Re: [Harp-L] Why 12th?

12th is useful if you need it.  I have used it in bluegrass, Celtic, and
jazz.  I tend to demonstrate it with "The Star-Spangled Banner" and
"Anchors Aweigh" on the high end.  "The Star-Spangled Banner" is Lydian in
the front part and then you need a blow bend on the 10th hole later on.
"Anchors Aweigh" is do-able without bends.

One of the most advantageous uses of 12th for me is to allow me to play a
tune that changes modes and keys all on the same harmonica.  Typically, I
try very hard to not have to use two harmonicas so that I am ready when the
parts come around to me.  It isn't unheard of for us to challenge each
other to pass the tune a phrase at a time around the circle, so it is
simpler to have one harmonica to worry about.

Some tunes where 12th can come in handy:

   - "The Cuckold Came Out of the Amery" (Celtic):  It is dorian and
   lydian, so, played in Bm and D, one A harp does nicely.
   - "Jesse Polka" (Texas, bluegrass, country, conjunto, Texano, German,
   Czech, etc.):  The parts of this tune is in three keys (G, C, & D), and
   there is a fiddle version with the raised fourth note included making the
   lydian scale ideal for the section in C, so I use a G harp (1st, 12th, 2nd)
   and have no need to bend notes.  It can be played 2nd, 1st, 3rd on a C
   harmonica, too, but bent notes will be needed.  (Lonnie Joe Howell plays it
   that way.)
   - "Stoney Creek" (bluegrass):  This tune is in A and F major.  However,
   the "melody" of the first part contains "blue" pentatonic notes, so you can
   get away with 4th and 12th (Am and F maj) on a C harmonica.  You just have
   to be careful to avoid the little mines that are out of key.  Another way
   to do this would be to use two harmonicas, but you would want to choose
   your harmonicas carefully so that the scales on them blended well in the

When I was a kid, just starting on harmonica, I played all of the positions
that are usable on a diatonic by ear.  I had never heard of positions
before and I could not bend notes and I had one C diatonic.  I just found
the spot on the harmonica that fit the music being played and was careful
to not play the notes that didn't fit.  Fortunately for me, we were playing
country and bluegrass and mostly played in the keys that are easy to get on
a C.

I think that beginners can handle the knowledge that other keys are
possible, and even learn from a basic exercise (and even a tune to
demonstrate it) where they get to explore the idea of the other keys.  You
can always introduce these ideas a little at a time and save the full dive
in for later on when they are more ready to utilize it in practice, but I
don't see any reason to keep the information away from them -- especially
if you are playing a melody driven music style, like Celtic or bluegrass.
Without some understanding of playing tunes in other positions, I would
never have been able to play but a certain select bunch of bluegrass tunes
without being able to bend notes.  However, understanding how to approach a
tune from other positions makes it possible to play a lot of bluegrass
tunes without having to bend notes very often.  That can improve your speed
and accuracy.


On Sun, Mar 18, 2012 at 6:11 PM, Richard Trafford-Owen <
richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> I did a Jazz set last night and one of the songs was Satin Doll. It lays
> out best for me - at least in an interesting way for soloing - in 12th
> position. I played the head in 1st on a C harp, though.
> Richard

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