Natural Minor vs Harmonic Minor Harmonicas

Natural Minor and Harmonic Minor Harps

Last month I wrote about why Natural Minor harmonicas are awesome.

(If you missed it you can read about it here as well as check out this videoof me playing Natural Mystic on an Am Natural Minor Harmonica.)

But here’s the gist:

:one: Natural Minor harmonicas are:

Labeled in 2nd position

(A Gm Natural Minor is in the same range as a C standard tuned harmonica)

Everything that you can play in 2nd position on a standard harp, works perfectly on a Natural Minor harp, but now it just SOUNDS MINOR.

It’s the PERFECT choice to play on a MINOR BLUES (a blues where both the i chord and the iv chord are both minor).

That’s why I think Natural Minor harmonicas are the best choice for a beginner or intermediate player’s first foray into the big wide world of alternate tunings.

:two: What about Harmonic Minor? How is it different? First of all, Harmonic Minor is:

Labeled in 1st position

(A Cm Harmonic Minor is in the same range as a C standard tuned harmonica)

The video “Moonshines”, a collaboration between Moses Concas and Lee Oskar filmed in Germany in 2020, is helpful in hearing the difference.

Moses is playing on a C Harmonic Minor harmonica. It’s got the i minor chord on the blow, and the V7 dominant chord on the draw which creates more tension. Dramatic, classical, intense, and Eastern are all good adjectives to describe it. :fire:

Lee Oskar starts on the C HARMONIC Minor, and you can hear a good melodic example of what I call an “Eastern” here.

By contrast, he switches to the C NATURAL Minor at 1:13. Notice how now we’re hearing more bluesy type melodies that we’re used to vs. the early classical sounds?

That’s the difference in a nutshell. OH, and by the way, I spoke with Lee on the phone recently, and he tells me Moses Concas is slated to fly to Seattle this summer so the two of them can record an entire album together! :hugs: :notes:

If you’re uninterested in music theory, you can skip to the next section. On the other hand, if you fancy a theory lesson on the subject

Natural Minor is called such because it’s what you get “naturally” when you play from A to A on the white keys of the piano.

COMPARED to a MAJOR scale, NATURAL Minor’s 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees are each lowered by a half-step. This is what creates its more somber, pensive, or sad tonality compared to major.

To get the HARMONIC Minor scale, on the other hand, we simply take the NATURAL Minor scale, and RAISE the 7th degree back up a half-step. This changes the tonality in 2 important ways:

1) MELODICALLY, it creates “an augmented 2nd” (which is another name for a minor 3rd) between the 6th and 7th scale degrees, and this is what creates its EASTERN sound.

2) HARMONICALLY, this may sound confusing at first but follow me here: the 7th degree of the scale is the 3rd of the V chord. So NATURAL Minor has a minor v chord. Whereas, HARMONIC Minor has a major V chord WHICH CREATES MORE TENSION wanting to resolve back to the root (dramatic, classical, intense). To hear this in action, here’s a great video on the subject.


Will Wilde does a range harps in minor tuned to his tuning. I fancy giving one of those a go sometime in the future.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the blue third on the three hole unbent on a minor harp?

Again correct me if I’m wrong most people are told to buy a C harp when learning but this would be a G-Minor as the equivalent in a minor harp?


Yep, you are correct. -3 is the minor 3rd, as well as -7. And yeah Natural Minor is labeled in 2nd position key, so a Gm is equivalent to a C harmonica. Let us know how you like it when you pick one up!


So the blues scale on a Gm would be?:
-2 -3 +4 -4b -4 -5 +6


Yes, that’s it.


Just bought a baby fat off Ali express in A minor. So I’m going to give this minor thing ago. It should be here in 15 days.


The Baby Fat came today. Have I got this minor harp thing wrong. Just got this A Minor Baby Fat but I don’t think Kongshen use the labeling from Second position. The pitch is in A. I thought if labelled in second position it should still have the high pitch of a D harp.

Have I got this right or am I totally off the mark.


Hi @Dai

All of my Baby Fat harps are “normal” Richter tuned blues harps and I have noticed that the different keys for each Baby Fat (regardless of tuning) are “color coded”. My Baby Fat in A has the same color as yours with its minor tuning – so it seems that the Baby Fat minor tuned harps indeed use first position labels.

I love the tone the Baby Fat harps, and also the way their small size permits greater/better “hand-wah” effects! I would need hands like a giant (or like the former boxer Sonny Liston) to get the same results with my 10-hole harps! :crazy_face:

Best regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:


If I knew this I would have bought a D version. We live and learn.