What are your favorite scales?

I know the blues scale…but I am not a huge blues fan, and I lean towards playing classical/ rock.

What scales do you guys enjoy using on harmonica that aren’t blues? (Tabs would be helpful if you don’t mind!)

Thank you!


Other than the blues scale, the scale I often use the most is the 2nd position mixolydian scale. It’s basically the major scale, but with the dominant 7.
2- 3-" 3- 4+ 4- 5+ 5- 6+ 6- 7- 7+ 8- 8+ 9- 9+
The only difficult part is the three draw whole step and is basically used if you want to sound bluesy, but not too bluesy in a traditional non-Johnny Cash related country song. The song I think of that uses the mixolydian scale is the Daryl Singletary song, “A Love That Never Died”. Terry McMillan used this scale to its fullest potential in this song without going wild with the blues scale like he usually does (yes, he can and could sound more traditional as opposed to his more iconic “rip n snort” playing style, but he still sounded like himself rather than being just another Charlie McCoy clone).


While I don’t actually have a “favorite” scale. I thought that I would post here about a scale that I rarely see mentioned much, but is fun to try out for those looking for something new. It is referred to by some jazz musicians as the Coltrane Pentatonic (named after the famous saxophonist John Coltrane).

It consists of the scale degrees: I II bIII V VI

The tabs for playing this in 2nd position on a Richter-tuned blues harp are:

-2 -3" -3' -4 +5

which, on a C blues harp, are the notes: G A Bb D E

If you happen to have a blues harp with Todd Parrott tuning then this lets you play the next octave without needing to use an overblow 6 (+6o):

+6 -6 -7 -8 +8

and just add +9 to complete the run up to the final root note. Of course at the low end -2 and +2 also belong to the scale as do the high end notes at -10 and +10".

The scale (in the key of C) can be played over any of the following chords (transpose as necessary for playing the scale in other keys):

Cmin B7#9+5 (aka B7alt) F9 A-7b5 D7sus4b9 F13

and perhaps others as well. So give it a try and see if you like it !! :wink:


– Slim :sunglasses:


Pretty sure the beginner train has left the station. But very interesting.


Hi @Barry1

Don’t be freightened away by those fancy chords in my post !! :point_left: Probably the most important one for blues novices is the first one in the list: Cmin. Why? Because in a blues in Cmin that is the “root” chord (the I chord) and that chord is played anywhere from 6 to 8 times in a typical 12-bar blues – more than any of the other chords in the song – so you could play using the Coltrane Pentatonic scale anytime that the C minor chord is being played.

Perhaps not many beginners have an F harp (which can be used to play a blues in Cmin when the harp is played in 2nd position), but almost every blues harp beginner has a C harmonica. When that C harp is played in 2nd position you can play to a blues song in G minor quite easily. And then the C minor chord is no longer the “root” chord, but now it is the G minor chord. So then you play the Coltrane Pentatonic scale in G on your C harp. This uses the same pattern of blow and draw holes that I gave you in my post:

-2 -3" -3' -4 -5

The Coltrane Pentatonic scale is, as harmonica scales go, one of the easiest out there. The only difficult note for beginners is the -3". But if you practice the C major scale at the low end:

+1 -1 +2 -2" -2 -3" -3 +4

which is the notes:


(which, of course, is something everyone should be able to play) then you will eventually get the -3" right on the button. The -3’ in the Coltrane scale is an absolute must for blues harp players even if they don’t play the Coltrane Pentatonic scale – and if you can’t play that note, then watch out because the blues police will show up at your door some day and confiscate your harps !! :dizzy_face:

So give that Coltrane Pentatonic a chance and see if it is something you might like to add to your usual blues playing library.


– Slim :sunglasses: