This is a public version of the members-only Harmonica with Howard Levy, at ArtistWorks. Functionality is limited, but CLICK HERE for full access if you’re ready to take your playing to the next level.

These lessons are available only to members of Harmonica with Howard Levy.
Join Now

by level
This groups the Lessons by level according to difficulty.
by style
This groups the Lessons by musical genre.
30 Day Challenge
Video Exchange Archive
«Prev of Next»

Harmonica Lessons: Major Scales and Key Signatures

Video Exchanges () submit video Submit a Video Lesson Resources () This lesson calls for a video submission
Study Materials Music Theory
information below
Lesson Specific Downloads
Play Along Tracks
resource information below Close
Collaborations for
resource information below Close
Submit a video for   

This video lesson is available only to members of
Harmonica with Howard Levy.

Join Now

information below Close
Course Description

This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Harmonica with Howard Levy. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Harmonica Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

CLICK HERE for full access.
Log In
And this leads us into the notes
that are in the different scales.
I'm gonna put up another sheet for
you now,
that shows you the key
signatures of every key.
In other words, which black keys are in
the major scale for the different keys.
Cuz the only key that doesn't use black
keys in the major scale is the key of C.
Every other key, just to play the simple
major scale, needs one of these five guys.
Remember I was talking about
the the positions going up on
the harmonica in fifths, first position,
second position is G, third position is D.
Well, if you look at this it
says ascending fifths, so
the key signatures, that in other words,
that points out which black
keys are needed for each key.
This system of key signatures
also goes up in fifths.
You see the treble cleft here?
The first key beyond C is G,
which is second position.
However, G major needs an F
sharp to play it's major scale.
On the harmonica it sounds like.
octaves up.
All the white keys except for
F sharp, the seventh note.
Every time you go up another fifth,
you add another one of these black keys.
And it's always the seventh note of
the scale that becomes the next black key,
it's interesting.
So we go up from G to D, and
we play the D major scale,
The D major scale contains
the F sharp within it.
From the G scale.
And it adds the next black key,
which is the seventh note of the scale,
which is C sharp.
Now the D major scale has F sharp and
C sharp.
We go
up another
fifth from D.
And we're at A.
A, A has three sharps, F sharp,
C sharp, and G sharp.
G sharp is the seventh
note of the A major scale.
This is very amazingly mathematical,
it makes you believe in God.
That's the A major scale.
Starting on the fourth hole draw bend.
C sharp,
F sharp,
G sharp.
So you see, now we're going up through
what used to be just the positions,
just modal,
but we're playing the major
scale in each one of these.
Following the scheme of what's called
the circle of fifths because it is a big
circle, I'll show you how it works.
The next key uses
those first three sharps.
F sharp, C sharp,
G sharp and adds D sharp,
[SOUND] which is the seventh note
of the E [SOUND] major scale.
A whole bunch
of bent notes and
an overblow.
E, E, F sharp, G Sharp.
C sharp.
D sharp, which is also called E flat, but
not in this key.
Fourth hole overblow.
And then five blow.
And the second octave.
Very good to play
the scales two octaves
going up and going down.
So that all the technical things on
the harmonica, of hitting bends and
hitting overblows.
Going from either side
to get relaxed about it.
Check your intonation on the piano.
The next key up is a fifth up from E.
Is B.
B was that Locrian mode.
[SOUND] So, now, to get the B major scale,
we need to add all five
of these black keys.
[SOUND] F sharp, C sharp,
G sharp, D sharp.
And A sharp,
which is the seventh note of the scale.
This has kind of a nice
rhythmic flow to it,
in terms of the rhythm of your breathing.
Because you get all three overblows,
and it's kind of comfortable.
Overblow blow.
Overblow draw bend.
Overblow draw.
It has kind of a nice rhythm.
I'll explore more of the rhythmic
breathing aspects of the harmonica later.
But even though the scale
technically is harder
than the E scale because
you need one more sharp.
It doesn't feel that bad.
It has a little swing to it.
That's not so easy.
But do it going up and down.
And if you want to continue these
scales further
cuz B isn't there.
All right now we've gotten through all the
keys that are on the right-hand side here,
and we've reached the bottom
of the circle of fifths.
Now you notice that at the bottom of
the circle of fifths something funny is
happening It says G flat and F sharp.
Why does it say that?
It's because the key of F sharp has
six sharps in the key signature.
And the key of G flat has six
flats in the key signature.
This is where we get into some
very odd terminology here.
I was trying not to show you this,
