Re: Poll: My Favorite Playing Position...

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Posted by Jeremy Steinberg on January 02, 2003 at 07:03:19:

In Reply to: Poll: My Favorite Playing Position... posted by Patrick J. McKenna on December 31, 2002 at 00:00:53:

: An interesting question, but I wish that I wasn't limited to providing one answer.

: When it comes to playing accompaniment styles (blues, rock'n'roll and even C&W) on the diatonic harmonica, I almost always find myself playing in the 2nd position.

: For melodic instrumental styles in a major key (Gospel, classical, for a start...), I usually play in the 1st position. For the minor key, I usually play it either in the 4th or 5th position.

: Lately, most of my playing has been in the 1st position, but that can change at any time. It depends on what material I'm playing.

: Happy New Year! And as always,

: I wish you all success in your endeavors.

: Patrick

Hello Patrick -

There is no such thing as a preferred position, although first and second seem to become them by default, based on the player's limitations, and lack of inquisitiveness. I myself am victimized by this as much as anyone. However, third position is also popular for blues, and ALL 12 POSITIONS CAN BE USED, as espoused by no less than Howard Levy on his ground-breaking video on overblows and 'new directions for the harmonica'.

It partially comes down to music theory, and being able to read music. Once you know the scale of the blues (or other style of music) the song is in, you then compare the scale of the song with the harmmonica(s) you have available, assuming standard tuning. First position, and second positions will overlay easily over the song's scale, but third position will almost always work as well, and there are other positions, too.

AN EXERCISE TO TRY: Take a low G or A harp, and play a simple blues progression solo in the same key (first position). Then go to the fourth step (G to C, or A to D), and play the same progression. Then go to the first step (G to A, A to BB), and try third position. Use the circle of fifths, and try EVERY POSITION WITH THE SAME HARP! You'll hear the various position scale effects, and what their tonal characteristics are. And you'll get great practice in breaking out of the 1st-2nd position rut that most blues harp players seem mired in.

DO THE SAME THING with the basic scale. Go up a note, and play the new scale in that key, to the next note, etc.

Regards, Jeremy c/o

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