Learn TWO Kinds of Second Position on Harmonica

By Brendan Power

Written by Brendan Power on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles, Harmonica Players

Greetings! I’m Brendan Power and in this video I’ll show you how to get two completely different moods when playing Second Position, just by altering a couple of notes!

Many harp players are inspired to pick up the harmonica by hearing some great Blues music played on it. As everyone knows, the 10-hole diatonic is great for Blues – that’s how it got its common name of ‘Blues Harp’.

The scale that most people think of when playing in a bluesy way is called the Minor Pentatonic. Here it is in Second Position, starting on 2 draw (the minus signs indicate a draw note, the apostrophes indicate one semitone of bend):

-2 -3’ 4 -4 -5 6

On the video I show you the scale and how to play a short riff-type melody using it.

Other notes that work in this scale are 1 draw, 2 full-bend, and 4 draw-bend: the flatted fifth. Also called the Blues scale, the Minor Pentatonic gives you that characteristic soulful wailing sound that we all know and love. It’s kind of dark and moody.

But there is another flavour available in Second Position that will help you put out a completely different vibe: a happy, sweet, melodious feeling. It’s called the Major Pentatonic, and you hear it a lot in pop songs and folk music from around the world. Harp players don’t use it as much in general – although in Country harmonica you’ll hear it quite frequently.

The scale still starts on hole 2 draw and ends on 6 blow, but a few notes in between are slightly different:

-2 -3’’ -3 -4 5 6

The third note of the scale is 3 draw without a bend, and that’s what makes this scale sound happy rather than the darker sound of the flat third in the minor Blues scale. 1 draw and 2 blow are also part of the scale, and you can continue it up into the top octave like this:

6 -6 -7 -8 8 9

I show you the scale and a melody to play with it. If you’re not used to playing in the Major Pentatonic, give yourself some time to get used to choosing the different notes. I’m sure you’ll love the feeling of it after a while.

Now you have the two Second Position moods under your belt, you can choose which scale to choose depending on the music you’re playing along to. The bluesy sound doesn’t work for everything, and it’s good to be able to retain the familiar feel of Second Position while cranking out a different vibe altogether.

On the video I encourage you to switch between the two scales alternately, one after the other. If you can do that with confidence you will truly have mastered them both, and are ready to go and try them out in jam sessions and gigs. Have fun!

Brendan Power

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