Donate to This Project

Your donations help us continue to add new and exciting features. Please consider making a donation

HarmonicaSpace is a subsidiary of Brady Mills Graphics

4th and 5th position

Back to the General Discussion Room

Civet Cat
Jan 25, 2009 7:01 AM GMT
Help...I've put up a ton of vids and helped everyone now its someones turn to help me...I'm asking for once!

major scale lay out?

Pentatonic lay out?

Easy way to remeber what key to pick many whole steps up from key of the song...Help...I've put up a ton of vids and helped everyone now its someones turn to help me...I'm asking for once!

In short:
can some one put up a damn video explaining the easiest scales to play in 4th and 5th position and a EASY way to remeber what harp to pick up against the key of the band or explain it to me now?

Share |

Comments (41)

Login or Register to Post Comments

Order by Date

Jan 25, 2009 8:24 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

Does it not work out like this?
If you pick up a harp and then think 3rd (so a G harp for Am) then from third think 2nd position so then a G harp in Am (3rd position ) becomes Em (4th positin). Then if you think 2nd again from there Em becomes Bm (5th position).

Does that make sense or am I talking trash? Lol

Jan 25, 2009 11:14 AM GMT
Fugazzi Replied:


I lay all my harps out in the Circle of Fifths in my case. That way, when someone calls a key, I can count up from that harmonica. Does that make sense?

Fourth lays out modally to be the Natural Minor scale starting on A on a C harp. If you want to play blues, the blues scale would be A, C, D, F#, E, G, A. That shouldn't be a problem for you.

I use this position on songs like Cake's "I Will Survive" (if you watch my "Covers" video on YouTube its in there), or sometimes on "Whippin Post" by the Allman Bros. I've tried it for playing blues. I don't dislike it, but find I'd rather play 3rd for a real minor sound. I'll look for an mp3 of me using 4th on "Help Me" and put it on this site.

Jan 25, 2009 11:15 AM GMT
Fugazzi Replied:

PS....You need to play the 4draw bend and 5ob to play it as a major scale. Too messy for me! I'd rather use 11th or 12th.

Jan 25, 2009 11:21 AM GMT
Fugazzi Replied:

"Help Me" is uploaded. It is the first time I tried playing 4th on a blues tune live. Not my best work, but you can hear how it probably doesn't layout naturally to be the "best" position.

Jan 25, 2009 11:23 AM GMT
Fugazzi Replied:

I also found another song..."Phone Booth"...I only use a bit of 4th right at the end, but this is probably a better example of using it for a taste.

Jan 26, 2009 6:31 PM GMT
Tuck M Replied:

I copped this from a chart in David Harp's "Blues Harmonica Positions"

Song Key 4th 5th
Bb F# Db
C Ab Eb
D Bb F
F Db Ab
G Eb Bb

4th pos. blues scale: 2B 3B 3Dbent half 3D full bend 3D 4D 5B
5th pos.minor scale: 6D 7D 7B 8D 8B 9D 9B 10D or
3bent 3b 2bent 2B 1D 1B 3D 3bent or
6D 6B 5D 5B 4D 4B 3D 3bent

Hope this helps! Columns didn't line up, looks messy.

Jan 26, 2009 7:47 PM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

I lay out my harps in circle of fifths as well.
I find now that I've started messing around it other positions
(11th,12th,3rd) that it's harder to sometimes find the key for
a song. I seem to regularly fool myself thinking I'm in second
but have it slowly dawn on me that I'm in 5th. (Not that I'm
any good in fifth! )

[Fugazzi, what key is 'Help Me' in?]


Jan 26, 2009 8:56 PM GMT
Fugazzi Replied:

I used an Ab harp for 4th on that one...I think.

Jan 27, 2009 1:51 AM GMT
Dan Ridgeway Replied:

Kingley's original post makes alot of musical sense, and I think it is something that I have figured out before, then forgot, then re-discovered again.

If Kingley's suggestion doesn't help, I just think 4 half-steps down from the key of the song gives you the harp in 4th pos.

So if the band was in F#... 4 half-steps down is F, E, Eb, D

Jan 27, 2009 4:56 AM GMT
RJ H Replied:

Well in my mind the easiest way to know what harp to pick against the key of the band for fifth is that hole 2 blow is always going to be your root note. So if the bands in E i know to grab a C harmonica to play fifth. And fourth I know that 3 whole step bend is my root note so I know what note that is on the harp so i go there in the band key.

