The song 'All Along The Watchtower' by Bob Dylan is in the key of C#m. Which key Harmonica should I use to play the harmonica parts in it? I wish to play the harmonica along with rhythm guitar and vocals.

I have a C diatonic Harmonica. Will it work?

  • I would have thought that the song is in A major, not its relative minor. I don't know very much about harmonicas, but C and A don't have much in common. You may be misleading people regarding the key. Mar 6 '14 at 7:15
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    Not sure this is relevant or helpful but I play this song in first position using Am-G-F and I use an F hap and it sounds bad ass.
    – user19951
    Apr 15 '15 at 20:06

It's been a while since I played harmonica but a C won't work for sure. You'll need either a E harmonica to play first position (or Straight harp), or an A harmo to play second position (blues style). Second position (cross harp), is a fourth higher than your tonality (that's five semitones).

a key chart for harmonica

The first position playing sound major and is probably what you would want to do to sound like Bob Dylan. Cross harp involves mainly inhaling and a lot of bending and would sound a lot more bluesy (it's also a lot harder).

EDIT : I've given more thought to it and as Dave Wilson stated it I think I messed up the thinking. It's C#m so E(maj), so either an harmo in E to play first position or an harmo in A to play cross harp.

I'm no Bob Dylan/harmonica specialist but it should guide you in the right direction.

  • Hi , thanks for the helpful reply. Ya , I guess , an E harmonica should work. On the guitar the song is played with capo on 4th fret. Some people on youtube prefer playing it on open position so that they can use the C harp. So I guess for capo on 4th fret what we need is a E harp , as E is 4 semitones ahead of C. But suppose I wish to record the song using Audacity. How would it be if I record the harmonica part using my C harp and use Audacity to change the pitch by 4 semitones , so as to get effect of E harp. (As I don't have an E harp) . Thanks.
    – ameyask
    Mar 29 '13 at 5:13
  • Indeed it should work. Here's the tab for the harmonica part. harptabs.com/song.php?ID=811 Mar 29 '13 at 6:44
  • Hi. Thanks for the tabs. But that tab provides the entire melody (i.e the one which is sung as vocals) in harmonica tab. What I was looking for were the solo parts. The one which Bob Dylan plays when he is not doing the vocals. But I guess , those tabs would be hard to find . I couldn't find myself.
    – ameyask
    Mar 29 '13 at 10:02
  • I have to disagree with you here, strongly, I think the best way to play this is in third position (i.e. a whole tone higher than the the key of the harmonica), meaning you want a harp in B, or a capo on fret 1 of the guitar. I'll post a detailed answer with audio tonight. Other options are available but this answer with all respect reads like an answer from someone who knows music theory and is making an educated guess at how it ought to apply to harmonica playing. I don't plan on just being critical and posting no response, I'll put something with audio examples together tonight.
    – Some_Guy
    Sep 1 '16 at 11:09
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    While it may appear logical on the face of it, in practice you almost never play a richter tuned 10 hole diatonic harmonica in the key of the relative minor. For a number of reasons it doesn't work well: there's no tonic chord available, or even a tonic without a difficult bending the low octave, eliminating any chord work or double stops or melody work without high skill in the low octave. The layout of the notes higher up is just as counter intuitive for this position too.
    – Some_Guy
    Sep 1 '16 at 11:11

Try the relative major which is 3 half steps up C# -> E maj.

Or you can get minor key harps from Lee Oskar. Don't know if they have a C#, though.


I tend to play Am, G/Am, F, and G chords on the guitar and with these chords you need a C#. If you put a capo on fret 2, play these chord shapes but use a D#.

  • You use a C# harp to play in A minor? i.e. you play in Ab minor on a C harp? Are you a wizard?
    – Some_Guy
    Sep 1 '16 at 11:14

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