Third Position Scales

When learning to play in a new position it is a good idea to get to know where to the most important notes are. If you know where the chord tones of the I, IV and V chord as well as a few scales you are in good shape. Third position is a popular especially for minor blues so knowing some third position scales is a good idea.

Third position

Most of the time we reference a C harmonica when talking about specifics. Playing a C harmonica in third position will put you in the key of D. This means that the root note of any scale will be on 1, 4 and 8 draw. One way of looking at it is that third position is second position two holes up. For reference, take a look at the circle of fifths and try to make out for yourself why third position on a C harmonica is the key of D.

The blues scale

A you may already know the blues scale in scale degrees is:

Root b3 4 b5 5 b7 root (one octave up)

In D this transles to:

D F G Ab A C D

In tab for the middle octave this becomes:

4 5 6+ 6′ 6 7+ 8

third position scales - blues scale

The blues scale in D.

Quite an easy scale actually, only one bend and it is hole 6 which is not too difficult unless you use a high pitced harmonica. Also you don’t have to bend for the b3, it is there for free which is a big reason third position is very suitable for minor blues.

The lower octave require quite a bit more bending skills:

1 2” 2/3+ 3”’ 3” 4+ 4

The minor pentatonic scale

The minor pentatonic scale is almost the same as the blues scale but the lowered fifth is not part of it. The tab then becomes:

4 5 6+ 6 7+ 8

Very simple.

The major pentatonic scale

The major pentatonic scale will be imcomplete in the middle octave as it contains the third instead of the minor third. In scale degrees it is:

Root 2 3 5 6 root (one octave above)

In D this is:

D E F# A B D

The F# is not available in the middle octave (unless you do overblows) and becomes this in tab:

4 5+ (missing) 6 7 8

It can be played completely in the lower octave but it require more bending skills.

1 2+ 2′ 3” 3 4

Applying third psoition scales

Playing in a new position require quite a lot of practice but if you translate some of the riffs you already know to the third position scales you will have a good start.

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