Serendipity in Action: Inverted-Solo Tuning

A space for players interested in my specialist harmonicas, alternate tunings, instructional material, recordings etc to ask questions and share information, experiences, videos etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Brendan
Posts: 337
Joined: Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:28 pm
Contact:

Serendipity in Action: Inverted-Solo Tuning

Post by Brendan » Wed Mar 07, 2018 5:34 am

I inadvertently created an interesting new tuning nearly 30 years ago, without realising it until quite recently.

In the late 1980s I started retuning chromatics to make what I call Slide-Diatonics. These were primarily for Irish music, where I was playing in the home key and related modes of the chromatic (generally one in G or D), and using the slide for decorations. The semitone-up slide notes sounded inappropriate for this modal folk music style, so I tuned them all to the adjacent note of the home scale.

Using a C chrom in Solo Tuning for reference, the C blow slide-in note becomes D instead of C sharp, the D slide-in note becomes E, and so on. So if you have a Solo tuned scale in C, the slide notes will be:

Slide out: CD EF GA CB | CD EF GA CB | CD
..Slide in: DE FG AB DC | DE FG AB DC | DE

I played this for a while and later altered it a bit to this:

Slide out: CD EF GA CB | CD EF GA CB |
..Slide in: DE FG AC BC | DE FG AC BC |

I just used the slide-in notes as decorations for a couple of decades, and have recorded extensively with Slide-Diatonic played in this way. It's useful and effective!

But one day a few years ago I held the slide in, kept on playing - and it slowly dawned on me... Wow! I have a whole extra harmonica in there! And it's really attractive and soulful.

Without intending to, I had essentially inverted Solo tuning altogether - in the sense of totally reversing the blows and draws. So what was a blow became a draw, and vice versa. It retained the doubled C notes and other good features (like the adjacent G and C notes), but all the breath directions were opposite. Here it is starting on the C draw note, as a diatonic scale:

INVERTED SOLO TUNING (Brendan Power)
BC DE FG AC | BC DE FG AC | BC DE FG AC

With half-valved chromatics it has a pleasing bluesy flavour, because it's actually very close to playing Cross Harp on a diatonic. I've been transposing some tunes I know in Solo tuning to Inverted-Solo, and it's amazing how their character is transformed. The flow is similar but the energy is different, in a good way. Strange but familiar.

I showed Inverted-Solo to alt-tunings guru Pat Missin last year. To my surprise he reported that this note layout had never been logged before - so he added it to his excellent online database of harmonica tunings, ‘Altered States’: http://patmissin.com/tunings/tunings.html

On a chromatic you could make it the base scale and raise or lower every note a semitone, in the normal way. Or, a bit cheekily, you could make this the default Slide-Diatonic scale and have normal Solo tuning as the slide-in scale, like this:

INVERTED SOLO SLIDE-DIATONIC TUNING (Brendan Power)
Slide Out: BC DE FG AC | BC DE FG AC | BC DE FG AC
..Slide In: CD EF GA CB | CD EF GA CB | CD EF GA CB

Hah! The tables are turned, and traditional blow-based Solo Tuning now becomes the 'subsidiary' scale to draw-based Inverted Solo Tuning.

I've created a couple of chroms like this with half-valved chromatics and it really works: you get lots of enharmonics, cool alternate phrasing options, plus a lot of soul on the main chords tones 1, 3, 5. I'm finding it's especially good for bluegrass tunes, where you want that sliding fiddle flavour instead of totally straight notes.

If you're handy with tools try it yourself - you'll find it's rather tasty :-)

CrawfordEs
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Serendipity in Action: Inverted-Solo Tuning

Post by CrawfordEs » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:28 am

This is pretty cool and tempting to try.
I would be tempted to bebop it.
It seems like it might be a fun way to retune a half-Valved Lucky 13.
A bebop D would give full scales in G and D and in a switch harp you could have fast decorations and loads of note choices.

Post Reply