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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > 12th position etc
12th position etc
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6613 posts
May 01, 2020
7:30 AM
Recently attended a couple of 1st position workshops on zoom.
First one was with Ronnie Shellist, and focused on some classic songs. Quite a few were songs I’ve already looked at but there were some aspects Ronnie looked at in detail which I could do to spend time on.

The other was with Carlos Del Junco and was less focused on songs and more on the principles of playing 1st in a blues context.

Carlos addressed the topic of chord changes and opening up soloing in 1st by following the changes.

Which brings me to 12 position, which is useful in 1st-based approach when the chord changes from I to IV

12th is also sometimes known as 1st flat.

It’s a scary big number but it’s one of the most accessible positions

The major triad is F A C
The arpeggio of the major triad is available in 3 octaves (almost)

2” 3” +4,
5 6 +7,
9 10 +10

On a C harp, 12th is playing in F.

The major scale is F G A Bb C D E F

2” 2 3” 3’ +4 4 +5 5

The major pentatonic scale is F G A C D
There’s a fragment of the scale in 1 blow and draw, and almost a whole octave at the top, in addition to two full octaves

(+1 1), 2” 2 3” +4 4, 5 +6 6 +7 8, 9 +9 10 +10 (incomplete)

The ‘blues’ scale is F Ab Bb B C Eb F
It needs overblows to complete but there’s quite a bit available otherwise, certainly enough to find some good places to hang out when you’re playing a 1st position approach to a blues number and the chord moves to the IV.

2” 3”’ 3’ 3 +4 +4*, 5 6’ +6* +7 +8’ 9

One more thing to mention is about getting your bends in tune.

1st is quite demanding of sweet bending skills to make it really work, even if you just take a ‘blues scale’ approach and don’t worry about the changes too much.

Anyway, this 12 position major triad, I’d suggest starting there and playing as arpeggios in all the different registers.

You could do worse than picking up an A harp to practice

My tip for checking the bends is to also have a D harp

When you play an A harp in 12th, that is the key of D

So you can play that arpeggio 2” 3” +4 5, +4 3” 2”, x3, and check your bends against the D harp +1 +2 +3 +4, +3 +2 +1

It’s a pretty handy reference. Incidentally you can work the other way too, playing the D harp in second (A) and checking against the A harp. I always carry these 2 keys which is partly for that reason but kind of serendipity really because those are the 2 keys I use the most anyway as I do so much in A

Last Edited by SuperBee on May 03, 2020 6:46 PM
6617 posts
May 03, 2020
7:44 PM
harping on 12th position: why care about 12th?

its part of understanding how to play blues in 1st position, but also as Will Wilde observes in the video below, it allows an alternative to playing in first, with what he sees as an advantage of having a draw note as the root.

another important observation about 12th is that the major pentatonic scale is the same note layout as the minor pentatonic in 3rd position. you just have to make a mental shift to think about the note of resolution as the 5draw rather than the 4 draw.

353 posts
May 05, 2020
9:14 PM
Nice detailed topic.
I've always liked WW's tutorials. He gets right to the point and does a great job explaining subjects along with practical applications.

I primarily think in terms of where the root note is rather than what position I'm playing in. I'll blame that on playing a mix of stock and alternate tunings.

Harmonica Mutes & Accessories

6620 posts
May 06, 2020
1:59 AM
I think that’s a completely valid concept.
I have those root notes firmly embedded for position 12 11 1 2 3 4 5 and 6. Not that I can play those positions with any competency, but I can hit the root note and the chord tones for some of them.
I was about to embark on another long winded extrapolation, when I checked and came up with Will’s no nonsense video. Reality check; why not just do that.

I think 12th deserves more attention than it enjoys. For blues, I think it suffers from being a big number and maybe that gives an impression of complexity, but as Will mentioned it’s really rather easy to get started on. If you go the pentatonic approach it’s the same movement as 3rd position, but you just need to have that idea of where the resolution is.

I was trying to think about ‘why’ for 12th, and Will presents his own perspective on that, which I hadn’t thought of before. I do associate it with 1st, and I love playing 1st so that’s why I’d been thinking about it.
Chris Sachitano
43 posts
May 06, 2020
6:01 AM
Awesome that you are working on 12th.
Another helpful approach to think on may be modes. It may help to get a backing track in F lydian for your C harp that hangs or is an extended groove. There are some great one on youtube. Some even dial through the positions/modes for you. See e.g. https://youtu.be/MSFcXP1lx9o

I would not worry about the theory, just play along. The difference in F major and F lydian, is only one halfstep (the Bb)Your muscle memory will take over, especially if you have already been working on those other positions.

I am the same way with A. I use an A harp quite a bit, using it to cycle trough backing tracks. Brendan Power has a great backing track for A harps on his PowerBender CD.
6622 posts
May 09, 2020
4:31 PM
Hi, Chris,
Thanks for the suggestion.
I have to get my 1 chord tracks into a folder. This idea of using tracks that hang on keeps coming up and I see what a good idea that is.
Personally I am an A harp person too.

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