Probably the most used ways to stay in key when improvising is to use riffs already internilized and to use a scale fitting the key. For blues harmonica most players learn the blues scale and stick with that one. Perfectly fine but there are other scales that will benefit you as a player and can help you play when the song calls for something that is less bluesy for example. In this article I show you how to play two essential scales in second position.
The blues scale for reference
First we take a look at the blues scale. If you play a C harmonica in second position you will be playing in G. The G blues scale is:
G Bb C Db D F G (octave)
This root b3 4 b5 5 b7 root one octave above.
The blue notes are the minor third (b3, Bb), flatted fifth (b5, Db) and the flat minor seventh (b7, F). These are the notes that gice us that special bluesy feeling. A cool thing about the blues scale is that it works over both minor and major keys (although people tend to stay away from minor keys in second position).
The first alternative scale I want you to learn is the minor pentatonic scale. The blues scale is actually based on this scale. The only difference is that the minor pentatonic scale does not have the flatted fifth (tritonus) which is considered the most dissonate interval. This means that if you stay within the minor pentatonic scale you will stay clear of some of the more dissonant riffs that may not be appropriate for some songs.
The G minor pentatonic scale is:
G Bb C D F G (octave)
This root b3 4 5 b7 root one octave above.
The second alternative scale is the major pentatonic scale. This is a bit different and does not have the blue notes of the blues scale or minor pentatonic scale. It also have the major third which means this scale is best suited for major tunes. Since the blue notes are missing this is a good choice for songs with a happier feel to them where bluesy riffs feel out of place.
The G major pentatonic scale is:
G A B D E G (octave)
This is root 2 3 5 6 root one octave above.
This may require some work as A is three draw whole step bend and you want that in tune. Tricky but worth working for.
Putting the scales to use
To put these scales to use you need to internalize them so that you can stay within them when you choose to. Spend some time learning them and try using them to different jam tracks to work out where they work best for you.
Let me know how you get along and don’t forget to sign up below to get the Welcome package and get exclusive material!