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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > My attempt at recording the Blues Scale
My attempt at recording the Blues Scale
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outdoor joe
92 posts
Jul 25, 2018
2:42 PM

Day three of attempting this and trying to control the 3 and 4 draw bends. I can get the 1 draw bend with ease now, and never ever the 2 draw.

After I get this scale down...what do I do with it? =/

I am like a lost puppy...that can read. I see the signs that say LOST DOG (scale, octave, note, key) but I don't know what 2 + 2 is yet. =/
outdoor joe
93 posts
Jul 25, 2018
3:14 PM
Take 2

5505 posts
Jul 25, 2018
3:29 PM
In an earlier post I pointed you at the pentatonic major scale. That only uses 1 bend; the 3”
In that post I suggested an exercise. You can apply the same principle to this ‘blues’ scale (really a pentatonic minor with an extra note, the flat 5, which is your 4 draw bend)

The important thing at this stage is to get really good at playing the bent notes.

I don’t think it’s particularly important whether you work on the pentatonic major or minor. I thought the major might be more fulfilling for you at first given what you’ve said in the past about your listening preferences but the blues scale is cool, just has that extra bend and locks you into holes 1-6 unless you can overblow the 6. You can still get a heck of a lot of juice from holes 1-6.

What you do with it is get really really really familiar with it. You make patterns out of it and learn to jump around all those notes and make little musical phrases from those notes. They could be as little as 1 note, or you could use all the notes. Try just playing 2 draw, 3’ blow 4 and back. Try playing a triplet of 4 draw 4’ 5 draw over and over.
Listen to Slim Harpo play ‘scratch my back’ and work out how he is using that blues scale.
Listen to Frank Zappa play Advance Romance. The phrase ‘no more credit at the liquor store’ is almost a straight descent from 6 blow to 2 draw via the blues scale, with just a little twist near the end where it goes back and forth between the 3’ and 2 draw but that would be a good challenge for your ears to work out.
The first step though is to be familiar with the scale and moving from one end to the other. And hitting all the notes reliably every time. And remember it extends down to 1 blow. And then you can start playing patterns.
Here’s one. This is boring as heck at first but soon gets pretty wild and is also really instructive for your habit forming mind.
+1 1 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 3’ 2 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 3’ +4 3’ 2 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 3’ +4 4’ +4 3’ 2 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 3’ +4 4’ 4 4’ +4 2 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 3’ +4 4’ 4 5 4 4’ +4 3’ 2 2” 1 +1
+1 1 2” 2 3’ +4 4’ 4 5 +6 5 4 4’ +4 3’ 2 2” 1 +1

Take each line at s time. This is not a 1 day exercise!
Don’t move on too soon. You want to start with line 1 and play that a couple hundred times. This is about absolutely knowing this stuff. Grinding it into your memory so you don’t have to remember it; you know it, it’s part of you.

Obviously you see the big problem staring you in the face right there in line 1.
You absolutely need those bent notes. They have to be right there for you on demand. You need them to come to you just when you think about them, no time to double-think.
So you need to be able to get them and an effective way to practice getting them and that will be the focus of your practice, or at least a major focus.
This will be forever, but it won’t be ‘difficult’ forever. It will always require attention though. Don’t worry about that. First you have to get those bends down so they’re reliable. If you’re gonna play blues, at a minimum you will need the 2” the 3’ and the 4’ to be real solid. And I’d say the 3” also
Just for starters.
Then you can make meaningful practice and use ofvthe blues scales and the pentatonic.
This is why I think it’s wise to start with the major pentatonic. With that you really only need the 3” and you can start getting a lot of good music from the harp a bit sooner. The scale is playable along the whole length of the harp too, so even if you don’t have the 3” you can still play the middle and top octave.
Some people call it the ‘country scale’
It’s cool man
Anyway, bends, and patterns, and licks. The scales are all about familiarity with the sounds of the notes in relation to one another and where they live in the harp. Like a family of notes and how they party, they all get along but some have more to say than others and some relationships are stronger than others, but they’re all important to each other
5506 posts
Jul 25, 2018
3:30 PM
Oh, I should have said too: good job on the scale. You’re getting there!
outdoor joe
94 posts
Jul 25, 2018
4:20 PM
Thanks a lot Bee!!!

