Flat 2,3 or 6 etc

Thought i knew all the jargon but i hadn’t come across the term “flat 2 or flat 3 or whatever.” what is meant by this?
Thanks …

Hi @martorgan,

You probably use a C harmonica, so I will try to explain this based on that assumption. On the C harp, when played in the first position you get the C Major scale several times from low on up to the high end of the harp. The notes of this scale are: C, D, E, F, G, A and B. Following that B the sequence repeats, with all notes sounding an octave higher in pitch.

At the low end of the C harp, several draw notes must be bent in order to play the C Major scale (which I do not know if you are advanced enough to play them), so I will describe the middle octave (which does not require any note bending).

To get the C Major scale in this middle range we start with +4 (blow into hole 4) and we hear the root note of the scale, which is the note C. The 2nd note of this scale is D, which you get by playing -4 (draw on hole 4). However, there is actually another note between the C and the D, and it can be written as C# (C sharp) or as Db (D flat). To play that note (which actually is not in the C Major scale), you play -4’ (which is a draw-bend on hole four). This note can be (and often is) called the flat 2nd or flat 2 of the parent scale (in this case the C Major scale).

The 3rd note of the C Major scale is the note E, played as +5 (blow into hole 5) on the C harp. Between the 2nd note (D) and this 3rd note (E) there is another note (that is also not in the C Major scale) and it can be written as D# (D sharp) or as Eb (E flat). To play this note requires using the advanced technique of an "overblow (a type of blow bend) on hole 4 of the C harp. This note (Eb) can be (and often is) called the flat 3rd or flat 3 of the parent scale (again, in this case, the C Major scale).

The flat 6 you can now perhaps figure out yourself: the 6th note of the C Major scale is the note A, played on the C harp as -6 (draw on hole 6) and the flat 6 is the note Ab, played as -6’ (which is a draw-bend on hole six). This note has a pitch that is between the notes G (the 5th note of the C Major scale, played as +6 by blowing into hole 6) and A. It’s pitch is said to be a half-step lower than the note A.

In short: a flat X (replace X by a number, such as 2, 3, 5 or even 13, etc) means to play the note X from the parent scale in such a manner that the resulting note is a half-step lower in pitch than the note X.

Similarly, a sharp X means to play the note X from the parent scale in such a manner that the resulting note is a half-step higher in pitch than the note X.

For more details and better explanations, I refer you to any text about introductory music theory. You can start with this Wikipedia link, but I would suggest going to a library and getting a beginner’s book.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Thank you very much Slim…for a great explanation of a difficult to explain subject.
I would regard myself as ‘intermediate’ so I can and do play ‘bends’ I have a basic knowledge of music so i can understand scales. I wasn’t aware of the term ‘flat’, but thanks to you i fully understand.
Once again my thanks, to you for the detail you went through in order for me to fully understand. Thanks !

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My pleasure, @martorgan ! Not knowing your harp skill level or knowledge of music theory concepts did make my reply perhaps too long-winded :thinking: but I thank you for the kind words and I’m happy that I could help.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Yeah the only thing I would add to @slim’s discussion of the subject is that the intervals have different names when they are lowered by a half-step.

MAJOR intervals (2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th) become MINOR when they are lowered by a half-step.

So a flat 2 or flat 3 is another way of saying a Minor Second or a Minor 3rd.
SYNONYMS:
Flat 2 = Minor 2nd
Flat 3 = Minor 3rd
Flat 6 = Minor 6th
Flat 7 = Minor 7th

PERFECT intervals become DIMINISHED when they are lowered by a half-step. In practicality this really only applies to the PERFECT 5TH, which when it is lowered a half-step is called a DIMINISHED 5TH. Another common name for this interval is the TRITONE.

Since we’re on the subject, might as well round it out with this. When MINOR intervals are raised by a half-step they’re obviously called MAJOR. But when PERFECT intervals are raised by a half-step they are called AUGMENTED. This applies practically to the raising of the 4th and 5th degrees being called AUGMENTED 4TH and AUGMENTED 5th.

MORE SYNONYMS
Flat 5 = Diminished 5th =Tritone = Augmented 4th
Flat 6 = Minor 6th = Augmented 5th

I could go on and on talking about how these named as chord extensions, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already said more than you ever wanted to know! :rofl:

Great question @martorgan. Keep 'em coming!

Aloha,
Luke

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Thanks Luke. You could “never answer more than I wanted to know” Because like many other’s on here we value the musical education that the likes of yourself and Slim provide.
If not for your answers then at this moment i still would be ignorant as to what was meant by these ‘terms’.
Long may this site live.

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Just an amendment to my answer above…As well as “thanking Luke and Slim”, Thank you to all the other members on here who give their valued answers from time to time.
THANK YOU !

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