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primary diatonic triads

If you are learning to play the harmonica playing scales is not enough. You have to learn about harmony. You have to familiarize yourself the chords in a key, you have to know where the imprtant notes of the key are and how they work together to create harmonic functions. In order to get you started on this road we will start by taking a look at the primary triads of the major scale.


The diatonic major scale can be split up into 3 very important triads: the tonic, the subdominant and the dominant triad. The tonic triad is the triad built upon the root of the scale, the subdominant triad is build upon the 4th note of the scale and the dominant triad is built upon the fith of the scale. Each of these triads is a major triad consisting of a major third on the bottom and a minor third on top.


example 1: the primary triads of the C major scale.


primary diatonic triads - first position 









example 2: the primary triads of the C major scale arpeggiated.


primary diatonic triads - arpeggiated 










As you can see these 3 triads together hold all the notes of the major scale.

Although these three triads are constucted in exactly the same way they interact with each other when they are played one after the other to create a very familiar harmonic motion.

If you play the following line you will probably be able to feel how the triads function within the key.


example 3: tonic, subdominant, dominant melody.


primary diatonic triad melody 








In traditional harmony these three chords are usually described as follows: The tonic chord is a place of rest, the subdominant leads away from the tonic and the dominant leads back to the tonic.



Play the triad arpeggios on the following chord changes (as in the melody above):


| C | F | G | C ||


Slowly expand the notes that you are using, but stay within each of the triads. So on the C chord you can play any of the blow notes but none of the draw notes, on the F chord you can play any F, A or C on the harmonica but no other notes and on the G chord you can play any G,B or D on the harmonica, but no other notes.

Try to work within these limitations and still produce a good sounding melody. You will find that you will discover much about the functions of chords when doing this and in time you will start to recognize these functions in a lot of music that you know.


Once you are familiar with the primary triads of the first position you can start doing the same excersise for the other 11 positions.

























































20-11-2011 13:09
FM Luque
Thanks for the suggestions, Tinus. Yeah, even though I try not to use the tip of the tongue, it's very hard for me on the higher register, so I can't avoid using it at the end to force the note to bend down. I've never been able to bend any note (blow or draw) using tongue-blocking, but I'll work on that.
20-11-2011 02:32
@FM Luque: If the reeds are set tight then you are probably good to go. The instability is probably because you are using the tip of the tongue to make the bend. It is very tempting to do so because getting the note to bend at all is much easier when you use the tip of the tongue. However, because the tip of the tongue isn't attached to much it is inherently unstable. That is why it is always preferable to use the back of the tongue to do the bending. A very good way to practice this is by doing the bend tongblocked. That way you can't use the tip to do the bending.
19-11-2011 11:44
FM Luque
Great sites, Tinus. This web & overblow.com are helping my overblow & overdraw technique inmensely.

I'm working on this lesson, trying to extend the triads on the higher register, but when I get to the V chord, I'm getting a really hard time hitting the 3rd (B note on 10 hole blow, bent a half step). I think it's the most difficult note to sustain on the entire chromatic range for the C diatonic harp. It sounds very unstable, trembling a lot and fluctuating back and forth to the C note continuously. Any tips on vocal tract and/or mouth & tongue position to get a more stable sound? My reeds on this hole are pretty close to the reed plates, and it's not so hard for me to get the C# (10 overdraw). Could help setting the reeds a little higher on this hole to the sustain of the B note, or it's everything about vocal tract resonance?
12-10-2011 18:13
prince moinuddin
Basically there are four types of Triads. Such as MAJOR TRIAD, MINOR TRIAD, AUGMENTED TRIAD, DIMINISHED TRIAD. They create four scales. Major Triad for Major Scale. Minor Triad For Minor Scale. Augmented Triad for Augmented Scale. Diminished Triad For Dimnished Scale. Such As IF C is the Key Note. CEG is C- major Triad, CEbG is C- Minor Triad, CEG# is C- Augmented Triad, CEbF# is C- Dim Triad. Undoubtedly this is a Very RICH WEB PAGE where one can easily learn Music Theory. Thanx to the Authority.
31-08-2011 02:15
Thanks for the quick reply, Tinus, now that makes sense for me :-)
31-08-2011 01:51
@Kixki I was talking about how the chords are constructed: the chords consist of 3 notes each and for all 3 chords the interval between the lowest note of the chord and the middle note is a major third and between the middle note and the top note a minor third. That is how you make a major triad.
30-08-2011 20:37
Hi, Tinus:
I don't really understand what you mean by this: '(Each of these triads is a major triad consisting of) a major third on the bottom and a minor third on top.' Dank ue well!
07-10-2009 14:20
Your friend is right about the dorian. It isn't really a scale, it is a mode of major. So if you want to get into jazz learn music theory. If you understand how the scales are constructed then you don't really need to memorize them, you just memorize the logic behind them. Then you have to learn to play the, which is a different matter.
If you want to learn to play jazz I suggest your learn your major scales and learn the modes of the major scale.
07-10-2009 05:49
Billy V
Hey. With jazz you play in many keys. And in many different diatonic scales. DId you ever try to memorize a lot of them. WHAT DID YOU DO.
I know the Blues scales. 1st 2nd 3rd 5th.
I cannot play the 1st well on the bottom octave because of that one overblow.
I wrote down all twelve positions of major scales. My friend who is teaching me does not play harmonica though. He told me not to look at the dorian scales so later I will see how the majore scale is the root of all. WHAT should I do to get into jazz.
13-09-2007 20:26
Rex Platner
Hello, What kind of donation would encourage you to start my lessons? Please advise :)
17-08-2006 20:17
Pleaso do, and don't worry, you can come and study even when you can't do the exercises in all 12 positions.
17-08-2006 19:04
Alan M. Hall

Lots of work here. Maybe when I get all this I can come and study with you.
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