|Here is a chart comparing the different positions of the
harmonica relative to other instruments and the key that
they may be playing in
Richard W. Rinn's
BLUES HARMONICA TIPS
Harp Keys: Position Playing: Circle of Fifths
math with the fingers of my mind from time to time) was The Circle of Fifths. I’m not
players’ lives easier.....but it might as well have been!
Basically, it’s just the notes of the regular western chromatic scale, ordered with a fifth
interval between them. The great bit is that you don’t need to understand it, you just
need to remember twelve ‘keys’ in a certain order. If you do want to delve deeper
however, it’s a pretty useful and interesting thing to know about. (See diagram below)
Usually it’s presented as a diagram, the notes dotted round the perimeter in...well...a
circle, with other stuff inside (rabbits and so on), and an almost occult-like look to it.
The order of the notes, if you start at C and go round clockwise is C--G--D--A--E--B--
F#--Db--Ab--Eb--Bb--F. To make it easier to remember I switch the accidental (i.e.
sharps or flats) on the F# to a Gb (the same note, just a different way of saying it). I
then remember it as C -- GDAEB -- GDAEB -- F, remembering that the second GDAEB
(I actually remember it like a word) is flatted. Hohner labels the harps with flats rather
than sharps anyway, except in the case of that F# (Gb), so that’s super handy.
What’s so handy about this once you’ve memorised it then? Well, check this out. Say
you’re playing with a band, and they want to play in the key of B. You like playing in
second position. Look at B on the circle of fifths (in your mind!), and then go back one.
That’s the key of harp you need, an E harp. If the band were playing in B minor, and
you wanted to have a bash at some third position playing, you would count back TWO
spaces, and reach for an A harp. If you wanted to play in first position of course, you’d
want a B harp, counting back no spaces, which is perhaps a stupid thing for me to
point out, but will hopefully ram home the rule: first position, as per. Second position,
one space back. Third position, two spaces back. Fourth position, three spaces back
Counting the actual key as ‘1’ makes it easier to think of one space back being ‘2’ for
second position etc. You could also easily switch the thing round. For example, if you
showed up at a jam with only a D harp, and knew you could play comfortably in the first
three positions, then you count forward on the circle of fifths, and know you could play
in D, A or E with it. Or perhaps you’re listening to a bit of music that you know is in Ab,
and playing along with a G harp or something mad, and you want to figure out what
position you’re playing in, you could just count forward from G (or back from Ab) and
discover that it was eighth position.
Read this section again, understand it, memorise the circle of fifths, I rest my case.
|JONNY B &
The BLUES BLAZERS