Jan 31, 2009 2:31 PM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

I use 5th more than 4th. On a C harp, fifth is E (Phrygian).
C(1st) D(3rd) E(5th).
G(1st) A(3rd) B(5th).
Phrygian has a nice b2 I like to use.
Check out my Penta 'tude Picture Album--key of E. This relates directly (and comes from) stuff you taught at Rockers.

Feb 03, 2009 12:00 AM GMT
Brady Mills Replied:

5th position is three whole steps down from the key of the band... and that gives you the harp.

4th position is three half steps down from the key of the band.
Concerning writing out the major and minor scales --- figure it out your damn self. It's good for you. ;-)

Feb 04, 2009 2:47 AM GMT
Bluesie Replied:

I think that you begin to understand the purpose of more positions, like Moose said when you begin to mix them up a bit. With a friend bassman, I created a blues song with a jazz progression type. When I tried to play on it, I found that I had trouble determining which could be best. In fact, I had the impression that any position was almost the same??? The song is in G but because of the structure, I was not sure anymore. I was able to play in G, C, F and then took a Bb which sounded very good too! I had just discovered what I think is the 4th position!

Feb 04, 2009 4:52 AM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

I know I keep posting this, but new people keep coming in.

In the Pics section of my profile, I have posted the following chart:

Cycle of Fifths
Note Layout on Each Diatonic
All 12 Pentatonic Patterns on a C Harmonica
Scales and Modes
. . . and more.

They are mine, so they are free to use for personal enrichment.

Feb 04, 2009 4:54 AM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

This is a GREAT GREAT theory "slide rule"
Some of the best $30 I've ever spent.

No affiliation

Feb 04, 2009 5:08 AM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

A more complete answer to the original question . . .

First, there's always the cycle of fifths numbering system.

There is a way using the steps of the major scale.
(I've been thinking about this for a few days.)

C (1st) D(3rd) E(5th) F(12th) G (2nd) A (4th) B (6th)

Think: 135 12 246

Also, for fourth position, look at the A minor triad


To play natural minor (aeolian), find the minor 3rd of the triad. Pick up that harp (in this case C) and play 4th position (key of Am).

Hope this helps. Sorry for the overkill posts.

Feb 04, 2009 5:11 AM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

Feb 05, 2009 1:26 AM GMT
John P Replied:

In order to determine which harp to use to play a minor key in 5th position, you take the relative major of the minor key you wish to play and use the harp you would ordinarily use to play 2d position in that key. For example, if you want to play in C minor, the relative major is Eb, so you use an Ab harp (the one you would use to play in Eb major 2d position). Then use 2B for root and you get C minor, without having to bend for the minor 3rd or the minor 6th (which is the minor 3rd on the IV chord). You also have 7b without having to bend. You must bend 3D to get 5b and 4. 

Minor pentatonic and blues scales lay out well in 5th.
Blues Scale: 1   3b   4    5b  5  7b octave
             2B 2D/3B 3D** 3D* 3D 4D  5B    (LOWER REGISTER) 
             5B 6B    6D    X  7D 8D  8B    (MIDDLE REGISTER)
             8B 9B    10D                   (UPPER REGISTER-partial)
             1D=7b    X=Not available because I don't overbend.
If you play the minor pentatonic (omit 3D* and X) scale in 5th position it is the same breath pattern as the major pentatonic scale in 2d position.
Natural Minor is a little problematic. 6b available at 1B 4B 7B 10B.
2 available at 2D*and 9B* BUT 5D and 9D are 2b,(Phrygian)not major 2. 
I personally wouldn't use 5th position for major unless I was playing a blues scale or minor pentatonic scale over major chords. But i don't OB.

Feb 05, 2009 1:36 AM GMT
John P Replied:

i don't play much 4th position, but to play a minor key in 4th position, use the harmonica in the relative major key.  To play C minor use an Eb harmonica because Eb is the relative major to C minor. To play A minor use a C harmonica because C is the relative major of A minor.  Etc.  Root is 6D 10D 3D**


Feb 05, 2009 10:19 PM GMT
Preston M Replied:

I see a couple of posts mentioning the circle of fifths, but nobody comes out and says how you can use it. Memorize the layout on the circle of fifths, and you can find any key, any position in a blink of an eye. If a band calls out Key of D, and you want to play 4th position, count counterclockwise 3 steps from D. (D being 1, so 3 steps = 4) The key of harp you want is F. Another example:

Band calls out E and you want to play fifth position. Count backwards from E four steps. You need a C Harmonica.

