 -4 -4 4 4

1 1 4 4 -3 -3 3 3 (x2)


The Blues Scale

1 -1 2 -2 3 -3 4


Triplet licks

-2 3 -3 (equivalent to -4/ -4 -5 on Richter)

4 -3 3 (equivalent to -2 -2// -1)

-2 -1 2 (equivalent to -4/ -3/ 4)


These triplet licks would require bends on Richter harp. You can play them easily, and fast, on a PentaHarp. You can also turn them into longer loops by combining them together.


It's also possible to play funk, reggae and Latin grooves with the PentaHarp. Here are the jam tracks I use in the demo video:


CONCLUSIONS

  • Unlikely to be more than a novelty for experienced harp players

  • Useful for guitarists and beginners who can’t necessarily get the strengths out of Richter harps

  • Won’t necessarily stop you having to bend, unless you only stick to one scale at all times

  • Rack players may find it helps because of consistent layout vs. other minor tuned harps

But I want to know what YOU think. Let me know in the comments!


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Thanks for great article on the Pentaharp (PH). Couldn’t agree more with you. I’ve been playing for about 10 years pretty steady. I have PH’s in Am, Cm, Em and Gm. Recently, my guitar partner sent me a 12 bar blues – with I, IV, V structure – to play over. He recorded it on Cm.

While I can play along with both the harmony and solo parts easily using my Cm PH, it just doesn’t sound as good as my standard Richter tuned harps, imo. Part of it is obviously my lack of familiarity with the note layouts on the PH, which I’m getting better at. However, to my ear, it sounds to ‘tinny’ vs my Hohner Rockets o…

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