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 Here's an example:
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 not highlighted.)

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.

1st Column

The first column shows the playing technique, except for the bottom row which labels which hole the columns indicate.  Here are what the labels mean:

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.

2nd Row

The second row shows all the natural draw notes (unbent) for that key of harmonica.

3rd Row

The third row (') shows what all the available half step draw bend notes are.

4th Row

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.

5th Row

The fifth row ("')/(') shows the 3 half step draw bend, and the 1 half step blow bends.

6th Row

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 7-10.

Internal Cells

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 are Highlighted.

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 relationships.


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 see the
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.