Try it with something easy. Band calls key of G. You are playing cross harp, so you count backwards one note. You get the C harp.

Feb 06, 2009 7:29 AM GMT
Bluesie Replied:

I just posted on my profile my first expérience in fourth position. The song is named Pelouse In Blues and is in the key of G. On Harmonica Jam, everybody played it in C. I wanted to experiemnt so, there is a one take on my own BT, Pelouse In Blues. Love that position. In the context of the song which is a blues structure with a jazz feel, the sound of the fourth position seems very jazzy.

Feb 12, 2009 5:12 PM GMT
Mr So-So Replied:

Civet Cat, Adam G has made available a free download from his site Harmonica Positions PDF. In it I have tabbed out blues and major scales in the twelve positions, plus some common chords (only in first three positions). If it helps you out at all, I'd be honored. I ate up your scales videos, BTW. Thanks.

Feb 13, 2009 6:55 PM GMT
Yuki Replied:

The easiest scale to play in 4th and 5th position is the minor pentatonic.

For the 5th position, just play the major pentatonic scale of 2nd position. The notes in this scale are EXACTLY the same as mimor pentatonic scale in 5th position! For example, on C harp, G major pentatonic scale and E minor pentatonic scale are the SAME THING. Only difference is which note you think as the tonic. The 5th note of the major pentatonic scale in 2nd position (2,5,and 8 blow) becomes the tonic in 5th position.

For 4th position, play the major pentatonic scale of 1st position. The notes in this scale are EXATCLY same as mimor pentatonic scale in 4th position! For example, on C harp, C major pentatonic scale and A minor pentatonic scale are the SAME THING. The only difference is which note you think as the notic. 5th note of major pentatonic in 1st position (3 hole whole-tone bend,6-draw,and 10-draw) become tonic in 5th position.

You can add the blue note (flat 5th), and of course, there are other scales you can play in these positions. But to begin with, I think these are the easiest way to play / remember.

Feb 13, 2009 8:41 PM GMT
Yuki Replied:

Sorry! There was a mistake in my last post. The last line about 4th position (the 3rd paragraph)should be:
5th note of major pentatonic in 1st position (3 hole whole-tone bend,6-draw,and 10-draw) become tonic in _4th_ position.

Feb 23, 2009 8:08 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Easy way to remember what harp to use in fifth position: Use a harp two steps below the key the band is in. If the band is in A minor, use an F harp. B minor=G harp. C minor=Ab harp. D minor=Bb harp. E minor=C harp. F minor=Db harp. G minor=Eb harp. Etc.

Mar 30, 2009 8:49 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Basic oversimplified easy formula: To play minor key blues in 5th, just start on 2 blow, don't bend anything but Draw 3, and try to stay away from Draw 5 and Draw 9 except on the V chord (a/k/a the turnaround).

Mar 31, 2009 3:22 AM GMT
Diggs Replied:

I think of 4th as the relative minor of first position. 5th as the relative minor of 2nd even though its

considered as a phrygian of 1st position.

Mar 31, 2009 4:28 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

5th position - take the key of the music, figure down two whole steps (4 1/2 steps) and that's the key of the harp to use. (That also makes it one whole step lower than the 3rd position harp for the same key of music.) That's WAY easier for non-music students than having first to understand what "relative minor" means.

May 07, 2009 4:30 AM GMT
John P Replied:

I've had an evolution in my approach to playing in minor keys. When a minor key gets called, I've started to ask (usuallythe guitar player) if it's dorian minor or natural minor. For dorian, i'll play third position. If natural, I'll play fifthposition.

May 09, 2009 4:20 AM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

4th pos. Great for jazzs tunes: i play beautiful love, black orpheus, menina moca, afro blue (not 3rd pos as Jason), killing me softly. I use it a lot. Rarely use it as major - Amazing grace sounds good.

