The Three Main Harmonica Scales You Need to Play Most Country Music

Hi. I thought I’d stop by to share a bit of my country music knowledge and teach y’all a bit about some scales you need to know in order to play country music. Whether it’s the traditional lip pursed blues sounds of the 50s, the high energy fast licks of the 60s and 70s, or the wailing, soaring cries of the 90s, country harmonica is actually a very broad spectrum despite what many people including harmonica players believe it to be. There is no specific sound to it, all you have to do is play from your soul. But one helpful thing you need to know is a little theory. In this post, I’ll show you three of the most common scales used in country harp: the major pentatonic scale, the mixolydian scale, and the blues scale.
Let’s start off with probably the most well known of these scales. The major pentantonic scale is what most people think of when it comes to a “country scale”. This, alongside the mixolydian scale, are the easiest ones to do out of the three as they require only one bend. If you haven’t checked your bending technique, you can find many videos online on how to do it.
The major pentatonic scale goes like this (I’ll be using my teacher’s way of tabbing in here):
2D/3B 3D’’ 3D 4D 5B 6B
It’s also easy to approach in the upper half of the harp.
6B 6D 7D 8D 8B 9B
Notice the breathing pattern on this one as it’s even on blowing and drawing.
Now if you think that’s the only scale you need for country, you are paritally correct. While this helps you a lot with the 60s, 70s, and 80s country harp, there are actually two more scales you need to expand your horizons. For instance, the mixolydian scale.
This is similar to the major pentatonic scale, but with an added 4 blow and 5 draw. A way I’d think of the mixolydian scale is imagine a C major scale being played on a song in the key of G. This is where the circle of fifths comes into play. All you have to do is move the root note of the original scale up to the fifth and boom, you have a mixolydian scale. It goes something like this:
2D 3D’’ 3D 4B 4D 5B 5D 6B
This is also easy on the upper register.
6B 6D 7D 7B 8D 8B 9D 9B
The last scale is a bit of a controversial one as I hear the Youtube blues harmonica teachers saying, “you can’t play the blues scale on a country song! You only play the major pentatonic scale!” And my rebuttal is that it worked for Terry McMillan, but then I realize they think he’s an obscure harmonica player or that he cheated to get all of his session work. Yes, you can play blues licks in country music, especially when it comes to the 90s and 00s era of country harp. This is the must-know scale to end all must-know scales and it goes something like this:
2D 3D’ 4B 4D’ 4D 5D 6B
For the upper register, it’s a bit more difficult because you need to overblow and overdraw to get the minor third and flat fifth.
6B 6Bo 7B 7Do 8D 9D 9B
Thanks for letting me share this info with you.



Fantastic post. I learned a lot thanks for sharing.



[quote=“KeroroRinChou, post:1, topic:10721”]
Hey @KeroroRinChou - YES indeed. I agree with everything you said here. Of with the Major Diatonic scale you can go even higher and lower as described here. But I understand you’re just giving the low octave and high octave root to root. :ok_hand:t3::notes::heart:

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