1st Position Blues Harp – An Introduction (Part 3)

A guide to straight blues harping

In previous posts we considered why 1st position blues can sometimes be left in the shadows. We also touched on building a general awareness of positional playing, how some positions are interchangeable, the Ionian Mode, the low end 1st position blues scale and some low end 1st position signature riffs (links below).

One thing is certain; played well, the top register of the blues harp packs a mighty punch and it’s a crowd pleaser. Any blues harp player who likes to showboat will agree. John Popper of Blues Traveler rips it up with his quickfire high end licks. Sugar Blue blows us away in high altitude 3rd position, while Magic Dick blows the roof off with some soaring cross harp blow bends. A long list of stars knock us down every time with their death defying high wire antics. But it’s not only the fast stuff that delivers.

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Top End Harp Playing

Apart from the known and the unknown, what else is there?’ Harold Pinter

What is the ‘Top End’?

Holes 7-10 and everything that goes with them. When I first took up the harp, it seemed players always asked each other two questions: ‘Do you tongue block?’ and ‘Do you use the top end?’ At that time I didn’t do either. I didn’t really know what they were.

Apart from one high-pitched lick I had gleaned from The Cheaters song ‘Drugs’ (on their excellent ‘Sweat It Out’ album), I think I cracked blow bends long before I ever explored what has lovingly become known as ‘banjo country’. The top end. I go there more often these days (I also tongue block). (more…)