(2) - draw

2 - blow

(2)' - one step bend

(3)'' - two step bend

5*, (7)* - overbend

major (3)'' (3) (4)' (4) 5 5* (6)' (6) (7) (7)* (8) 8 9' (9)* (10)

major pentatonic(3)'' (3) (4)' (4) 5 5* (6)' (6) (7) (7)* (8) 8 9' (9)* (10)

natural minor (3)'' (3) 4 (4) 5 (5) 6 (6) (7) 7 (8) 8 (9) 9 (10)

dorian minor (3)'' (3) 4 (4) 5 5* 6 (6) (7) 7 (8) 8 9' 9 (10)

blues (3)'' 4 (4) 4* 5 6 (6) (7) (8) 8' 8 9 (10)

5th pos. I use it rarely, it's great for spanish tunes in phrigian mode. Blues scale is good too.

Major (very hard, never use it) 2 (2)' (3)''' (3)'' (3) (4)' 4* 5 5* (6)' (6) (7) (7)* 8' 8

Major pentatonic 2 (2)' (3)''' (3) (4)' 5 5* (6)' (7) (7)* 8

Natural minor 2 (2)' (2) (3)'' (3) 4 (4) 5 5* 6 (6) (7) 7 (8) 8 relative minor to 2nd pos

Natural minor pentatonic (easy) 2 (2) (3)'' (3) (4) 5 6 (6) (7) (8) 8

Blues (easy) 2 (2) (3)'' (3)' (3) (4) 5 6 (6) 6* (7) (8) 8

Phrigian (spanish tunes) 2 (2)'' (2) (3)'' (3) 4 (4) 5 (5) 6 (6) (7) 7 (8) 8 (same notes as 1 st pos, starting from 2 blow)

May 09, 2009 4:26 AM GMT
Boris Plotnikov Replied:

My opinion is better way to choose harp to know which notes you are going to play and know which harps you can use. For ex. If band starts in the key Am you should choose between G, D, C and F (lowF) harps. If tune is jazzy and have some chord changes - it may be C harp in 4th pos, if it's minor blues (like thrill is gone) - G harp 3rd pos would be better, if it's minor bluesbut with no minor chords, just riffs - D harp in second pos is better, if it's some pentatonic or spanish feel - try F harp in 5th pos.

For fast finding the key you can make circle of 5th.

May 29, 2009 5:04 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Jason - what you need is a mnemonic for the circle of fifths. I've been working on this one:

F***ing (ie F#)
C***ing (ie C#)
A**holes (ie Ab)

Those last three come pretty easily once you memorise the first nine.

May 29, 2009 5:05 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Re mnemonic - I have no idea where that 'Diva' came from.

May 29, 2009 5:06 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Oh, I get it.

May 29, 2009 5:08 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

On third thoughts read 'Be' for 'B'.

Jun 08, 2009 11:11 AM GMT
FatJim Replied:

Makes more sense to me to learn the circle of fourths, i.e. the Circle of 5ths backwards.

Here's my mnemonic:

Bad Eating And Drinking Gin Causes Flatulence. Flat Bellies Entail A Diet of Greens.

B E A D G C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb

Jun 08, 2009 11:30 AM GMT
FatJim Replied:

Whilst we're on the subject of mnemonics, here'smine for the circle of fifths:

Four Cats Gone Drinking. Arrival Expected By Five Sharp. Flatly Deny Anything Except Beer.

F C G D A E B F# Db Ab Eb Bb

Jun 15, 2009 10:43 AM GMT
BP Replied:

I agree with thinking of 4th Position as the realtive minor of 1st Position, and 5th Position as the relative minor of 2nd Position. 1st and 2nd are very familiar, so it's easy to relate 4th and 5th to them.

4th Position is the Aeolian mode, which has a flat 6th (this is what distinguishes it from the Dorain mode, 3rd Position).

4th is used a LOT in Irish music, and works great in Paddy Richter Tuning; in fact, the home note is the altered 3 blow. Check this video to see how easy it is, and how it opens up the bottom octave for melodic playing:

Brendan Power

Jun 15, 2009 2:36 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Thanks Brendan. FWIW, folks, 'St. James' Infirmary' is a good tune to practice 5th position in, eg Em on a C harp.

Jul 07, 2009 3:33 AM GMT
Reed Triller Replied:

I saw exactly what you were looking for the other night.I`ll have to find it again.Simple chart basically saying when band is playing this key,use his key harp.I thought it was a step down.I could be wrong.

Jul 07, 2009 4:25 AM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Boris is awesome. He is an inspiration, he knows his theory!!!