Header Graphic
Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Bb natural minor confusion
Bb natural minor confusion
Login  |  Register
Page: 1

356 posts
Aug 29, 2020
5:00 AM
As I've learned when buying harps that are labeled in 2nd position they are not necessarily in the octave that you want.

I wanted a Bb natural minor but when I got it though marked as such it was really a eb natural minor.
When inquiring about it I was reminded that the harps are marked in 2nd position
So no problem...but not so.

As it is Bb based on Eb it is a octave higher than than what I wanted. It is the octave above middle C.

Yet standard Bb harps are the octave below middle C.
I wanted a regular harp with a couple of notes changed.
I did have an 40+yrs old Bb minor (harmonic) orchestra harp made by hohner so I took a chance and ordered up reg Bb natural minor from them.
It took a few weeks but when I got it was exactly what I wanted. The 1 note was a Bb in the octave I wanted same as a reg Bb.

So definitely have to keep in mind harps labeled in 2nd position are based on whatever the harp actually is in 1st position. If it is based on a key above or below middle C

In the meantime I learned that I could actually bend the orchestra harp which was a bit of a surprise.
1706 posts
Aug 29, 2020
11:39 AM
The position labeling issue for natural minor harps can be confusing.

If you want a Bb harp with the tuning changed so that it produces the Bb natural minor scale in first position, then get a Suzuki diatonic in Bb minor. Suzuki is, AFAIK, the only major manufacturer to tune its natural minor harps to give a natural minor scale in first position.

But if you try to play that same harp in second position, you won't get a natural minor scale. Instead you'll get the Phrygian scale, which has a flat 2nd degree. Which is cool if that's what you're going for.

if you want to play a natural minor scale in second position, then you need what is essentially an Eb (or Low Eb) harp with some notes changed so that when you play in second position, you get a Bb natural minor scale.

Seydel and Lee Oskar would label that altered Eb harp in second position - they'd call it Bb natural minor, as you've already experienced.

Hohner, on the other hand, would call that same harp an Eb natural minor, because it's based on an Eb harp.

Do any of the mfrs. offer that Eb-based second-position Bb minor harp in a low tuning? Not sure, but you could get one made via the Seydel Tuning Configurator.
Harmonica lessons with one of the world's foremost experts
Check out my blog and other goodies at winslowyerxa.com
Harmonica For Dummies, Second Edition with tons of new stuff
SPAH Week 2020 virtual gathering, August 11-15

Last Edited by WinslowYerxa on Aug 29, 2020 11:46 AM
609 posts
Aug 29, 2020
5:41 PM
I hate this issue---they should just label the harps the same.

what I do now is this:
1] I re-label them
2] when I order ----I disregard there label and look only at the notes on the harp.

Ie; I do "Thrill is gone in "Cm". i choose to play an "nat minor" harp in cross harp,. rathur than 3rd pos.

So I want a harp with an "F" on blow 1.

I won't order "nat minor" harps by their labeling, I go strictly by the hole 1 blow note.

high E or low E is a seperate issue

I feel yr pain I misordered my first few nat minor harps, due to thier labeling---i learned to look at hole 1 blow instead

The harp I have in Fnat minor is marked with my label system "Fm" So I use that on THrill is gone" in Cm
I hate the way Lee Oscar Labels them----this constantly comes up as an issue
357 posts
Aug 30, 2020
8:28 AM
I am happy with the Hohner Bb natural minor that I got.
It is marked in 1st position. (hole 1 is Bb etc)

Perhaps Suzuki also labels them in 1st position.
For some reason people seem to think that Hohner doesn't but I don't know why.

Like snowman I also label my harps what they actually are. The Seydel for example I labeled as an Eb natural.
Though it is sold as Bb natural minor (one octave higher than I wanted)

Mostly I make a chart diagram of each harp I have and match the songs to which harp I might use for it.
Sometimes several harps are possible so I look for which harp has the notes layed out the most "user friendly" for a particular song.

Mostly with the Lee Oskars I'm okay that he labels each end of the harp. Like the Em which is really an Am harp but at least it is marked on each end. I use that, so far, for playing in G ,Am or Em but truthfully it sat in the draw for a couple of years before I got the hang of how to use it for various songs.

I use the Harp Ninja program to check which notes are actually on a particular harp.
Still I use the piano to get a better idea which side of middle C the notes are.

I know I'd lose big points if I asked the vocalist (my wife) if she could sing something an octave down because my harp is this, that or the other thing...okay a little humor there but folks probably get the jist of it....
2889 posts
Aug 30, 2020
8:53 AM
As Winslow points out, the Manji is labeled in first position.
What he doesn’t mention, and I want people to be aware of, is the fact that hole 6 and 10 draw is tuned differently than most harp players expect—on a C, the note is tuned to Ab.
This means that you don’t have a draw bend on hole 6.
You can tune it up a half step, that’s what I do—just want folks to know the situation.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Aug 30, 2020 8:54 AM
1707 posts
Aug 30, 2020
2:18 PM
@Gnary - actually, I did mention it, but maybe I wasn't concrete enough in pointing out specifically what that does to the tuning.

