2nd position is kind of major

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Posted by Erik W. on March 30, 2002 at 16:01:41:

In Reply to: 2nd postion: Is it mayor or minor? posted by Me on March 30, 2002 at 07:20:27:

First I would like to say that you dont need to know this stuff to play the blues. It took me many years to really understand it. But when I read your post I get the feeling that this is bugging you, and that you have an urge to UNDERSTAND it. Now I have warned you I must say that the best way to understand it is to go to a piano or keyboard, its allmost impossible to understand just by reading.

If we talk about a C-harp we can compare it to the white keys of a piano. Imagine there was only white keys on the piano, because all the white ones were broken. Then you should think that you could only play in one key C-Major because the white keys are the notes from the C-major scale.

Now try to go to the piano and play a familiar tune eg. "Frere Jacques (Are You Sleeping?)" or "Old McDonald" The normal thing would be to start on C making these tunes be played it C-major. Remember that we may only use white keys on this piano, so we should not be able to play the songs in other keys without the song would sound strange.
But try to play the songs starting on D instead. Even if you play it correctly you will note that the tunes now sounds strange and dark. Thats because starting on D makes you play it in a kind of D-minor called Dorian. Dorian scale is what you use when you play third position on your Harp starting on 4 Draw which is D. Go back to the piano and play "Frere Jacques (Are You Sleeping?)" or "Old McDonald" starting on G this time (still using only white keys) If you play it correctly you will be surprised to hear that it sounds exactly as good as starting on C. Thats because the scale starting on G is allmost the same as the one starting on C. Starting on G gives the same scale as we use on the harp when playing 2nd position. The scale is called Mixolydian and the only difference from normal major is the seventh step, which should give a good sound when playing blues. But the important reason for playing 2nd on a harp is to be able to draw and bend the low notes on the harp, giving a good bluesy sound.

I hope that this helped you just a little bit of it. The key-variants as eg. Dorian and Mixolydian is called Church-modes, and are from an ancient time before some smart guy invented the black keys on the piano, making it possible to play in all keys.
To make a short summary: 2nd is allmost a normal major scale, and 3rd position is allmost a normal minor scale.
By the way: If you want to hear "Frere Jacques (Are You Sleeping?)" or "Old McDonald" in a normal minor scale on the piano, you just start on A. You will note that it sounds much the same as the Dorian scale, with the Dorian sounding a bit more interesting than the normal Minor scale.

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