Third Position Beginner Riffs

Playing in more positions than just second position is a great way of becoming more versatile. One of the first positions to work on then is third position. I think getting to know the scales and chord tones of the new position you are working on is very important but learning a few riffs can get you started quicker. Here I have collected some third position beginner riffs to get you going.

Descending riff

First off we have a nice decending riff that uses the blues scale and resolves on the root note.

third position beginner riffs - descending riff

Descending riff resolving on root.

You can listen to it here in 70 bpm.

Ascending riff

Here is an ascending riff for you that moves from the root note to the root note one octave higher.

third position beginner riffs - ascending riff

Ascending riff from root to root.

Listen to it here in 70 bpm.

V-IV-I-tunraround riff

Handling the V-IV-I-tunraround can feel a bit akward in a new position so it is a good thing to have one in your arsenal to begin with. This one has quite a standard feel to it and is quite easy to play.

third position beginner riffs - V-IV-I-turnaround

IV-IV-I-turnaround riff.

You can listen to it here in 70 bpm.

Summary

These third position beginner riffs won’t make you an expert third position player but they will definately give you a place to start. In later articles I will focus on how to build your riff bank further and how to reuse what you already know in second position. To get inspiration for playing third position, Little Walter is a good idea to listen to.

If you are looking for second position riffs you can also find them in previous articles, beginner riffs, V-IV-Is, turnarounds and buildup riffs.

Don’t forget to sign up below to get the Welcome package and exclusive articles! This includes the “Positions and Blues Scale” PDF and useful riffs as part of the exclusive articles.

Click here to get to the sign-up page!

Blues Harmonica Fills

Before we get into this topic I have to be completely honest. I suck at blues harmonica fills. It is an art that so far has eluded me as player. I know however that continued study will give me result in the end. In this article I outline my view of fills and what to think of when using them in context.

The use of blues harmonica fills

blues harmonica fills

The diatonic harmonica is great for fills.

Just to give a brief definition of blues harmonica fills I would consider any riff that is used to fill the void between vocal lines a fill riff. The riff itseld is then not a part of the main melody and can often change from performance to performance. It is a way for the harmonica player to add to the excitement of the song being performed.

To add fills in a meaningful way you have to listen to what the other musicians are doing. Is the guitarist already adding his own fills? If so then you better stay away. Is there enough space in the background for you? Little Walter was a master of combining backup playing and fills and is well worth studying.

Characteristics

Typically blues harmonica fills are short in order not to interfer with the vocal lines. If your vocalist allows it there might me some room to start a fill before the last syllable comes out and to let the fills overlap a bit with the next line. When you are not sure it is better to stay off the vocalist’s turf all together.

If you want to use fills to put a specific charachter on the song your fills likely need to have some common ground. Perhaps same or very similar riff played with different techniques. If you are looking to add energy and excitement your riffs should be more aggresive and stand out.

Practicing blues harmonica fills

As you most likelty have noticed I have not given you any example tabs of blues harmonica fills like I did with turnaround riffs, V-IV-I-riffs and buildup riffs. I think it is better you find your own style for fills. Start by playing along songs you like an experiement with different shorter and longer riffs to find a good balance and build up a bank of riffs to use for fills. If you are worried about stepping on the vocal lines then practicing singing yourself at the same time as you do fills will help you develop appropriate riffs to use.

Let me know how you get along and don’t forget to sign up below to get the Welcome package and get exclusive material!

Click here to get to the sign-up page!

Blues Harmonica Buildup Riffs

Blues harmonica buildup riffs is a special kind of riffs that are used instead of a classic turnaround riff and sometimes they intergate into the V-IV-I-riff. The idea around a build up riff is that is building energy and anticipation for the the next chorus. In this article I show different types of blues harmonica buildup riffs and explain where they might be used.

Types of buildup riffs

When we talk about blues harmonica buildup riffs there is no precise definition of what they are. For a riff to be a buildup riff for me it either builds anticipation and tension, hints at the coming chorus or picks up the next chorus early. You might even debate what riff is doing what but I wil try to keep the types fairly clear.

