FAQs: What Is Cross Harp?

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What is 2nd Position also known as Cross Harp?

If you exhale on Holes 1234 of your C harp you get a C chord.

If you inhale on holes 1234, you produce a G chord.

If you play your C harmonica in the key of G, using your G notes as the Tonic Center, or home base, you will naturally find yourself accenting the draw notes and naturally getting a bluesy sound.

This is Cross Harp, 2nd position, the style of the blues, and most of the secrets can be found is the Cross Harp Draw Chord, and the reeds within each chamber.

Bending the Low Draw Reeds

Bending is the technique of lowering and raising the pitch of the note normally provided by the reeds. It’s a shift in the vibration of the reed by a shifting of the air pressure inside your throat.

Bending adds lots of important notes. Hole number 3 draw actually has four notes in it. By bending correctly, you can play each.

Four draw has two possible notes. Two draw has three. You can play them as individual notes, like separate notes on a piano, or you can slur from one to next and the next after that.

Bending Basics

Play a clear consistent note at 4 draw, 3 draw or 2 draw with a deep embouchure and totally relaxed face. TOTALLY RELAXED.

As you draw your perfect single note, click the “kee” motion in the back of your throat. If the fundamentals are right, the kee will direct the air to the roof of your throat and give you an unbent note..
If you click “koo,” your airstream will be directed to a much deeper place in your throat and the pitch of your note will follow.

To practice, draw on holes 2, 3 or 4 as you click “Kee Koo Kee.”

Kee Koo

Your Embouchures

I use each of the mouth-to-harp connections shown below, often changing within the same riff or phrase. As far as I’m concerned, any of these is valid, and the more, the better. Tongue-blocking and its variations are essential for traditional blues. Country harmonica is more often the lip-blocking method. Learn to use every pleasing sound that can be coaxed out of the instrument.

  • Open high, place harmonica against corners of lips.
  • Breathe naturally, gentle inhale and exhale.
  • Sink into it. Relax. Relax more.
  • Use your tongue or lips to narrow, split, bend the airstream.
Your Embouchures


Articulation is the art of initiating and breaking up notes. While playing melodies, Articulation often follows the cadence of the lyrics. To get the richest tone articulate from your throat, from that spot where you say “ka” and “ga” “Hah.” This assures you are playing from your throat, rather than from your lips.

Other essential forms of articulation include hand-cupping, bending, exploding “ha, ha, ha,” tongue slaps, (tongue on and off the harmonica holes), changing from one note to another, and for your fastest articulation, try tonguing, ie. tapping the tip of your tongue on that fleshy ridge above your teeth (as in “ta ta ta.”)

Breathing and Vibrato

Although most harp players and many teachers say “blow” and “draw,” it is more accurate to say “inhale” and “exhale.” Breathe through the harmonica, playing from as deep a space within your body as possible.

Vibrato is that wonderful trembling of tone that comes from “uh-uh-uh-uh motion connecting body and throat. You can get there by imitating a stereotypical geezer saying “W-e-e-e-ell, s-o-n-n-y.” or doing a boyhood imitation of a machine gun, on the draw. It boils down to consciously breathing in and out as fully as possible as you vibrate from deep inside.

Blues Harmonica Riffs

A riff is a pattern of notes that you can learn, and use to jam with blues guitar, or jamming tracks. It is important to get these riffs and others into your muscle memory so you can learn to play them without thinking. This allows you to fit them into groovy phrases with rhythmic and timing precision.

Remember that 2 draw is the homebase note when you play Cross Harp and 4 draw is a Wailing Note which creates a sense of tension and that good ol’ wailing feeling.

d=draw  |  b=blow

The Up Riff

2d 3d 4b 4d

Down Riff

4d 4b 3d 2d

Four Draw Surprise

4d 4b 3d 4d 6b

Blow Down

6b 5d 4d 4b 3d 2d

Getting these riffs into your muscle memory is a great way to get the feeling of Cross Harp and blues in your playing. Of course, these simple riffs are easily adjusted to fit the music you are accompanying, and to add feeling and emotion.

Tips For Tone

Here are some of the best things you can do to get a great open tone:

  • Really relax. Relax your jaw, your lips and your breath. Relax more!
  • Do not clamp down on harmonica with your lips.
  • Do not play on the edge of your lips.
  • Inhale and exhale from deep inside.
  • Do not force or jam air pressure through the harmonica.
  • Make the harmonica a part of your body.
  • Make your airstream tremble from deep inside.

Ready to Learn More?

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