Diatonic Layout Diagrams
The layout diagrams generated automatically by the layout
generator, shown in the Key of C Layouts
section, and used through out these pages are packed with a lot of information.
Here's how to read the layouts.
The title consists of two lines that specify the
key of the harmonica and
Harp Tuning (Major, Natural Minor, Melody Maker, or Country Tuning) on
the first line, with the
Here's an example:
type of scale (major, minor, diminished, pentatonic, or blues scales),
resulting harmonica position designation on
the second line.
C Diatonic Harmonica Layout
Key of C Major, Position 1
Below the title is the main body of the layout--a rectangular grid that
contains labeling and playing technique (e.g. blow, draw, bend, overbend)
information, note names, and scale degree information (the subscripts),
with notes that fall in the musical scale highlighted
and enlarged. (Enharmonic overblows and overdraws are
The layout generator allows you to specify whether the draw notes
are on top, or the blow notes are on top. I prefer to think with
the draw notes on top since if the 1 blow is C the 1 draw is D,
which is higher than C, so it makes sense to show the draw note
higher in a diagram. But, if you think in terms of how a harp is
made, internally the blow reeds are higher than the draw reeds, and in
most books the diagrams are shown that way. To me it doesn't matter
how the thing is built.. it's how the notes are organized that is important.
I normally show the draw notes on top, and that's the layout I'll describe
here. It's just inverted for the blows-on-top layout.
The first column shows the playing technique, except for the bottom row
which labels which hole the columns indicate. Here are what the labels
OB means overblow. (OD on the last line means overdraw.)
Draw means play while breahing in.
Each tic (') means a half step bend, so ' means bend 1 half step, " means
bend 2 half steps, which is a whole step, and "' means bend 3 half steps.
Blow means play while breathing out.
Hole means which hole is played.
Top (1st) Row
The top (first) row shows the overblow notes associated
with the corresponding hole. Overblows are only available (on a non-discrete
comb) on holes 1-6. Holes 7-10 are labeled after
the overblows so you can see how the harp layout changes at hole 7, the
harp divided into two parts, low holes 1-6 and high holes 7-10. Holes
1-6 are labeled in the bottom row.
The second row shows all the natural draw notes (unbent)
for that key of harmonica.
The third row (') shows what all the available half step
draw bend notes are.
The fourth row (") shows what all the whole step (2 half
step) bends are. The draw bends are only available on holes
1-6, and only blow bends are available on holes 7-10.
The fifth row ("')/(') shows the 3 half step draw bend,
and the 1 half step blow bends.
The sixth row shows all the natural blow notes (unbent)
for that key of harmonica.
Bottom (Last) Row
The bottom (last) row labels the hole numbers for
holes 1-6, and shows the overdraw for
holes 7-10. The hole numbers continue in the top row for holes
The internal cells show the pitch of the note in that
hole, when played as shown in the first column for holes 1-6, or the last
column for holes 7-10 (which only matters in one case, where the 3 half
step draw bend is shown on the same row as the 1 half step blow bends).
Notes that fall in the specified musical scale
The subscripts like 1 or 3b
show the scale degree, i.e. where the note
falls in the major scale. The tonic,
or root note of the scale (what note it starts on) is numbered 1, and you
just count up from there. The flatted notes will have a 'b'
after them, e.g. 3b means the flat third. The scale degrees give
you a pitch-independent view of how the notes are related to each other.
If you choose a scale or mode other than Major (Ionian) you can see the
adjustments to the major scale that get you the other scale or mode.
In other words, in a minor scale the major scale's 3rd degree is flatted,
or in Mixolydian mode the 7th degree of the major scale is flatted, etc.
If you try to learn to read music for the diatonic, learning the scale
degree layout can only help. You'll have to learn to read standard
notation well enough to recognize the scale degrees in the key and interval
The last line of the layout diagram is the notes in the selected scale,
just for reference.
The "position naming" for "Natural Minor" harps is not standard.
Lee Oskar (TM) Natural Minor tunings are labled
so that the natural minor key starts at the 2-draw, which is Position 2.
The natural 1st position key of a Natural Minor harp is a Dorian minor.
Hohner (TM) labels its Natural Minor harps
as "Mol N", the 1st position Dorian minor key. So, to
natural minor key layout for a Natural Minor harp
you must pick 2nd Position (Cross Harp). To see the layout based
on the 1st postion Dorian Minor "mol n" key you must select Dorian Minor
as the harp tuning.