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2nd Position (Cross Harp)

The instruction and songs and tabs on this website are samples and exerpts from Dave Gage's HarmonicaLessons.com. This "Harmonica Playing General Info" section is an introduction to the two most important types of harmonicas, which harmonica to get, and the difference between 1st and 2nd playing positions.

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  • 2nd Position or "Cross Harp"- These two terms mean precisely the same thing. We tend to use the more modern term "2nd Position" here, but both are correct and interchangeable. Most beginners will start with simple blues riffs played in the 2nd Position.

  • Players who primarily use 2nd Position- include James Cotton, Sonny Boy Williamson (both I and II), Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones), Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson Band), John Popper, Charlie Musselwhite, Huey Lewis, Sonny Terry, Norton Buffalo, Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Magic Dick (J. Geils Band), and many others.

  • For blues, use 2nd Position- If you want to play to blues, rock, or country based music, your first choice would not be the 1st Position (or "Straight Harp") style of playing. You will want to use the 2nd Position style of playing.

  • 2nd Position emphasizes draw notes at the low end- If you want to jam to a song while playing 2nd Position, you must primarily, but not exclusively, play the draw (inhale) notes at the low end of the harmonica (holes 1 through 5 draw). Resolution to the key of music can be found at hole 3 blow (and later on, also at holes 2 draw and 6 blow).

  • The big advantage to 2nd Position is the bending- The advantage of the 2nd Position style of playing over 1st Position is that all these low draw notes can be bent down for effect and with practice will ultimately give you all the missing notes used in blues and country scales.

  • 2nd Position is in a different key- When you play in the 2nd Position, you are no longer in the key of the harmonica, but actually in a key which is a perfect 5th (seven half-steps) up from the key of the harmonica.

  • You're playing your "C" harmonica in the key of "G"- If you play in 2nd Position on a key of "C" harmonica you will now be in the key of "G". This is the way most modern blues, rock, and country players will use the diatonic harmonica. Use the HarmonicaLesons.com Positions Chart to find the 2nd Position key for the 12 different keys of diatonics.

  • An easy shortcut to find the 2nd Position key- If your thumb is the key of the harmonica (which is the same as the 1st Position key), count through the alphabet and stop at your "little finger" for the 2nd Position key. For example, your thumb is "C" and your little finger would be "G" (key of 2nd Position on the "C" harmonica). Try it with a key of "D" harmonica, counting from thumb to little finger you should get the key of "A" for 2nd Position. Please note, in music, "A" follows "G". There is no "H" note (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B, etc.)

  • To begin learning 2nd Position riffs and methods of improv- Visit the Basic Blues Improv section at HarmonicaLessons.com for blues riffs and information on improvising in the 2nd Position. A shortcut for simple blues jamming is found on the Beginners' Shortcuts page.

  • How to play the 2nd Position scales- Visit the HarmonicaLessons.com Scales page for more information and note tab on how to play the 2nd Position blues and country scales.



Watch a "Full-Length Live Harmonica Class"

Video: "Playing Critiques IV" (Archive #74)
  • This is an example of Dave Gage's HarmonicaLessons.com "Participation" classes where members can interact in real time.

  • The other HarmonicaLessons.com class type is a topic or lecture class. Topic classes include: "Vertical Slot Single Notes", "Bending I, II, III", "Breathing: Lessons I, II", "Tongue Blocking", "Beginning Jamming", "Country Harmonica", "Chugging", "12-Bar Blues". View a complete:
    List of Archived Class Videos (with descriptions).

  • Take a look at the current Schedule for Online Classes page.

  • Member Benefits:- 75 Full-Length Classes -- Over 2500 minutes of Video Instruction (40+ hrs) -- Attend "Live Online Classes" (3-Every-week) -- Beginners thru Advanced -- Learn 24/7 -- Review video lessons as many times as you want -- 1.5 to 2 hrs. of Video added each week.

  • Check current Membership Pricing.



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