Re: [Harp-L] positions you can use on diatonic

On Apr 1, 2012, at 5:15 AM, JersiMuse wrote:

> But if positions are not related to modes, and only give the root compared
> to the harp used, then, what is their utility ? 

Modes and positions share many "genes" but as a practical matter express different concepts. The former refers to playing the same set of notes beginning from a different place.

Mode*	Name		Notes			Quality
----	----		-----			-------
1	Ionian		C D E F G A B C		Major
2	Dorian		D E F G A B C D		Minor
3	Phyrigian	E F G A B C D E		Minor
4	Lyidian		F G A B C D E F		Major
5	Mixolydian	G A B C D E F G		Major (dominant)
6	Aeolian		A B C D E F E A		Minor (Relative Minor)
7	Locrian		B C D E F G A B		1/2 Diminished (relates to the V chord)

The names don't really matter. What does matter, however, is that the half and whole tonal steps fall in different places thus giving each mode a different feel. And, each mode has different chord spellings. E.g., the triad for Ionian or the 1st mode is C E G. The 2nd mode is D F A. and so on. This arrangement gives each modal scale a different feel. The modal scales also relate to other key areas. Whenever a song has a G7 chord, regardless of the key, you can think in terms of C mixolydian to get all the notes of the chord. This opens possibilities for what can be played on top of a given chord.

Positions is a more of a pragmatic way of approaching the relationship between the key of the song and how a given scale lays out on the harmonica. Most people just memorize the positions that they need for the kind of music they play. E.g,

Position	Harp Key					Quality
--------	--------					-------
1		Same as band					Major
2		Five notes down from the guitar key.		Major
3		Two notes down					Minor (dorian)

... and so on ...

Learning positions gives harp players clues about the playability of a given key on the harmonica. Blues harp makes heavy use of "second position" for at least two reasons: 1. the good notes fall on draws and  2. Most blues songs make use of the 7th chord. We all say I IV V when we usually mean I7 IV7 V7. (More short cuts)

The chord scale of the I7 chord in blues lays out very naturally on a standard tuned harmonica. Most folk music, blues, country, etc are relatively simple harmonically. In the case of blues, the I IV V chord structure is most prevalent. 

| I | I | I | I | IV | IV | I | I | V | IV | I | I/V |

Looking at the above chord structure the I7 chord is used in seven+ measures of the song cycle. With the I7 naturally laying out between the 2d and the 6b with minimal bending, perhaps you'll see why most blues harp players use "Second Position"?


As a practical matter, there are good reasons why many players stick to the first three positions.  The notes lay out more naturally on the instrument and they more naturally sound better.

The purpose of technique for me is to get the instrument out of the way of the music inside my head. So if you are hearing notes in your head that your harp does not naturally produce, learn the techniques. Or, learn the techniques as a means of exploring your instrument more fully and therefore give yourself more ideas for your music. Just remember the whole point of the exercise is to get the music in your head into the listener's head--not to show off what can be done. Except for connoisseurs and other musicians, listeners don't give a rats ass about anything except for the song's ability to create moments where nothing but the song exists. This is as close as most people get to the sound of one hand clapping or what Buddhists call enlightenment".


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