[Harp-L] All this Positions and Modes stuff

dh@xxxxx dh@xxxxx
Mon Oct 29 00:59:04 EDT 2018

I think what you’re pinpointing here is interesting and gets to the core of the problem

"every time you play a harmonica during a portion of a song with a tonal center, you are using positions"

Well no I am playing notes and mostly notes put together called phrases not scales not positions not arpeggios just notes / phrases that hopefully have a meaning.
And overall I try not to think about anything but rather listen and interact - talk the language.
Now when we sit down and analyze or try to understand and practice, music theory can be a good tool.

Positions are a (simplistic) way of analyzing harmonica playing that is not following the rules of harmony used by other musicians
Diatonic harmonica was not exactly taught in Music Schools in the early 1900s (still not so much as of now) and I guess harmonica players (who probably didn’t have a strong theorical knowledge of harmony and music theory) came up with the system of positions
They brought us great music but not too much to rely on in order to move forward and expand to other music genres.
As explained in a previous post 2nd position is referred to as being major and / or minor 
If a system does not tell the difference between the most basic color of music, what is it worth ?!

If you think with positions or tonal centers you narrow your mind to thinking / visualizing only in one way
If you play over a simple ii V I
 I Dm7 / G7 I Cmaj7 I  you can think / improvise with the C major scale most likely reusing licks from an internal library

But taking a different route you could play / practice :
I C triad / Db triad I D triad I
I A min penta / Bb min penta I B min penta |
| B Major | C Major |

So seriously if I play Amin penta over Dm7 do I think I'm in 4th position ? No I don't, I just know / hear that playing Am over Dm gives me a certain sound and I expand on the harmonic lines written above so I might end up playing Amin6 penta or an Am9 arpeggio or just skip it and play on Bb min penta to bring tension earlier in this first measure of the ii V7 I.

So instead of seeing only the music as tonal centers or positions you can start freeing yourself and enjoy playing music that doesn’t sound like position playing
Not to mention that learning the harmonica as any other instrument makes the harmonica player able to communicate with other musicians much better than a system that nobody else's understands outside the very tiny harmonica world


-----Original Message-----
From: Harp-L <harp-l-bounces at xxxxx> On Behalf Of Michael Rubin
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2018 2:20 PM
To: Jerome P. <jersimuse at xxxxx>
Cc: harp-l <harp-l at xxxxx>
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] All this Positions and Modes stuff

Although it might be unwieldy to describe a song that changes tonal centers via positions, every time you play a harmonica during a portion of a song with a tonal center, you are using positions.  Just because it is not very useful, does not mean positions go away.

On Sun, Oct 28, 2018 at 3:04 PM Jerome P. <jersimuse at xxxxx> wrote:

> Yes, under the condition you oblige the musician to play only with 
> major scales.
> The only problem is that no jazzman would stick to the major scale for 
> an improvisation.
> BTW, as you know, Giant Steps was composed by a musician, John 
> Coltrane, who used to continuously play on parallel harmonic lines, 
> mixing modes from different scales (not only major scale), all kind of 
> scales, changing tonal centers, even when the harmony played by the band doesn't change.
> I don't see how one can describe a Coltrane solo with positions (apart 
> from rendering the positions theory as complex as the harmonic 
> vocabulary & grammar, which would sound a bit absurd).
> Regards,
> Jerome
> www.jeromepeyrelevade.com
> Le sam. 27 oct. 2018 à 23:12, Michael Rubin < 
> michaelrubinharmonica at xxxxx> a écrit :
>> I think so.   And everytime the tonal center changes, you are changing
>> positions whether or not you think positions exist.
>> On Sat, Oct 27, 2018 at 4:06 PM Gary Lehmann <gnarlyheman at xxxxx>
>> wrote:
>> > I approach this tune by examining the tonal centers.
>> > So, is that the same thing?
>> > Asking for a friend . . .
>> >
>> > Sent from my iPhone
>> >
>> > On Oct 27, 2018, at 2:03 PM, Michael Rubin < 
>> > michaelrubinharmonica at xxxxx> wrote:
>> >
>> > There are many approaches to Giant steps but the simplest is to 
>> > shift between three major scales. Why not think positionally?
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > On Sat, Oct 27, 2018 at 3:41 PM Gary Lehmann 
>> > <gnarlyheman at xxxxx>
>> > wrote:
>> >
>> >> When I was young I had a guitar book that explained music 
>> >> improvisation using the “box” method.
>> >> Later on, I invented the pentatonic scale.
>> >> This is a similar concept.
>> >> Learn as much as you can, but don’t discount concepts that might 
>> >> be useful to others.
>> >> If it sounds good, it is good.
>> >> I would never try to play Giant Steps on a diatonic harp—even the head!
>> >
>> >

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