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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Learning to play in 3rd position
Learning to play in 3rd position
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5281 posts
Feb 19, 2018
5:19 PM
I had a small breakthrough with 3rd position.
Often the advice is to learn Telephone Blues, take licks from Telephone Blues.
That’s definitely a good thing to do I think. Very scalar and uses 8/10ths of the harp. And it’s quite slow which is nice to start out. Also uses the easy split octaves so good in a few ways.

So that has been good to play around with.

My breakthrough though, has come with trying ‘please throw this poor dog a bone’.
This is from Jr Wells, it’s in A and 3rd position so uses a G harp.

Here are my notes:
Intro: typical Jr Wells thing, with a 3rd position twist
6 6 +6 (small scoop on the draws), followed by a trill on 8z9
And then +7 6 +6 5 4 4

the turnaround on the intro 5 4 5 4, 3" +3 2" 1

This is also used for the fill over bars 7 and 8 (between "Arms" and "I'm begging you"):
5 4 5 4, 3" +3 2 1, 1-4

Then the turnaround: 5 6 +7, 5 4, +4 (or +1-+4 octave split) 2" 1, 1-4

Verse 2 very similar but small variation on bar 7-8 fill: 5 4 5 4, +4 3" +3 2 1, 1-4

The +4 is perhaps not even really there, but it’s a timing thing. There's at least a rest there, or it could be a ghost +4, has the effect of squeezing the 3" and +3 into half the space they occupied first time around. Very small but very cool variation

This is followed by the solo.

What I learned so far from this is that I'm starting to see the way 3rd works in terms of how it relates to second. Typically Jr might play a similar sounding into lick in 2nd, the first phrase beginning on the 5th (4 draw) and resolving on the 4th (4blow). Here he does the same thing but in 3rd the 6 chamber is like the 4 chamber in 2nd. That’s a big thing to note.
Also 3" 3+ is the 3rd equivalent of 4 +4 (could also be 3" 2 but the move to 3+ is smoother and more similar to 4 +4

So the common 2nd position move of 4 +4 3' 2, can be rendered in 3rd both as 6 +6 5 4, and 3" +3 2" 1.
All these have the possibility of adding the flat 5, i.e. the bent 4 in 2nd, the bent 6 in 3rd and the 3"' in low 3rd

These are all minor pentatonic licks. So a pretty cool song for learning the scale, especially in low end. Better than telephone blues in some ways I think, certainly a complementary piece.

Now I'm keen to get onto breaking down the solo

Last Edited by SuperBee on Feb 19, 2018 5:38 PM
372 posts
Feb 19, 2018
5:37 PM
I'm putting a lot of work into 3rd. This will help a good amount. Thanks for posting it.
Phil Pennington
5282 posts
Feb 19, 2018
5:48 PM
I was thinking about the thread we had on when to use +3 or 2draw. And it seems to me that 3rd position will often use the 3 blow because of how it works between the 3” and the 2”. Seems slicker to me.

Mark Hummel advised me to adapt things which I normally play in 2nd, to 3rd, as a way of learning. Even though I haven’t exactly done that here, it’s the same idea, relating to a common 2nd position lick.

I had a similar experience with 1st position in the high end when Adam G pointed out the 9 blow was like the 4 draw in second, and blow bend the 9 in 1st is like draw bend the 4 in second. For whatever reason, that works for me. I can relate to the 4 draw and then stRt to get my bearings
2532 posts
Feb 20, 2018
2:47 AM
Great stuff and good observations. My experience is there are a few different 'flavours' of 3rd position sound, and this is one them, centring on that area. I think that comparisons with 2nd position work well there.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Feb 20, 2018 2:48 AM

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