I have hit the 3" quite a few times and I think I understand how to get there.

Something I just tried was 60 bpm and just going back and forth between -3, 3', 3, 3', -3, and all sorts of patterns for 1 beat then 2 beats. I think that helped a ton. Same on the 4 hole.

The 2 though, that's a different story. Any vowel sound I've used and throat maneuvering I have done hasn't even hit the bottom of the regular note.

I'll be sure to listen to those songs and let you know what I think! I really appreciate your help!!!

Seeing myself hit the first bends ever, now seeing me hit them on scales is REALLY exciting to see!

Last Edited by outdoor joe on Jul 25, 2018 5:21 PM
4 posts
Jul 26, 2018
3:21 PM

Once you can play the bent notes slowly with good intonation, you can start working on speed and facility. I did this the boring way...I carry a harp at all times, and whenever I have a spare moment I practice playing the blues scale over and over, up and down while tapping my foot to keep time. I went slowly at first, and once it sounded good I sped it up a notch and kept doing that until I could blow the scale up and down at a decent tempo without losing time and while keeping clear single notes with the best intonation I could muster.

After that, I solo-played simple 12-bar blues runs...2 Draw is the root of your I chord, 4 blow is your IV root and 4 draw is your 5. Just blow quarter notes of each hole to start: I I I I IV IV I I V V I I and back to the beginning. Once that's easy enough to be super boring, try adding additional notes one at a time from your blues scale to each section and work at that.

I found after a while that I had internalized the I-IV-V and was just doing really simple playing and adding notes where it felt right - as long as I'm aware of the progression and my timing is good, it actually sounded like I was playing music instead of noodling scales up and down, which was exciting (and probably saved my marriage).

Everyone's different, but I found that learning the scale, where my blue notes are (and which notes to avoid, which your ears will tell you) that my practices just became more musical over time. Simple, but musical.

If you have a smartphone, HarpNinja is well worth the $20 price tag as it can listen to you play and tell you if you're hitting your bends correctly and even record snippets to play back. It will also show you your harp layout in either notes or scale degrees and where your scale notes are.

Once you can improvise a really simple 12-bar, backing tracks and playing along with (often non-harp) songs really came alive for me. I like adding harp to solo slide guitar songs and try to serve the song instead of just soloing like a mad fool. (That's what I use backing tracks for heheh)

Also, don't be afraid to learn some music theory if you haven't already, there are free lessons online and some great videos on YouTube to help...and this forum has some really great folks with a ton of both knowledge and patience.

Above all - have fun with it!
238 posts
Jul 27, 2018
6:38 PM
The world is yer oyster now Joe
outdoor joe
96 posts
Jul 27, 2018
6:51 PM
Thanks for the help @Colonel! I started working my way around the scale now that I can hit the 3 and 4 bends pretty well and things are clicking!

Hell yeah @sundancer. I love oysters!
130 posts
Jul 31, 2018
12:23 PM
Way to go, Joe! Keep us posted on your progress. Man, once you get the 2'' ... that one is probably my favorite to hear and to play!

@Bee: Thank you so much for the lines you have posted! I've been playing the first two lines for a couple of days now and they helped me greatly, mostly in regards to relaxation and tone.
5527 posts
Jul 31, 2018
1:37 PM
It’s always gratifying to hear something has been helpful. Thanks, Skullkid.
I suppose that the last note in each line I posted is redundant because it should be played as a looping exercise.
It will help with breathing too, mainly because it’s such a challenge to play as a loop with only limited places to breath out. You have to take advantage of those opportunities.
803 posts
Aug 05, 2018
6:54 AM
nice, you now can do something that 90% of all blues harp players can't do. when i first learned it, i practiced it every morning for 20 minutes for 6 months. It helped me with two practical things, play the proper draw bends and learn the scale for improvising. it's a big learning step that you can build on.

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