Fifth position also works well in songs like "Wayfaring Stranger" which modulate between a minor and its relative major (or vice versa). Fifth-position minor is the relative minor to second-position major so it's easy to play both parts on the same harp. This works even better on country-tuned harps.
If you can get the overblow on 4, you can play a complete fifth position major scale between blow 2 and blow 5. There are a lot of avoid notes, though.
Last Edited by timeistight on Dec 06, 2018 10:03 AM
5th works great on most minor key songs for soloing improv. I second the recommendation by Tuckster of "St. James Infirmary." Here I do the first part of my solo in 5th on "Temptation" (originally by Tom Waits -- my version modeled after Diana Krall's), then I switch to 3rd:
@hvyj: The first 9 bars are harmonized by Em, Am and B7: the i, iv and V7 chords in E minor. In bars 10 through 12 it goes to C, D, G, C, D: IV, V, I, IV, V in G major. Then, finally, it goes back to E minor in bar 13.
G is the relative major of E minor. This is what makes it easy to play the whole song on a C harp, fifth position for the E minor parts nad second position for the G major parts.
If it went to the parallel major it would modulate from E minor to E major, which would be a little trickier.
Last Edited by timeistight on Dec 07, 2018 2:33 PM
@timeisight: A guitar player once told me to lay out on the chorus because it goes to the major. I didn't give it much thought at the time. But, of course, as you point out, if it's the relative major, there's no problem.
WHOSE BEEN TALKIN'? (the Howlin' Wolf tune) is another one that's very playable in fifth. Also, LOAN ME A DIME. I once had to learn Neil Young's HEART OF GOLD, which is in fourth, but sounded just fine in fifth which was easier for me to play.
Easy oversimplified formula for playing minor in fifth position: Avoid draw 5 and draw 9. Don't bend anything but draw 3 and don't bend that any more than a whole step. Of course, there's other bends you can hit if you know what you are doing, bit this oversimplified formula will keep you out of trouble. Hole 10 blow bends are ok, though.
Fifth is cool for minor keys because you've got the 3b, 6b, and 7b available without having to bend. BUT, if you are playing dorian, you can bend draw 4 to get the major 6. Root is blow 2, blow 5 and blow 8.
@scojo: great stuff! I enjoyed it.
Last Edited by hvyj on Dec 07, 2018 4:18 PM
I don't think anyone has totally explored all modes and all positions. "Bendless" playing in fifth position corresponds to Phrygian. So an approach would be to look for melodies known to be Phrygian.
I find the Tom585's comment about overblown 5th (and overblown 1st) interesting, because in context of modes if you forgo the flatted 2nd of Phrygian, you are in regular minor (Aeolian).
Progressively more flats can be forgone to achieve Dorian, Mixolydian, or Major. Although at some point it might be just for the challenge. I'm not sure there is a true benefit of playing for example E major on a C harp, musically speaking.
Good point, dkrulewich. What little I've used it, I think, has been for Aeolian. Fifth has some nice things - like octave playing the flat 6 and flat 7 and bending the 5 in the 3 draw hole. It fits on a couple of my band's songs - such as Stevie Ray's "change it" and Tom Petty's "running down a dream."
Hi Hvyj Are you sure about Neil Young's HEART OF GOLD being in fourth? To me it sounds like it's in G and in 1st position using a G harp Hi dkrulewich I also checked out Alice in Chains "Don't Follow" which to my ear is in Db and he's definitely playing a Low Gb (or F#) harp from what I'm hearing on the Youtube clip which makes it 2nd poisiton.
@John M G: Well, some say HEART OF GOLD is in G major. Musicians I’ve played with call E minor when they call the key for that tune. E minor in fourth position requires a G harp, as does G major in first position. First and fourth are straight harp positions. G is the relative major of E and E is the relative minor of G. Both keys are playable on a C harp (G is second position and E minor is fifth position on a C harp). So....
Last Edited by hvyj on Dec 12, 2018 5:49 AM
"Heart of Gold" starts on an Eminor Chord but it makes more sense to view the progression as vi IV V I in G major than I VI bVII III in E minor. Besides, it cadences and ends inG major.
Em C D G I wanna live, I Wanna give. Em C D G I've been a miner for a heart of gold. Em C D G It's these expressions, I never give. Em G That keep me searchin' for a heart of gold. C Cmaj7 G And i'm gettin' old. Em G That keep me searchin' for a heart of gold. C Cmaj7 G And i'm gettin' old.
Back to: Em C D G during harmonica solo then repeat the intro once with the lick then go to second verse.
