PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

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rishio
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PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by rishio » Fri Dec 28, 2018 4:12 pm

I used PowerBender exclusively for the past 2.5 years and it’s been fantastic. I also studied BP’s PowerBender book which was really helpful in learning the tuning. It’s worth the change from Richter.. so much better in my opinion.

That said, I am now switching to the ED tuning full time (which is the same as the Paddy Richter Extended tuning, but starting 1.5 Steps lower).

It was a tough decision for me to make a full switch, but over the past 2.5 years I have a better idea of what I want out of my instrument and what tuning will serve me best. I expect to stick with this one for a lifetime and I’m loving it. Powerbender is now my second favorite tuning. Here are my thoughts (as an intermediate player) on the ED tuning if anyone is interested:

Am/C Layout:

[AB] [CD] [EG] [AB] [CD] [EG] [AB] [CD] [EG] [AB]

- A bit over 3 Octaves (versus 3 for Richter or PB) on a 10 hole where 1/2 tone is lost on the high end (which I rarely use in jam sessions) and 1.5 tones are gained on the bottom (I always desire to go a little bit lower while playing). A C harp, for example, starts on an A and ends on a B. I like the added low notes.

- Consistency from Octave to Octave which is huge for me when it comes to improvising. And so much less to remember when needing to learn what notes are where or different scales. You only need to memorize the patterns for 1 Octave versus 3.

PB has 3 different octave layouts, which can be advantageous in it’s own way (different style of playing on each octave makes it interesting/flexible, but much more complicated, especially when improvising). It’s like having to play 3 dofferent instruments at the same time when purely improvising amd wanting to repeat patterns from different octaves. On the otherhand, any “muddyness” in one octave of ED, extends to all octaves (like playing key of Bb on a C harp). Like I said, plus or minus, but far more plus than minus for me.

- 10 out of 12 Notes available per Octave with only draw bends needed. The other 2 notes can be obtained via Overblows. (Similar to PB)

- Most frequently used notes are generally available without bending (Like PB).

- Infrequent notes (the two missing) require Overblowing (like PB)

- Same Breath Pattern throughout and draw bends on every hole (like PB)

- Contains rich double bends but avoids the tricky 3 hole triple bend on hole 3, PB. I guess this is a plus or minus depending on the person. Plus for me since 3 is half a tone too much to control precisely without years of training. I also don’t like the double bend on hole 10 of PB - very hard to control..

- No duplicate notes in an Octave. PB has duplicate 2D/3B hole and 4D/5B hole. It’s useful, but I prefer simplicity over the usefulness in this case. One path to master rather than several.

- 4 Major and 4 Minor Scales with only draw bends. On a C harp: F, C, G and D + their relative minors.

- 6 Major Pentatonic, 6 Minor Pentatonic and 3 Blues Scale with only draw bends. Super! (On a C harp: Bb,F,C,G,D,A amd their relative minors). I only need 5 Maj/Min Pentatonic scales and both PB and ED has them so I call this a draw.

- 14 4-hole Octaves Splits no matter where you are in the harp! Awesome! I love octaves and this is loaded with them. This is a huge advantage for me over PB, which has only 8 Octaves, and some are four hole while others are 5 hole splits. I’m a TBer and I love Octaves more than Chords. PB has more chords, but I don’t find any of then above the first octave that useful. It’s also so easy to mive from one octave to another since they are equal distant apart.

- Numerous Double Stops, 3 hole and 5 hole splits. 3 hole and 5 hole splits are not a big deal to me, but I like the double stops everywhere.

- VI Minor Chord everywhere on blows. V Major Chord everywhere on Draw. At the moment, I like having a minor chord on the top and major on the bottom. A nice balance between happy and sad.. or so it seems. PB is classic Richter here. I call this a draw at the moment.

It’s cake for me, but I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone. The ED is a Pentatonic machine that can also play the blues and, in my opinion, it really excels as a Pentatonic instrument. It feels like a nice balance between simplicity and complexity without going too far in either direction.

Powerbender feels more like like an evolution of Richter and is especially great in 2nd position, where as ED feels more like a Pentatonic Machine that feel more like other modern instruments with consistent octaves.

I like to play pentatonic scales, with other notes as flavors, in different positions and ED seems better suited for that. My way of playing is to own 3 harps (A,Ab, and G), learn 5 Major & 5 Minor Pentatonic Scales on each so i can play all 24 keys with just those 3 (I travel minimally with a 20L backpack and don’t want to carry so many harps on my travel). PB can work in the same way with 3 harps.

