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
Hickory Dickory Dock
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.
Let’s break that down now. Decide when to use push-pull, pull-push and slide note skills as you play.
2B 2D 3B 2D 3B 3D
5B 5D 6B 5D 6B 6D
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.
Let’s break that down again. Remember to use your push-pull, pull-push and slide note skills.
3D 3B 2D 3B 2D 2B
6D 6B 5D 6B 5D 5B
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.
- Waltz time
- Counting in