Harmonica lessons with one of the world's foremost experts
Check out my blog and other goodies at winslowyerxa.com
Harmonica For Dummies, Second Edition with tons of new stuff
SPAH Week 2020 virtual gathering, August 11-15
799 posts
Aug 31, 2020
8:10 AM
As a Tech, I frequently have this question posed to me. I alway ask what notes they need, though frequently they do not know. I think that on the Hohners, first position is a Dorian Minor, and second position is a natural minor, of course. Technically, Lee Oskar is right, but I wish they do not label them they way that they do. Melody makers are even more confusing.

358 posts
Aug 31, 2020
1:41 PM
Interesting. That is why I write out charts for my various harmonicas to see where the notes I want are.

However it does have me curious I know the difference between Harmonic minors and natural minors don't know what a dorian minor is but would not Bb be the starting note of either scale of Bb?

So I am wondering how it would be both at the 1 blow and the 2 draw when charts show differently.

Course I am spending extra time on this because of staying home more because of virus avoidance.

Still it is intriguing to me.

I did spend some time looking it up so that will hold me for now. I'm happy enough charting the harp note locations. If the music is written out I convert it to tabs
for whatever harp will work best .
Back to rhythm and timing practice for now...

Last Edited by Spderyak on Sep 01, 2020 4:05 AM
2314 posts
Sep 01, 2020
8:03 AM
"don't know what a dorian minor is"

Dorian is a mode with a major second, minor third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth and minor seventh. It is exactly like the natural minor except for the sixth degree, which is minor in the natural minor scale.

If you play third position without bending on a standard-tuned harmonica, you're playing Dorian.
139 posts
Sep 01, 2020
1:17 PM
You might want to consider getting a Luck 13 harp in Eb and retune it to Bb natural minor. You will then have a low octave attached to a regular diatonic.
2174 posts
Sep 01, 2020
2:18 PM
"don't know what a dorian minor is"

Another approach to the same Dorian mode issue (answered above by timeistight by intervals) is the "white keys approach to modes", using just the white keys on a piano. As you shift your starting note for modes as listed below, the intervals shift. Dorian will start on D and have the intervals listed by timeistight. Hearing a mode is a good approach for ear players.

Use a C harp and play along with the keyboard as you hear the modal scales. PLAY WHITE KEYS ONLY!!! On your C harp start with hole 4 or above at first to avoid needing to bend for missing notes.

I listed the 7 "Church Modes" in order of starting notes, but you can just go straight to Dorian if you want.

MODES (POSITION) [C major scale note]

Ionian (C Major scale) (1st position harp) play from C to C [1]

Dorian mode (D Dorian) (3rd position harp) play from D to D [2]

Phrygian mode (E Prygian) (5th position harp) play from E to E [3]

Lydian mode (F Lydian) (12th position harp) play from F to F [4]

Mixolydian mode (G Mixolydian)(2nd position harp) play from G to G [5]

Aeolian mode (A natural minor)(4th position harp) play from A to A [6]

Locrian mode (B Locrian) (6th position harp) play from B to B [7]

With modes you play what notes are there in the relative major. In the C Major illustrated above you just play existing notes on a C harp except for the missing C scale notes in the first octave or the blow bend B in the 10 hole.

With positions you play missing "black key" notes with bends and overbends in order to play whatever scale you want in that position.

These 7 modes above are available on any key of harp. In Major (Ionian) home keys other than C, the starting notes of each of the modes will change relative to the starting major key note, but on a harp they will always be in the same interval place, so modal playing is transportable across keys of harp.

The circle of 5ths can inform you on modes and keys, just as on positions.

I think I have this right. If someone sees an error, please post!

EDIT: all my neat lining up disappears when I post...

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Sep 01, 2020 2:22 PM
360 posts
Sep 02, 2020
5:54 AM
Thanks folks for the good info.
I appreciate it. Nice list/ explanation dougharps.

I do see that I play various songs in different modes or positions, just wasn't overly familiar with the names for them.

I remember asking my harp teacher a few years back if I went to a jam or got together with some musicians and said okay let's play some mixolydian and what not would anybody know what I was talking about.
So at least I know some harmonica players would.

Last Edited by Spderyak on Sep 02, 2020 6:46 AM

Post a Message

(8192 Characters Left)





blues harmonica riffs - harmonica tabs - learn harmonica - play harmonica

play harmonica easily - harp tabs for beginners - blues harmonica lessons


ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS