Scale of C Triplets Exercise

Exercises to develop three note phrasing

When we learn to play new songs on the harmonica, we often work on groups of notes, or phrases. A musical phrase is like speaking a sentence, or a putting a few words together when we talk. At the end of one phrase we might stop, or pause for breath, before we start the next phrase.

Using the C Major Scale, the exercise on this page will help you to connect short, three-note phrases called triplets. We play the first note of each triplet more strongly than the second and third notes to create a special rhythm, or time signature, that gives three beats to a bar. This is called 3;4 time, or waltz time. See if you can find the beat and count along to each of the examples below: 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

Skye Boat Song

Listen to

Lavender’s Blue

Listen to

Hickory Dickory Dock

Listen to

Santa Lucia

Listen to

ABC, One, Two, Three
We’re using a harmonica in the key of C. In the tab on this page, purple notes are for 4 hole harmonicas, and orange notes are for 10 hole harmonicas. The number shows which hole to play. B is breathing out (Blow) and D is breathing in (Draw). You can download and print the Arrow Tab using the orange icon here.

Let’s hear the ascending passage on the harmonica first, then break things down into smaller chunks. When the exercise is played at full tempo it creates a strong melody.

Listen to

Let’s break that down now. Decide when to use push-pull, pull-push and slide note skills as you play.

Ascending

Listen to

1B   1D   2B      1D   2B   2D
4B   4D   5B      4D   5B   5D

Listen to

2B   2D   3B      2D   3B   3D
5B   5D   6B      5D   6B   6D

Listen to

3B   3D   4D      3D   4D   4B      4D   3D   4D      4B    
6B   6D   7D      6D   7D   7B      7D   6D   7D      7B

Well done. Time to go the other way now. Let’s hear the descending passage on the harmonica, then break things down into smaller chunks. Once again, when the exercise is played at full tempo it creates a strong melody.

Listen to

Let’s break that down again. Remember to use your push-pull, pull-push and slide note skills.

Descending

Listen to

4B   4D   3D      4D   3D   3B
7B   7D   6D      7D   6D   6B

Listen to

3D   3B   2D      3B   2D   2B
6D   6B   5D      6B   5D   5B

Listen to

2D   2B   1D      2B   1D   1B      1D   2B   1D      1B   
5D   5B   4D      5B   4D   4B      4D   5B   4D      4B

Rub-a-dub-dub three men in a tub

Well done! Remember to start slowly until you are confident with each triplet phrase. As you speed up, keep to a steady beat and count yourself in 1-2-3. Good control and an even delivery are important to otherwise things will sound too random. Once you know all the phrases, ascend and descend smoothly in one go, accenting the first note of each triplet as you play. Then perform the exercise as you would a new song.

Key Skills

  • Phrasing
  • Triplets
  • Waltz time
  • Accent
  • Counting in