Introduction to 1st position blues harmonica lesson

In this harmonica lesson I'll teach you the basics of 1st position blues harmonica, including some simple practice exercises.


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Introduction to 1st position blues harmo
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What is 1st position?

Most blues harmonica is played in 2nd position, for example playing a C harmonica in the key of G (learn more about harmonica positions). Playing in 1st position is actually a return to the more basic concept: playing the harmonica in the key it was intended to be played in.


Why don't we play all blues in 1st position?

Playing a harmonica in the 'correct' key (i.e. the key written on the side of the harmonica itself) is easy for melodies built out of the major scale. After all, that's the whole idea of the note layout. But blues isn't all about major scales, it's actually aboiut the tension between major and minor. That means it's a bit more difficult to play in 1st position to begin with. But when played right, 1st position gives a really distinctive sound - bright, strong and confident.


How do you play 1st position blues?

The first thing you'll notice when listening to 1st position blues is that it's either low down at the bottom of the harp, or high up at the squeaky end. That's because we can bend those notes to make it less major and more bluesy.


1st position harmonica practice exercises

Here's a couple of practice exercises for moving around the bottom four and top four holes of the instrument:


1 -1 2 -2// -2 -3// -3/ 4


7 -8 8 -9 9 -10 10// 10


A final word on keys

Because playing in 1st position sends you up the top end of the harp, you'll tend to hear 1st position blues harp played on lower keys (for example, the key of A is very common). You can practise the above exercises on any key of harp, but if you do it on anything above a C you'll probably get the dogs barking!


Recommended listening

'Bright Lights, Big City' by Jimmy Reed

'Doghouse' by Gary Primich

'Trust My Baby' by Kim Wilson


Thanks for studying with me today. I hope you enjoyed learning this song!


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