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Oct 09, 2009 7:18 AM GMT

OK, I've tried to find this information in the archives but all I can turn up are tons of seemingly unrelated discussions. Hopefully someone can point me in the right direction if I'm covering old ground here.

I'm wondering what key a minor tuned harp is in when played in positions other than 1st. Also, what about a flat harp? I know that people play these harps, but I can't find anything on them. Are theyusually played in1st position?

It seems to me that standard diatonic harps work in 2nd, 3rd, etc. positions because the notes are there,just in a different order or location (i.e. bending). But when a harp is tuned to a flatted key (such as Bb) or a minor key the scale is very different from the major key.

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Oct 09, 2009 1:36 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Richter tuned harps in flat keys (Ab, Bb, Db, Eb) and sharp keys (F#) are laid out in exactly the same pattern (same scales relative to the key note) as "unflat" (A,B,C,D,E,F) Richter tuned harps The scales just start on a different note. Minor tuned harps use a different layout. I don't use minor tuned harps myself, so don't know much about minor tuned harps. Richard Hunter (the author of "Jazz Harp") does use them and has posted on this topic on harp-l, but the archive search engine on harp-l has not been working lately.

Oct 09, 2009 4:03 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Unless you have some very unusual, very radicallyaltered tunings like circular tuning, regardless of being major or minor harps, allpositions are based on the circle of 5ths (OK, time to do something that too many harp players fail miserably to learn, and that's very basic music theory, but notice I did NOT say sight reading, which is a related skill, but different.)

C major chord for first position, the notes of the chord in that key are C (the root note), then E (which is the third), and then G (which is the 5th). So from there, G is the 5th of C, and then 2nd position is G. Now using a similar pattern, G (the root note), then B (the 3rd), and then D (the 5th). Now 3rd position starts with D, and should now see a repeating pattern.

Scales, in a veryoverly simplified wayare basically note patterns. The C scale is basically C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Now the next step is go to the keys on the piano and it's time to carefully observe the key patterns and if you pay close attention, you will notice that black keys are grouped together in 2 & 3. Now whenever there is a black key between the white keys, there are two half steps. If there areno black keys in between the twowhite keys, that means there is only 1/2 step between the two white keys. The first white key on a piano before the first group of black keys that are grouped together as a pair isalways C.

You will then notice that there is a black key inbetween the C and the next white key, which is D. Now that means there's 1 full step between those two notes (in a C major scale). Now the next white key also has a similar thing and this white key is E, and so a pattern repeats where there is also 1 whole step.

Now going further up the scale, the next thing you will notice that the next white key, F, there is no black key in between, so that means there is only 1/2 step in between.

Now we move up to the next white key, which is G, there is a black key in the middle, and so that means there is 1 whole step in between.

Moving up to the next white key, which is A, there is also a black key in the middle, so again, there is a 1 whole step in between.

Lets move up further to the next white key, which is B, again there is a black key in between, meaning1 whole step inbetween.

Moving up again to the next white key, you now start off at C again, and since there is no black key in between, there's only 1/2 step in between, and you'll quickly notice this entire pattern repeating itself from octave to octave.

OK, now what is the layout in 1/2 steps in the C major scale? It is, starting from C, as follows: 1-1-1/2-1-1-1-1/2. This pattern applies to the major scale in all 12 keys. For example, using this pattern, the Bb major scale is as follows in terms of the notes being played: Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb. Now you can transpose to other keys but the pattern remains the same.

On a guitar, each fret represents a single 1/2 step, so you can see, this is all relative.

In Am (natural minor and the most basic), is basically the same as the C scale, but it starts off at A, but the pattern changes away from the major pattern, and the steps in between will lok more like this: 1-1/2-1-1-1/2-1-1, and in terms of the notes, it's A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A. There is also what is called the Harmonic Minor scale, which is basically the same, except that the G is now G#, and so that step that was once 1 whole step is now 1-1/2 steps from F to G#, and then from G# to A is now 1/2 step, meaning the pattern is now: 1-1/2-1-1-1/2-1 &1/2-1/2.

There's much more to this than that but at least it's a beginning for you. too many harp players don't take enough time to learn these things and once they do, they will make far fewer mistakes and will gain more ability to work out of them.

For more on the theory end, there is an excellent freebie site called that's worth checking into that you can learn at your own pace.

Note: If you get the Lee Oskar minor tuned harps, they are labeled in cross harp (2ndposition), wheras most companies are labeling them in first position, like the way diatonics are labeled.

Oct 09, 2009 4:54 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Here's a link to a very useful chart for the tuning layout of a diatonic harp in terms of the note layout from the Coast To Coast Music website:

Also, here's another one from that site on alternate tunings:

I think these should be very helpful.

Oct 11, 2009 6:20 AM GMT
Mondo Replied:

Thank you, Bob, and you're right Harpaholic: that is a lot of info! Nice find on the charts, also! I needed those alternate tunings to help me visualize this.

Thanks, again.

Oct 12, 2009 12:49 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

I have to admit Bob, I'm in awe of your knowledge about Harmonicas, and also your ability to type. As asoftware developer I wish I had your typing chops. I am assuming you don't spend half a day on each post as it would take me (if I had your knowledge that is).Your presence here is a great thing.A bit off topic I'm sorry. To add some Harp content,PAUL DeLAYI say nodding knowingly.


Oct 12, 2009 4:31 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

My ability to type!!! LOL!!! Man, Until the last few months, I've been a two fingered typist for the bulk of my life. I've been playing mostly pro for over 30 years and I always find more to learn and it's likre anything else. The minute you stop learning, you don't grow, and you musically get senile, and si there always more to learn.

Oct 15, 2009 11:24 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

No offence intended, if you like I mean your energy. You experience shines brightly here and I agree about always learning. SorryD P to higjack your thread.

Oct 16, 2009 7:43 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Chris, not once did I ever take offence about it at all, so don't worry about it. There are far worse things in this world to worry about than that.

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