[Harp-L] Positions, continued / Use the right tool for the job

Michael Rubin michaelrubinharmonica@xxxxx
Tue Oct 30 14:25:52 EDT 2018

I vote positions and I'd be willing to bet our method of thinking about
music is darn close.  See, I can think in notes AND positions.  I like them
both.  I think you are limiting yourself by not embracing positions.

On Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 12:18 PM <dh at xxxxx> wrote:

> Richard,
> I appreciate you taking the time to post more details about your approach
> to positions
> I started learning the harmonica the same way as you describe it and I
> personally don’t think it is wrong if it works for you but
> I also bet that if you’d try a different approach and mostly if you would
> need to play over more challenging chord changes than blues /country you
> might benefit from something different even more.
> When you use the position to give you a root reference you might shorten
> your vision / options towards improvisation because you don’t see the whole
> full picture instead you see the position and the licks you attached to it.
> If you don’t use position your vision goes 360. Positions very very often
> sound like position playing.
> There is a bit of similarity with guitar playing where you do have
> positions for fingerings but most (at least jazz and progressive rock)
> modern players have taken a different approach and see the instrument more
> horizontally than in a set of boxes / positions. The best example would be
> Pat Metheny following the work of Mick Goodrick (Berklee)
> I don’t see it as just an approach to the instrument but mostly to a
> different way to approach music. A lot of great saxophone, guitar, bass
> educators have advocated in this way for the last 40-50 years or so.
> The one thing that tickles me in this debate is the ones who preach for a
> different approach have all tried positions but the ones saying positions
> rule don’t seem to have tried other ways
> The main reason I quickly walked away from positions was because they
> weren't helping me in my quest of playing the harmonica in other music
> genres than blues. They even are a limitation in Bluegrass.
> Last if we teach harmonica players to use the same tools as other
> musicians they can communicate between them as other musicians.
> David Herzhaft
> www.davidherzhaft.com
> www.harmo.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Harp-L <harp-l-bounces at xxxxx> On Behalf Of Richard Sleigh
> Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 10:48 AM
> To: Richard HarpL Sleigh <harp-l at xxxxx>
> Subject: [Harp-L] Positions, continued / Use the right tool for the job
> I recently posted on the system of thinking of harmonica positions based
> on the circle of fifths.
> I am summarizing this system and adding some more notes to clarify how I
> use this process...
> - That you visualize the circle of fifths with the key of C at the top, go
> clockwise to G, D, A, E, B, F#/Gb, etc -C is 1st position, G is 2nd, etc
> - That position only refers to the starting note of whatever construction
> you want to think in - usually the key you want to play in
> - that the harmonica is a transposing instrument, so memorizing one note
> layout instead of 12 makes sense, and that key of C is the one to memorize
> / visualize. You then use the Key of C harmonica as the archetype for the
> rest. Saves time and energy
> - that using the archetypal key of C note layout and the circle of fifths
> gives you a couple of powerful tools for organizing and understanding what
> you can do with your set of diatonic harmonicas.
> The whole point of the system of organizing harmonica options by positions
> is to help you choose what harmonica you would play for a particular song.
> A way of narrowing down the number of guesses you need to make.
> What I did not say was that I also use the terms 1st position, 2nd, etc as
> a shorthand for my own personal understanding of the strengths and
> weaknesses of using that starting note or position. Every position has a
> particular flavor. Sometimes my understanding has to do with the mode,
> sometimes with the notes that are easy or hard to play, what notes have a
> strong vibrato, etc, etc...
> Trying to understand the diatonic harmonica from some theoretical system
> that tries to ignore the reality that some things just don't flow or sound
> good depending on what harmonica you are playing does not work for me.
> So each position on the harmonica is a personal shorthand for what sounds
> good / works and what doesn't sound good when I use a particular note
> (position) as a starting point.
> I also use the concept of positions to communicate with other harmonica
> players. Most of them know what I am talking about.
> Communicating with other musicians is a different problem that requires
> different tools or language.
> If I am talking to a piano player, I tell them what key the song is in and
> anything else that might help in standard musical language or scale
> degrees...
> Other people have other tools to solve different problems. Lee Oskar
> invented a system to help people negotiate alternative tunings. Other
> harmonica teachers approach teaching the harmonica differently than I do.
> Before you talk about tools or systems, it helps to know what problem you
> are trying to solve...
> -
> --
> Richard Sleigh
> rrsleigh at xxxxx
> http://hotrodharmonicas.com
> http://rsleigh.com

More information about the Harp-L mailing list