Minor Key Chord Tones in Third Position

Playing in minor keys may not be the first thing you try on the harmonica. Even some fairly advanced players stay away from it. If you are strictly a second position player minor keys may be problematic for you. A pretty easy way of fixing this is to learn to play in third position. Don’t get me wrong here, playing in third position doesn’t mean that you automatically play in minor or that you can only play minor. Third position just makes minor keys easier. If you have not played over a minor 12 bar blues before then learning to find the minor key chord tones is a good way to get started. If you know where the chord tones are you can play both accompaniment and even solo.

The benefit of third position

The benefit of third position for minor keys is that the minor third can be played without advanced bending skills. This is especially true if you play hole 4 and upwards. The lower octave require more practice though. also the minor key chord tones are quite easy to find.

minor key chord tones needed for minor blues

12 bar blues in D minor

The minor 12 bar blues can be formed by replacing the every major chord with its minor counterpart. In Dm for example the 12 bar blues then consist of Dm, Gm and Am.

Minor key chord tones

If you play a C harmonica in third position you will be playing in D or Dm. The chord tones for the chord in Dm are:

  • Dm – D F A C (root, minor third, fifth, minor seventh)
  • Gm – G Bb D F
  • Am – A C E G

The chord tones for Dm in tab:

  • D     1, 4, 8
  • F     2”, 5, 9
  • A     3”, 6, 10
  • C     1+, 4+, 7+, 10+

The chord tones for Gm:

  • G     2, 3+, 6+, 9+
  • Bb   3′, 10+”
  • D     1, 4, 8
  • F     2”, 5, 9

The chord tones for Am:

  • A     3”, 6, 10
  • C     1+, 4+, 7+, 10+
  • E     2+, 5+, 8+
  • G     2, 3+, 6+, 9+

The Bb (minor third of Gm) is the one chord tone that is the trickiest. Playing the 3 unbent can sound horrible so make sure you play it in pitch. The 10+” is quite tricky as well. The whole step bend on hole 3 takes some practice too but there are easy options for playing the A elsewhere on the harmonica.

Get comfortable with it!

The best way to get comfortable with minor blues is to put on a jam track and practice playing the chord tones over it. With a little bit of practice you will be able to move around quite freely.

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