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What is 2nd Position/Cross Harp on Harmonica? | Positions Lesson for Blues Harmonica

Hello! In today's harmonica lesson I'll teach you all about 2nd position - what it is, how to find it and how to use it to play really great blues harmonica.

What are positions?

To understand 2nd position, we first need to understand the basic theory of positions.

When we talk about positions, we are talking about the relationship between the key of the harmonica and the key of the song.

In theory, you can play your harmonica in 12 positions (to play in the 12 different keys of the musical scale) but this is extremely advanced. Most harp players use three positions. The most popular is 2nd position, which we'll look at now.

2nd position (cross harp)

Second position (sometimes called 'cross harp') is very popular because it is so versatile: first off, it's great for blues because it produces 'blue notes' and really gritty bending sounds. It can also be used effectively for country, pop, rock and folk music.

How do you find 2nd position on your harmonica? First, let's find our tonic note (the 'centre' or homebase of the position).

  • 2nd position starts on 2 draw (also 6 and 9 blow) and is a fifth up from the harp key (e.g. C harmonica = key of G).

From this starting point, you can build scales.

Scales in 2nd position

Here are some useful 2nd position scales to start with:

Major pentatonic scale:

-2 -3// -3 -4 5 6

Full major scale:

-2 -3// -3 4 -4 5 5* 6

Minor pentatonic scale:

-2 -3/ 4 -4 -5 6

The blues scale:

-2 -3/ 4 -4/ -4 -5 6

Mixolydian mode:

-2 -3// -3 4 -4 5 -5 6

(or: 6 -6 -7 7 -8 8 -9 9)

These are not the only scales you can play in 2nd position, they're just some popular and accessible ones to start you off.

The best way to really understand positions is to start playing! Try using the above scales and see how they feel to you.

Full harmonica positions chart

You can also use a Positions Chart to find 2nd position, or indeed any other position, on any key of harmonica.

I hope this helps you to understand a little bit more about 2nd position. Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments!

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