but now I have to.
So if it's F sharp.
The scale goes F sharp, G sharp, A sharp,
B, C sharp, D sharp, F, F sharp?
You can't call an F an F
sharp in the same key.
You have to call an F an E sharp.
Even if you think of it as an F.
In music theory, it's called an E sharp.
So if someone writes a piece of music
out for you in F sharp major, and
you see, there are six sharps here.
We must be in F sharp major.
That's why it's called the key signature.
It's the signature of the key.
Then, the F note will be
written on the E space or
the E line of the staff and
you have to know that it really sounds
like an F even though it's an E sharp.
So here's what the F sharp scale
sounds like on the harmonica.
A whole
bunch of bends and
And then the next octave.
gotten to
the halfway
point now.
I'm going to stop,
I'm not going to keep
going around this way.
See the way the arrow goes.
Ascending fourths, descending fifths.
I'm going to start going this way.
Remember I told you that F was the first
flat position as well
as the 12th position.
Because if you go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, it is the 12th fifth.
But, for the purposes of this lesson,
and maybe even just in general,
you see that it's the first key that
the key signature uses flats for.
The flat looks like that little b,
sort of funny-looking little b.
And the reason why F is
said to have one flat is
F, G, A, B flat, C, D, E, F.
If it's an A sharp, you'd have F,
G, A, A sharp, and C.
And you wouldn't have any note
that's on the B line or space.
And this would be impossible
in music to read.
You'd have to constantly be correcting it.
Which one is it?
So, the key of F on the harmonica.
Second hole draw bend.
There's only one black key, and
it happens to be the third hole
draw bend down a half step.
The next octave,
it's the sixth hole overblow.
There's just
one different note
between F Lydian
And F major.
Going up, down [LAUGH] and
up at the same time, to the next flat key.
You could call it the second
flat position if you want.
You could go up fourths,
To B flat,
And you notice that I played the B
flat major triad in my left hand.
The first, third, and
fifth notes of B flat.
[SOUND] To reinforce the scale.
This is a very rudimentary version of
what you have to do as a piano
player playing blues or
jazz that usually end up playing
the chords in the left hand.
And soloing in the right hand.
Playing very
rudimentary things here.
But as you are playing the harmonica,
it helps if you have sat
down at the piano and
just know what the notes of the chord are,
as well as what the notes of
the scale that you are playing are,
the chord of the key that you
are playing the scale in.
So, the B flat scale.
And the flats are added on,
the B flat is the fourth note of F and
then the B flat becomes
the first note of B flat and
the E flat is the fourth
note of the B flat scale.
So the flats are added on each
time you add another flat,
it's the fourth note of
the scale that you're adding on.
Because the flat keys all start on
black keys, as soon as you get past F.
It's a real different world.
See that fourth note of that scale?
And you want
to keep taking it
down if you want.
In case we run out of notes.
Okay, the next key,
which you could call
either the tenth position,
or the third flat position, or
I prefer to just say
I'm playing an E flat.
[LAUGH] See these position names start
becoming less important as you understand
more about music theory and
you just think keys.
So E flat, first I'll overblow.
The E flat scales goes,
E flat, F, G, A flat and
A flat is the next flat that's added on.
B flat, E flat, A flat.
It's the fourth note.
B flat, C D, E flat.
Second octave
Going up to the 8th hole
.Blow bend.
And the A flat is of course
the 6th hole drawn bend.
B flat is the sixth hole overblow.
So [SOUND] that's the E flat skip.
Going up another fourth
from E flat [NOISE]
we get to A flat
A flat has four flats.
B flat, E flat, A flat, and D flat.
Which is the fourth note
of the A flat scale.
[SOUND] So on the harmonica
A flat is the third hole
draw bent down all the way
going up to the sixth
hole draw bend
and then, up from there.
Now we're
at D flat.
[SOUND] It's a fourth up from A flat.
Right, remember this chorus?
D flat has five flats.
It has all the black keys in it.
Just like B had five sharps.
It's funny.
They're the same black keys, but
we're starting from a different point.
It's funny isn't it.
So here's how it goes.
D flat, E flat, F.
And now we've added G flat,
A flat, B flat, C, D flat.
So I'll play that scale for you.
Very hard to play it
really smoothly and in tune.
it can be done.
And try to pick any old major
key tune to play and try it in,
try it in D flat, if you can sing it.
If you know it.
Just a little
there in
D flat.
Just to show you you can play melodies
in these keys, it's not impossible and
they sound pretty cool.
It's a different sound because almost all
the notes you're playing are bents and
over blown, so it gives the whole
harmonica a different sound.
Every note is kind of a balancing
act in the inside of your mouth,
