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Third position,

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Tim Birdman
Mar 13, 2009 10:23 AM GMT

Ok , when playing in third position for example on a C harp, you will be playing in the key

of D. So do the chords ie, The C and G chords fit along with the Dminor chord , This is an arguementi have been having with a friend, So can someone settle this for once and all. Thanks guys .


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Comments (12)

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Mar 13, 2009 10:54 AM GMT
HARPMAN Replied:

It is very important position.

Third position can played "TAKE 5".


Mar 13, 2009 2:23 PM GMT
John P Replied:

The problem with using third position for minors (D minor on a C harp) is that the IV chord (G chord on a C harp) is major because you don't have a flat 6. The 6th degree of the scale (B in the key of D) is the 3d of the IV chord. If the tune has a minor IV chord and you play a major 6 it sounds really awful. Most (but not all) minor tunes have a minor IV chord as well as a minor I chord, so the absence of a flat 6 is a very limiting factor. That's why I usually use 5th position for minors.


Mar 13, 2009 6:19 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

If you get the intonation and articulation of your bends down properly, 3rd position can be easily played totally in major.


Mar 14, 2009 1:10 AM GMT
John P Replied:

Bob, pleaseelaborate. Certainly third position can be easily used for major key blues. But the middle register scale is Dorian, with a flat 3 (D5) and flat 7 (B7). These holes don't bend. Of course, flat 7 is used on a lot of non-blues major key material. But do you just avoid the flat 3 (minor 3d) or what? Enlighten us.


Mar 14, 2009 4:51 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

If you use a standard diatonic, I would stay in the lower octave. However, in blues, the line gets kinda flubbed between major and minor, so you actually can get away with using a minor 3rd over the major. If you use a country tuned harp, 3rd position can be used major as well as minor once you get the intonation and articulation of the bends down correctly. If you're using a harp tuned to 7 limit just intonation like the Hering 1923 vintage Harp or most Hohner diatonics made prior to 1985, that's OK for blues, but it can be a dangerous proposition in other genres where microtones are in far less use.


Mar 14, 2009 5:41 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Bob, thanks. That makes sense. Of course, major key blues isessentiallya minor scale played over major chords and you can play the third major, minor, in between (blue third) or (in a position where you bend for the minor third) you can hit it bent and release/resolve it up to the major. But, on a standard Richter tuned harp, in third position we are stuck with the minor third (D5) in the middle and upper ((D9) registers.

Personally, i only play standard Richter tuning with equal temperament. I think i stay in much better tune with the rest of the band with ET, even for blues.


Mar 14, 2009 7:12 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

My big complaint about equal tuning is when you play chords, especially sustained chords, and they beat beat like hell. Certain genres tend to use microtones more than others.


Mar 14, 2009 7:42 PM GMT
John P Replied:

i don't play a lot of chords. I'm mostly a single note player. Chords arecertainly smoother, sweeter andricher sounding in JI. But when i do play chords on my ET Suzukis the "beating" you refer to sounds like a shimmer which i don't find objectionable, especially when playing amplified. Sounds sort of cool, actually.


Mar 17, 2009 4:05 PM GMT
Tim Birdman Replied:

Ok thanks guys, so just theD chord really fits then?


Mar 19, 2009 3:47 PM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Forget about technical arguments. 3rd position is and always has been frequently used to play with minor blues and works very well for it. It works over major blues too. Over all 3 chords. Definition of "works"? "Sounds like something people might expect to hear from an accomplished harp player."

It takes practice to avoid a few notes that stick out like a sore thumb, but mastery of 3rd position is, IMHO, far more important for any aspiring harp player, than 5th position or others. The more music theory you know, the better arguments you can make for picking a different position for a specific tune, and those arguments are indeed valid ones. Still, many players don't have the theory needed. Knowing and playing are different. I want my students to master 2nd, 3rd and 1st first - in that order.

3rd is cool. Even with more major blues the chords sound "good" are are noticeable as "different" - but still fit in. Tongue-block-flutter in the upper range of the harp and sound like a chromatic. Just last night at our pro jam the singer called two tunes in C - I sure as hell wasn't going to play an F harp all the way though. I used a Lo F in 2nd, and a Bb in 3rd - a nice choice to have in that situation. I got more compliments on the 3rd position work - because it gets peoples' attention.


Mar 19, 2009 3:50 PM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

I know I'll take heat for it so I'll just say it now. I shouldn't have said "forget about technical arguments". Music theory is a Good Thing and it is helpful to know it. But it certainly doesn't make one a better harp player unless one already knows how to play the harp well. And I stand by everything else I said.


Mar 19, 2009 6:27 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Rough rule of thumb: Playing in a MAJOR key in 3d position, ALL the G chords should work. Playing in a MINOR key, only the BLOW G chords work. Definition of "work" --if it sounds so bad even the audience knows it's a bad note, it doesn't "work."

Btw, that's why i like 5th position for minor key blues. It's hard to hit a really bad note playing minor in 5th! And, btw, it's no harder to learn 5th than it is 2d or 3d. 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). Hate to disagree w/ Greg, but there's no theory required.



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