3rd Position Blues (I) - Senior Year Blues Lesson 4

First and second position blues are defined by their respective strong notes, and constrained by the weak ones. As we have seen, first position blues lacks a flat third in the bottom and middle octave. Similarly, second position blues lacks a flat third in the top octave, which is perhaps why many second position blues players avoid holes 7 and above. Third position blues is another powerful option, which offers blues scale notes not available in first and second position. Of course, third position blues has its own challenges, which we now explore.

Third position uses a harmonica one tone lower than the song key, for example, a G harmonica for songs in A. The third position root notes are 1D, 4D and 8D. We start with the middle octave blues scale, starting on the 4D, and using a G harmonica. The notes are 4D 5D 6B 6D' 6D 7B 8D, sounding like this


The 5D is the flat third, 6D the fifth and 7B the seventh. Actually the 5D flat third is slightly flatter than the one normally used in second position blues (the 3D' bend). For this reason it is best not to linger on the 5D, but instead use it as a passing note. Also, the 6D 7B 8D sequence can be awkward. Practice it back and forth, like this


It is easier if you move your lower jaw to reach the notes, to reduce harmonica movement. Finally, try the scale, up and down, with this backing


Now we add the top octave blues scale. The notes are 8D 9D 9B 10D 10B, sounding like this


The 8D is the root, 9D the flat third, 10D the fifth and 10B the seventh. Notice there is no flat fifth. However, the seventh (10B) is a powerful note, which cuts through anything. Now combine this scale with the lower one, that is

4D 5D 6B 6D' 6D 7B 8D 9D 9B 10D 10B

sounding like this


Try the combined scale with this backing


A great third position feature is repeating blues phrases in different registers (octaves). This is possible because the blues scale is available in almost three octaves (we will soon explore the bottom one). We now consider some third position riffs which use this feature. Similar to first position blues, you must know which scale degree you are on when playing third position, otherwise the result may be rubbish. To develop this understanding, we repeat the third postion phrases with their second postion counterparts. The riffs are in A, so a G harmonica is used for the third position ones, and a D harmonica for the second position versions.

1) 4D 5D 6B 6D 6D 6B 5D 4D, sounding like this


Notice the bend up to the 6D notes. The second position counterpart is 2D 3D' 4B 4D 4D 4B 3D' 2D, sounding like this


Now click on the next page link for part 2 of this lesson.

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