[Harp-L] Minor Keyed Harps and the Blues

Richard Hunter rhunter377@xxxxx
Sat Apr 21 21:28:57 EDT 2018

On a Natural Minor harp in 2nd position--by the key of which position the
harp is named on Lee Oskars--you have minor chords on the i, iv, and v.
The minor sixth of the scale in 2nd position works very well for blues like
"The Thrill is Gone" and "Comin Home Baby," and all the deep bends are in
the same relative locations on the harp.  It's very dramatic to have those
minor chords on all the changes, and the bending possibilities include lots
of partial chords and even 7ths (and 9ths!).

In first position the harp is essentially a Dorian Minor, with a major IV
chord and a minor v chord.  It's also very cool for blues.  Anyone who
knows first position on a standard Richter tuning will find it pretty easy
to make the transition.

Most players will find the transition to 3rd position--D minor on a G
Natural Minor harp (which, remember, is named after the key in second
position) to be a little more difficult. The second degree of the scale in
3rd position (blow 2/5/8) is flatted on the Natural Minor.  You can get the
major second degree with a bend on the draw 2/5, but that's a not a move
that comes naturally to people who are used to the regular Richter tuning.

3rd position is really nice on a Dorian tuned harp (flat 3/7 draw), where
you also get nice minor chords on the i, iv, and v (partial), but the
experience is very much like playing 3rd position on a regular
Richter--only the iv chord is minor.  I played a Dorian tuned Big River C
harp in second position (G minor) on my recording of "On The Road Again"
for "Blue Future," and it's really a a wonderful-sounding
instrument--chords sound haunting and gorgeous all the way up and down the
harp. Unlike a standard tuned Richter, it is damn hard to play a chord that
sounds bad on a Natural or Dorian minor tuning.

I'm planning to overdub a Dorian tuned C harp (2nd position G minor) in 3rd
position on my recording of a minor blues called "Mercy Me" on my record
"Blue Future."  Stay tuned for more info.

In any case, minor harps work very well to add variety of sounds and new
emotions to anyone's kit, and they're not very hard to learn.  Starting
with what you already know on a standard diatonic usually works pretty well
out of the box.

Regards, Richard Hunter

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Author, "Jazz Harp" (Oak Publications, NYC)
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