This lesson is all about what a blue third is and how to play it in 2nd position.
You will need a harmonica in the key of C and you can download the tablature by clicking the button below.
What are blue notes?
The blue notes are notes which are slightly bent down in pitch. Typically they are bent between a quarter tone and a semitone. How far, usually depends on the musician’s personal style. This kind of bend is known as a micro-tonal bend as it does not fit into a standard Western music notation system.
What is the blue third specifically and why does it sound good?
The blue third is the third degree (note) of the scale bent down around a quarter tone. In 2nd position this corresponds to the 3 hole draw.
The reason this sounds really tasty is because the third-degree of the scale is the note which determines whether it is major or minor. As you are playing a tonality which sits between the two, it gives that great bluesy sound which should be dissonant as it is merging the lines between major and minor. In essence this is what blues music is!
Adding in the blue third to the pentatonic scale
In the handout I have given you the pentatonic scale with and without the blue third so you can hear the different sounds.
Actually hitting that note
It isn’t a full bend and doesn’t require a huge amount of bending pressure. I like to think of my tongue being very far forward in my mouth and just activating rather than pulling back into a deep bending position. Really try and picture in your mind’s eye the bend occurring right in the front of your mouth.
The next problem is knowing whether you are playing it correctly. The best way to do this is to play a riff like “That Spoonful” (see handout) which jumps between the 2 draw and the blue 3rd and therefore gives you some kind of frame of reference. If you don’t bend it enough, it will sound like pop music rather than blues music. If you really bend it too much you will get a Middle Eastern vibe (quite cool but not what we’re going for).
Hoochie Coochie Man
Practice throwing in the blue third during the Hoochie Coochie Man riff. It will sound fantastic!
Good luck with your blue third practice. Let me know how you get on!