Dennis Gruenling

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Third Is The Word

Performance and Introduction To Series

Hi there Junctionaires - Dennis Gruenling here with my new study song “Third Is The Word.” My last piece was a focus on the 2nd Position blues scale, so I found it fitting that we should now focus on the blues scale for what has quickly been becoming the second most popular position for blues playing…3rd Position. In this song the main focus is the blues scale, but techniques such as octaves, trills, and many others are also used. This is in the key of B on an A harmonica in 3rd position, with a 12-bar John Lee Hooker influenced groove.

Haven’t you heard…Third Is The Word!

- Dennis Gruenling




Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
3rd Position

Backing Track

Print Print Chords & Tab

A Harp in the Key of B.

Loop 0:44 Third Position and The Blues Scale

Loop 3:28 Breakdown of First 4 Bars

Loop 3:28 First Verse

Loop 3:50 Second Verse

Loop 4:11 Third Verse

Loop 4:31 Fourth Verse

Loop 4:52 Fifth Verse

Loop 5:13 Sixth Verse

Loop 5:33 Seventh Verse

Loop 5:54 Eighth Verse

Loop 6:15 Ninth Verse

Loop 6:36 Tenth Verse

Loop 6:57 Eleventh Verse

Loop 7:16 Twelfth Verse





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klaus meyer
klaus meyer Nov 28, 2018

Next one:

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Nov 28, 2018

Real nice! Geat work, and the phrasing was more fluid for sure....good job! 

klaus meyer
klaus meyer May 30, 2018

Not perfect - but now i'am one month out for HOLIDAYS ;-))

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jun 04, 2018

VERY good!! Real nice work there Klaus! The next step is to just work on finessing the bends a little more so thay are smoother and less quick...and just smoother transitions overall in some of the phrases....but that is VERY good! Great job, and I'm looking forward to the next version! Right on...

Gagi May 19, 2017

dennis its nice and fantastic,but we are waiting "guitar backing track".if its possible


Mike Caren
Mike Caren May 19, 2017

Thanks for the reminder Gagi -- the backing track is now up.

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Mar 20, 2017

Thanks again.  As a friend of mine use to say, constraints are good.  It's good to know what to focus on.

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Mar 19, 2017

Thanks for your reply.  The way you can use bent notes in a given position is something I hadn't thought of but which is obviously really important to how it all sounds.  It seems like this series which focuses on the blues scale is the right place to start.  Maybe in the future you could feature playing third position in a major or minor mode.  That idea of what notes to play and not play is something I approach mainly by ear at this point, just beginning to have some theory to frame it.  Everything that helps me to develop an ear for a given scale is great.  Any theory that helps me develop a more general understanding of what's going on is a bonus for me.  I have taken some rudimentary theory so I'm primed to make use of that kind of information now.

Really looking forward to working on this series. 


Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Mar 20, 2017

 Thanks again Bill! 

If you're a blues player, the best focus is on the blues scale and the many ways you can use it. Playing blues is not truly major, and not truly minor. However, the blues scale DOES work in a minor key. This is the best place to start, and most players (even pros) haven’t even mastered this yet...

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Mar 19, 2017

Hi Dennis,

I'm really glad you're doing this third position tune.  I'm in the category of someone who has noodled around with it some but really hasn't gotten tight with it, and I want to.  I've gotten to the point in my listening where I can tell, at least most of the time, when the harmonica part is being played in third position.  It has a very distinctive sound.  Even though you're playing strictly in the blues scale, as you did in second position with the "Scaled Down" study song, this third position playing sounds distinctly different.  Is it that certain licks and distorted notes fall more naturally in this position?  I used to think that it just fit minor tunes better but then I listen to James Cotton's playing in "Heart Attack" and, even though I can tell it's in third position somehow, it doesn't have that dark and dirty feel (not incidentally, we should all be mourning the loss this past week of one the immortals of blues harmonica.)  I think I'm starting to get carried away here, but I would love to hear your take on this question.



Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Mar 19, 2017

Hi Bill - You bring up some great questions and ideas. Each position sounds distinctly different just because of the tuning of the instrument and how the different parts of the scale are played (some are bent notes, others are not, etc)...and of course certain "distorted"notes work in one position better than another because of the tuning of the instrument.

The idea that 3rd position is only useful for something "minor" is very simplistic and basically wrong thinking. You can play in ANY position in ANY mode (minor, major, blues, etc) as long as you know what notes to use and to NOT use. 3rd position does have some minor notes easily available, but it also has some major notes easily available. You have to know where to go! 

Yes, I have posted on social media (facebook and Instagram) about the loss of James Cotton. He is one of my main influneces on the harmonica. The three biggets influences I have from the originators of blues harp are Little Walter, James Cotton, and George "Harmonica" Smith. I was glad I got to meet him early on and know him a little bit, as well as perform with him. He was a great man, and one of the best harp players ever!

Boyd R
Boyd R Mar 17, 2017

A nice lesson

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Mar 18, 2017

Thanks! Hope you have fun with this one!

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