and it's very alive sounding,
I think it's really cool.
So now, we've
reached this point again.
And I have to tell you
that D flat can also be
thought of as the key of C
sharp with seven sharps.
Not important for you to know that.
Just as B could be thought of as
the key of C flat with seven flats.
This is really the biggest drag in music,
is reading in C flat.
So we've reached the midpoint and
now we're at the point where the key of
F sharp and G flat both have six flats.
So, if you wanna think
of this key as G flat.
It's got one very strange note in it.
Remember, the fourth is the one
that's always added as a flat,
each time you go up a fourth.
up for Fourth from D flat,
G flat, A flat, B flat, C flat.
[SOUND] C flat, terrible.
It's a B, but it's a C flat.
In F sharp it's a B, that's cool.
D flat E flat F G flat.
So G flat is better because we can say F
instead of E sharp like we have to
say if we're in the key of F sharp.
So both of them have weird notes in them.
Anyway, the important thing is
that [SOUND] the sound is a major
scale just like any other.
Whether you wanna think of it as G flat or
F sharp, or not think of it at all.
And just hear it as a key that
sounds just like any other key.
Except that the techniques that you need
to achieve the major scale in that key
are slightly different.
Because they involve different bends and
overblows on the C diatonic harmonica.
Now, when you try to play these
scales and other keys, of course,
you're gonna be in different positions.
If you pick up an A harmonica and
play the E major scale,
you'd be basically in cross harp with the
sharped seventh, the fifth hole over blow.
And this gets involved now in actually
reading music on different key harmonicas.
Now, you can see a little bit
more clearly what's involved.
If you learn how to read music on a C
harp, that should really be enough.
It really should be.
Because chromatic players,
they just have one C harmonica, and
they learn how to read
everything on that one C.
Us, diatonic players,
if you're really a fanatic,
you can learn how to read everything
on a C diatonic harmonica.
And it's only been very recently
that guys have started doing that.
But if in the realistic world of
commercial demand for your services,
people really don't wanna
hear you playing, lets say,
in A flat position on a C harmonica,
if you're in a country band.
If they have a country tune in A flat,
they're gonna wanna hear
They're gonna want you to pick
up the appropriate harmonica,
which in playing in A flat, you have
to down a fifth [SOUND] or up a fourth.
It would be a D flat harmonica.
So, you see all the different
kinda angles you have to learn
to be a harmonica player.
Surviving in the world
of commercial music,
cuz this is not an ivory
tower kinda thing.
This is something where you're gonna go
out in the world, many of you, and play.
Sit in, do all different kinds of stuff.
So, the funny thing about our
instrument is, it's one instrument, but
it's also 12 instruments.
And how many of those you wanna use
at different times is up to you, but
it's also determined by
your level of comfort in these different
keys on these different harmonicas.
And also with the people around you,
they might say,
I like it better when you play
an A flat on the D flat harmonica,
than when you play my country tune
on A flat on the C harmonica.
Or they might not say
anything at all [LAUGH].
But I'm just telling you from reality,
from my life experience,
that I always try to find
the instrument that sounds the best for
the setting I'm in, whatever it might be.
And sometimes, I'll change my mind.
Different nights,
I'll play different harmonicas.
And then, on my own,
I'll sit around either in my car.
I do practice in my car, I hate to say.
Or at my house, or in a dressing room, or
in a hotel room, I'll practice all sorts
of stuff that I might not have ready to
use yet on stage but I'll practice it.
I know that I should be able to do this.
But don't take anything onto the stage
before it's ready to go onto the stage.
So, if any of you want to submit
your scales to me in any of these keys,
not all of them please.
And these are just the major scales.
There's minor scales.
That's another subject.
But if you wanna submit, let's say,
six at the most, feel free to play them.
If you wanna sit down [SOUND] and
hit the chord on the keyboard and
hold the pedal down [SOUND],
that will help you play more in tune.
That would be very helpful.
And to try to remember all the things that
I taught you, more toward the beginning
and intermediate parts of this website,
of smooth breathing and connection.
You don't wanna sound like [SOUND], and
then looking at a harmonica [SOUND].
Remember, don't do any of that stuff,
try to connect them.
D flat.
Okay, just a little bit of advice to you.
Don't lose track of what you're doing,
don't forget that this is a beautiful,
soulful instrument.
We don't ever wanna make it sound dry or
mechanical or academic,
and say, yeah,
look at all this advanced stuff I'm doing.
It should always sound like music.
And like someone's someone
else would want to listen to.