Only 7 "real" positions on diatonic (was country C)


Just wanted to forward a copy of a message I sent to Chris Michalek 
concerning my thinking on why there are only 7 "valid" positions on a 
diatonic harp.

>>From: Christian N Michalek <micha018@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

>From: me

>>Which group of notes are you talking about?  I can't think of any notes 
>>that don't exist in the diatonic harp...

>Pick a key, any key.  Okay, the diatonic harp (ala Marine Band, no solo tuned 
>jobbies) in the key you picked has 20 notes that are comprised of the seven 
>pitches that occur in that key over a range of 4 octaves.  Now look at the 
>circle of fifths...there will always be 5 pitches that are not to be found on 
>any given diatonic harp, which 5 depending on the harp's key.  Now I'm not 
>saying that it's impossible to play those notes, just that they don't occur 
>normally...that is without bending or overblowing or some sort of pitch 
>altering technique.

>>I do not agree with you when you say "invalid positions"  and how does it 
>>make sense to relabel 12th to 7th?  By doing so we are getting away from 
>>basic music theory,  something that I feel most harp players lack.   
>>Labeling the positions 1-12 makes perfect sense to me, especially when I 
>>am teaching theory to begining/intermediate harp player.  By using this 
>>method of labeling people get to learn the circle of fifths even if they 
>>don't want to.

>My choice of the term "invalid position" was not a very good one.  Maybe a 
>better choice would be "normal" and "extra" positions.  Before I read this 
>list and found out the someone had already gone to the trouble of creating 
>a position naming scheme I used to label them based on which step of the 
>scale they started from.  To me "cross harp" was "in V (five)" system 
>(applied to a C harp) relates to the circle of fifths names like this:
>    I) same as 1st or "straight" position, C major or ionian mode
>    II) same as 3rd position, D dorian mode
>    III) same as 5th position, E phrygian mode
>    IV) same as 12th or "flat 1st" position, F hypomixolydian mode
>    V) same as 2nd or "crossharp" position, G mixolydian mode
>    VI) same as 4th position, A minor or aeolian mode
>    VII) same as 6th position, B locrian mode
>This system works well for diatonic harps anyway.  These seven positions 
>are based on the seven available pitches in whatever major key the harp is 
>in.  Each one corresponds to a traditional mode and as such can be used to 
>compare interval structure in the different modes to demonstrate what makes 
>a major scale what it is, as well as introducing minor scale theory and chord 
>theory.  I think the scale is a more basic relationship than the circle of 
>fifths...I can show somebody do re me fa sol la ti do and show them where 
>those notes are on their harp and what mode they correspond to and they can 
>start experimenting with melodies and techniques before I even have to 
>introduce the concept of key signatures...or (forbid) READING MUSIC!!!
>Of course I've heard of pro's who can "play in all 12 positions" on the 
>diatonic harp(I can't)...and I have no reason to doubt it could be done if you
>have mastery over all manner of pitch changing tricks, but those positions 
>don't correspond to any traditional modes...and since playing in them requires 
>more use of bending, drawing, and overblowing, the pitches and interval 
>relationships may tend to be more arbitrary.  I just feel that these 5 
>positions (7 thru 11) can be viewed as "extra" or even "super" (because they 
>exist outside the diatonic modal theory).
>Anyway, sooner or later (better sooner) everyone who plays music should 
>familiarize themselves with the circle o' fifths, especially if they're going
>to play with other musicians or learn chromatic.  I made my own "Circle Wheel"
>by marking out two circles on thick paper (construction or folder paper) and
>drawing staffs and marking in the sharps or flats where they go and putting 
>the key signature on one paper disk.  On the other I just cut windows and then
>put a rivet through the center so that you can spin the wheel to put a certain
>key in one window and then see a different key in another window.  I use this
>for transposing music from one key to another when I need to write it out for 
>different instruments.  I can e-mail a better explaination of how to make it 
>if you want...right now I want to get this off and get some sleep.

So you see, there is a method to the madness.

Bill Long  >--  StarGazer

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