Understanding 1st / 2nd Position

Two Basic Styles of Playing

Question: Why is a C Harp used to play in G?

The answer is simple. Today most players do not play the harmonica the way it was originally designed to be played!

About Keys and Positions:

Although it is possible to play in many keys of music on any one harmonica by using various positions, most players use only the first two positions, 1st Position (also known as Straight Harp) and 2nd Position (also known as Cross Harp).

1st Position:

  • Begins on #4 Blow
  • Accents the Blow Notes
  • Use a C Harp to play in C

The Major Diatonic Harmonica was originally designed for playing simple folk music of the nineteenth century and its notation layout was adequate for that purpose. The original style of playing, known as 1st Position, is suitable for playing simple melodies, folk music and various other types of music that call for exact melody lines along with some chords.

1st Position is still used by many players today, but due to its simplicity of sound, it is not as popular as 2nd Position.

2nd Position:

  • Begins on #2 Draw
  • Accents the Draw Notes and Bending
  • Use a C Harp to play in G

The evolution of music introduced Blues, Rock and Country and along with these new forms of music came the need for greater expression. Harmonica players began to experiment and found that when they primarily used the inhale notes, a different kind of sound was provided.

This resulted in a new and more fluid style of playing, known as 2nd Position. 90% of today's players use 2nd Position for Blues, Rock, Country & Pop music.

2nd Position is a more expressive and soulful style because a different kind of "blues scale" is available PLUS many of the draw reeds can be bent.

IMPORTANT! 1st Position plays in a different key from 2nd Position.

It is necessary to determine which style of playing will be used to know which key of harp to select.

Determine the correct key of harp to use...by simply looking at the notation layout!

Major Diatonic
Example: Key of C