Em C D G I've been to hollywood, I've been to redwood. Em C D G I've crossed the ocean for a heart of gold. Em C D G I've been in my mind, its such a fine line. Em G That keep me searchin' for a heart of gold. C Cmaj7 G And i'm gettin' old. Em G That keep me searchin' for a heart of gold. C Cmaj7 G And i'm gettin' old.
Em7 D E Keep me searchin' for a heart of gold. Em7 D E You Keep me searchin' for a heart of gold. Em7 D E You keep my searchin' and i'm growing old. Em7 G I've been a miner for a heart of gold.
Hi Hvyj I've worked off this version of the circle of 5ths. As you'll see, E minor is the relative minor to G Major. Check any tutorials for the piece and you'll see everyone say's it's in G and the harp is in G. If the piece was in E major I'd agree the harp was in 4th position.
A relatively new piece of information for me from this particular illustration is that it shows the flats and sharps for each key. I understand a lot of professional musicians signal the key's to each other indicating with raised fingers for sharps and downward pointing fingers for flats. C is a zero as it has no sharps or flats. The key of E has 4 sharps so is signaled with 4 raided fingers, Bb has 2 flats and so signaled with 2 fingers pointing down. If everyone knows this it saves the hassle of "did he say D, no I thought he said E, What? G! no B"
This thread was supposed to be about 5th position songs, but we are discussing 4th because of Heart of Gold. Much of the same info applies with regard to position playing.
Harmonica positions are based on the relationship of the tonic of the song to the key of the harmonica being used, regardless of the scale or mode being played starting on that specific tonic note.
Playing some scales in 4th position will require bending or overbending to play the correct notes in the scale, such as playing the E Major scale in 4th on a G harp. F# is built in to a G harp, so you would need to create C#, G#, and D# on a G to play E major.
Other scales do not require much technique to add missing notes, such as playing the relative minor of G, Em, on a G harp. The natural minor, relative minor, Aeolian mode of G is Em and needs the least technique to play the scale notes on a G harp.
A song in Em (natural minor) is 4th position on a G harmonica, despite the key signature on sheet music showing one sharp and the instrument being in G. The tonic of Em is E, not G.
The circle of 5ths is a wonderful tool for understanding music, describing the sharps and flats needed for each key, showing the I, IV, V of major keys, and showing the relative minor. It also can be used to figure out harmonica positions. It can also be used to figure out harmonica modes.
Each position is associated with a readily available mode, but the position is not limited to playing only that mode's scale. Position includes any scale starting on that tonic note. But if you play the mode associated with a position, then fewer note alterations are needed.
Harmonica positions are based on the relationship of the tonic of the song to the key of the harmonica being used. Certain modes come easy in certain positions, but the position is not limited to that mode.
Specifically regarding "Heart of Gold", it could be called either Em or G. To me it feels like Em, 4th on a G, not 1st on a G. Sheet music would have one sharp.
If you played it in Em, 5th on a C harp, you would need to create the F# note that is missing from the Aeolian mode when you play Em on a C in Phrygian mode.
All this position talk is just labels, not the music itself, and musical labels are all relative... ----------
Last Edited by dougharps on Dec 12, 2018 10:37 PM
@Doug: Yeah, if HEART OF GOLD is played in fifth, draw 5 is certainly an avoid note. I agree it has a minor feel. BUT, the key of a tune is determined by the note you resolve to, rather than the note you start on. So, timeistight has convinced me that it is in the key of G.
My usual trick for ambiguous keys is to determine which note has less tension. E has more tension than G in HoG in my opinion.
For 5th - it's been said before, but a melody-maker tuning is ideal (plus equal temperament). MM tuning gives the 2nd of the scale, plus a stable 4th degree.
Last Edited by GamblersHand on Dec 13, 2018 1:26 AM
Positions are a useful shorthand terminology, but ultimately, we are dealing with scales, modes and notes. In that regard, thinking purely in terms of “positions” can be artificial and limiting. TRUE STORY: a bandleader I worked with for quite a while who has a Masters degree in music and from whom I learned a lot forbid me to talk about “positions”. I had to say, playing E on an A harp or playing D minor on a Bb harp, etc.
I only think in terms of positions on diatonic. I’m not very good on chrom, but I never think or talk positions in relation to playing a chromatic. IMHO there’s no need or benefit. Positions make more sense and are more practical if you change keys of the instrument you are playing regularly like we do on diatonic, because they represent or denote certain breath patterns common to any key. Some players change keys of chromatic like we all do on diatonic. But if you play everything on a C chrom, imho, it’s more useful to think notes instead of positions (assuming the player is comfortable with basic music theory). But YMMV. Whatever works for you is good.
Last Edited by hvyj on Dec 13, 2018 2:43 PM