Understanding 1st / 2nd Position

Understanding 1st / 2nd Position

Two Basic Styles of Playing

About Keys and Positions:

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

NOTE: It is important to know that 1st Position (starting from BLOW / EXHALE) plays in a different key from 2nd Position (starting from DRAW / INHALE).

It is necessary to determine which style of playing will be used to know which key of harp to select. To determine the correct key of harp to use, refer to our Notation chart samples below and review the Resources section of this website.

For each harmonica tuning (the Standard tuning and our three Altered tunings), essential points are explained below, using specific keys as examples; however, the same patterns shown below can be used regardless of the key chosen within each tuning.

NOTE: With different techniques, you can obtain additional notes by using bending or overblows/overdraws. Some reeds can be bent to achieve multiple notes – we recommend you review the Notation Charts which includes bending to become familiar with bending patterns.

Lee-Oskar-Major-Diatonic-Harmonica-with-box-slider

The Major Diatonic Harmonica was originally intended 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 (Straight Harp), is suitable for playing simple melodies, Folk music and various other types of music that call for melody lines, along with some chords.

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

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 (draw) notes, a different kind of sound was provided. This resulted in a new and more fluid style of playing, known as 2nd Position (Cross Harp). 90% of today’s players use 2nd Position for Blues, Rock, Country & Pop music.

2nd Position (Cross Harp), is a Blues scale that offers a more expressive and soulful sound. Many of the draw reeds can be bent (a technique used to change the pitch of a note.)

MAJOR DIATONIC (1st Position plays the Major Scale)

  • Begins on #4 Blow
  • Accents the Blow Notes
  • As examples, use a C Major Diatonic to play in key of C; or use an A Major Diatonic to play in key of A, etc.

OR…

MAJOR DIATONIC (2nd Position plays the Mixolydian Scale / Blues)

  • Begins on #2 Draw
  • Accents the draw notes and bending
  • As examples, use a C Major Diatonic to play in key of G; or use an A Major Diatonic to play in key of E, etc.
Major Diatonic
Example: Key of C
major-diatonic-1st-2nd-position-chart

Lee-Oskar-Melody-Maker-Harmonica-with-box-slider

The Melody Maker™, with its three altered notes, is intended for playing Major scale melodies in 2nd Position (Cross Harp). In 1st Position (Straight Harp), you can play: Irish, Clave/Afro music. In 2nd Position (Cross Harp), you can play: R&B, Country, Reggae, Pop, Jazz, Latin.

(The Melody Maker™ is NOT recommended for Blues).

MELODY MAKER™ (2nd Position plays the Major Scale)

  • Begins on #2 Draw
  • Accents the draw notes and bending
  • As examples, use a G Melody Maker™ to play in key of G; or use E Melody Maker™ to play in key of E, etc.

OR…

MELODY MAKER™ (1st Position plays the Dorian Scale)

  • Begins on #3 Blow
  • Accents the blow notes
  • As examples, use a G Melody Maker™ to play in key of Am (Dorian); or use an E Melody Maker™ to play in key of F#m (Dorian), etc.
Melody Maker™
Example: Key of G

Labeled in the 2nd Position Key (shown in blue as #2 Draw) melody-maker-1st-2nd-position-chart

Lee-Oskar-Natural-Minor-Harmonica-with-box-slider

The Natural Minor, with its five Altered notes, is a natural choice for playing minor music in 2nd Position (Cross Harp), such as: minor Blues, Reggae, Ska, Latin, Funk, R & B and Hip Hop.

NATURAL MINOR (2nd Position plays the Natural Minor Scale)

  • Begins on #2 Draw
  • Accents the draw notes and bending
  • As examples, use an A Natural Minor to play in key of Am; or use a G Natural Minor to play in key of Gm, etc.

OR…

NATURAL MINOR (1st Position plays the Dorian Scale)

  • Begins on #4 Blow
  • Accents the blow notes
  • As examples, use an A Natural Minor to play in the key of Dm (Dorian); or use a G Natural Minor to play in key of Cm (Dorian), etc.
Natural Minor
Example: Key of Gm

Labeled in the 2nd Position Key (shown in green as #2 Draw) natural-minor-1st-2nd-position-chart

Lee-Oskar-Harmonic-Minor-Harmonica-with-box-slider

The Harmonic Minor, with its five altered notes, is ideal for playing World Music, typically played in 1st Position (Straight Harp). It offers a soulful, Eastern European sound, perfectly suited for playing traditional ethnic music spanning many different cultures, including: Eastern European, Gypsy, Yiddish, Asian, Tango and Reggae music.

HARMONIC MINOR (1st Position plays the Minor Scale)

  • Begins on #4 Blow
  • Accents the blow notes
  • As examples, use an Am Harmonic Minor to play in Am; or use a Gm Harmonic Minor to play in key of Gm, etc.

NOTE: The Harmonic Minor is a unique “modal music” tuning with different Minor/Major scales. Please refer to our Position Charts to learn more.

Harmonic Minor
Example: Key of Cm

Labeled in the 1st Position Key (shown in orange as #4 Blow) harmonic-minor-1st-2nd-position-chart

Explore, experiment, and express yourself with our different Lee Oskar Harmonicas tunings in various keys!

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.