Pickup type riff

This type of riff typically leads you from the tonic of the I-chord to the note you want to start the next chorus on. It is a good way of moving from 2 draw to a higher note so that you don’t have to make a big jump after a classic turnaround that may land you on 1 draw for example. This riff is 1 bar long (with a pickup) and leads you from landing on 2 draw in your V-IV-I riff to starting on 5 draw in the next chorus. Note that the last bar is part of the next chorus and not the buildup riff.

Blues Harmonica Buildup Riffs Pickup style

Pickup style buildup riff leading to 5 draw as start in the next chorus.

Repetetive cresecendo type riff

A good way of building energy is using repetition and increasing the volume at the same time. This builds both tension and the feeling that something is going to happen. This riff is very simple in itself, based on triplets in a simple pattern between 3 draw and 4 draw. It actually starts as part of the V-IV-I-riff in that is replaces both the I-chord part as well as the turnaround.

Blues Harmonica Buildup Riffs Triplet

Buildup riff as repetitive triplet with pickup.

Repetitive hint type riff

By hinting at what is coming in the next beginning of the next chorus you can also build energy in a nice way. In this example the next chorus starts with a triad as a pickup on beat 4 in bar 12. The rest of bar 12 hints repetitively at the coming triplet. Note that the 1, 2+, 3+, 3, 2 part is actually part of the first riff in the next chorus.

Blues harmonica buildup riffs hint type

Buildup by hinting at the coming riff.

Integrating blues harmonica buildup riffs

The way to integrate blues harmonica buildup riffs is to build up a bank of them, now you have three, and start using them together with your V-IV-I-riffs to exand that riff bank even further.

Let me know how these riffs work out for you and don’t forget to sign up below to get the Welcome package and get exclusive material!

Click here to get to the sign-up page!

V-IV-I Blues Harmonica Riffs

Building a solid riff bank give you lots of options as a harmonica player and improviser. The third line in the standard 12 bar blues is known as the V-IV-I, this part is busier than the other parts when it comes to the chords. It also contains the V-chord which can trip people up. Knowing a few V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs can go a long way. In this article I present a few options you may consider that go beyond the beginner riffs I have presented before.

Why learn specific V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs?

As the third line changes chords more often than the first two lines and contains the V-chord it is a bit trickier to navigate. I have previously written about the V-chord as a place where you can show off your skills. Learning a few V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs is a great way of adding to your improvisation skills. If you combine them with a bit of blues harmonica theory knowledge you are in great shape. Let’s look at a few riffs to add your aresenal.

Tounge switching riff

First off we have a tounge switch based riff that mostly uses the tonic of the V and the IV, simple but effective. The tounge switch also adds an element of suprise that the listener will appriciate.

Tounge switch based V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs

Tounge switch based riff.

Triplet based riff

This riff I really like since it has a triplet feel, octaves and approches the higher ocatve of the instrument. All this sets it apart from many other V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs. I try to use this quite a bit myself. Notice that is starts one beat before the V-chord.

Triplet and octave based V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs

Triplet and octave based riff.

Chord tone riff

This riff is heavy on chord tones and takes advantage of the notes not normally played when playing the blues scale. It will freshen up the listeners ear.

Chord tone V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs

Chord tone based riff.

Descending riff

The final riff is a descending riff that also hints at the chord tones of the V-chord. I like the sound of a riff that start quite high up and works its way to the tonic of the I-chord.

Descending V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs

Descending riff

Applying the riffs

In order to work these riffs into your riff bank you should pick them up one by one. Make a decision to use one of them for all your improv for a while until it has really stuck in your head. That way you will make it permeanent. Then you go on to the next one. Having 3-5 V-IV-I blues harmonica riffs that are not the most common ones will make a big difference for how original you sound. Let me know how these riffs turn out for you!

Sign up below to get the Welcome package and get exclusive material!

Click here to get to the sign-up page!