I’ve explored a few tunings (Richter, PowerBender - my other favorite) and researched several (diminished, augmented, circular, solo, Richter Extended, etc), but nothing feels like it hits all the marks for what I’m looking for like the ED does. PB is a beautiful tuning and it works for the way I play, but ED fits me better. It’s my exclusive tuning going forward and I’m rapidly adjusting to it because of it’s simplicity and flowfulness.
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Brendan
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by Brendan » Sat Dec 29, 2018 3:15 pm

Thanks Rishio for your in-depth comparison of the two tunings, ED/PaddyExtended and PowerBender. As stated elsewhere I have explored both going back quite a few years, and and have recorded albums with each.

As with all harmonica tunings, they each have their pluses and minuses. You make some good logical points in favour of the former, which I certainly wouldn't argue with! However, with music, logic is not everything...

On the consistency of octaves: this can be a double-edged sword, in my experience. Certainly, as you say, you have the familiarity from octave to octave, which means it will be easy to repeat the same licks and phrases throughout the harp. This can be seen as a plus, as it clearly is for you! However over time it could also lead to monotony in your sound - both for you and the listener. That's because favourite licks and patterns will inevitably repeat themselves over and over in all three octaves. That's the whole idea, I guess!

With the Richter/PowerBender division of the harp into three distinct octaves, each one has a flavour of its own, with different strengths and weaknesses. Sure it means that each octave is a world of its own that needs learning and exploring, but it also means licks will come out differently in the three octaves. That will (also inevitably) give a more variable sound output than with a tuning which is the same in all three octaves.

It's a subjective choice whether that's good or bad. I talked about this with Howard Levy once, and he genuinely likes the three quite different octave layouts in Richter.

But it doesn't have to be a binary choice between one tuning or another. By converting your entire harp collection exclusively to ED/PaddyExtended, you seem to have decided it needs to be - but one could argue that approach is unnecessarily self-limiting. Personally I like to use several different harmonica types and tunings depending on the circumstances and style of music. However I know many players find that too confusing.

Again, it's subjective, as anything to do with music will be! Would love to hear what you're playing on your new harps sometime :-)

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Brendan
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by Brendan » Sat Dec 29, 2018 4:08 pm

This is an interesting discussion, but with music, words only go part of the way - musical examples can be more viscerally effective in making a point.

As noted earlier, I like to use several harmonica tunings/types and choose between them depending on their effectiveness in different situations or musical styles. Even within a style, I find certain tunings will work better than others depending on the piece of music.

For example, in my 2016 album PufnSaw (http://www.brendan-power.com/PufNSaw.php) with Old Timey fiddler Jane Rothfield, I used a mix of PaddyExtended, PaddySolo, Solo, PowerChromatic and PowerBender. For all the tunes we recorded I tried various tunings/harps till I found the one that fit the best. Here are some examples:

On "Cumberland Gap", Paddy-Richter Extended/EdHarmonica in x-reed format worked best:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmYC2cO8n8s

But on another Old Timey classic "Over the Waterfall", I found a Solo-tuned x-reed harp was better suited:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DGHG4lBCTI

On Jane's "Cute Little Tune", half-valved slide PowerChromatic was the one for the job:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l3POdY0SMw

I honestly couldn't have played all those tunes with the fluidity/bends/precision I was after with just one harmonica type or tuning, whatever it was. Unfortunately there is no perfect harmonica tuning! Either you choose just one and live with it, good and bad, for the sake of simplicity - or you keep a few tunings handy to suit particular styles/pieces. Swing and roundabouts, different strokes for different folks. I know which side of the fence I'm on, but also that it's a minority choice: the vast majority will prefer the single-tuning approach. If you're going to choose just one harmonica tuning, PaddyExtended is a nice option for all the reasons rishio describes.

rishio
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by rishio » Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:33 pm

Hey Brendan,

Thanks for chiming in with the your expert advice. I owe a lot of my progress musically to your sharing of your creations.

I think Winslow put it best when he said that he considers Richter a tuning that’s 3 octaves wide rather than 3 octaves. I do have a sense of loss, in that aspect, in playing with ED rather than PB. It’s opened me up to seamlessly play other octaves, but at the cost of being unable to play other octaves in unique ways, as different feelings rather than different pitches. For me, the gains of playing more 4 hole split Octaves, the ability to attain “play by ear” about 3x faster (and that goal is still a long way away), and retaining the “best” qualities of my favorite, and most intuitive, first octave, throughout the harp, outweighs the loss. I don’t consider ED better, just better for me. I don’t even consider ED newer, you discovered it before PB and chose to go with PB as your “standard” tuning through experience rather than just logic.

I think the reason ED works for me is because my favorite thing about playing the harmonica is jamming with other musicians, and I feel variety in not reaching for different keys, but playing in different “positions” for different songs, up to a point (I use 3 harps - A, Ab, and G - and play 5 Major & Minor Pentatonic Keys per harp with some of the keys overlapping). Improvising in different “positions” forces me to be creative and play differently for different songs. I like that creative challenge. I don’t sound like the same player when playing different songs because I am forced to play different keys in different ways. It’s kind of an in-between approach to playing all keys with 1 harp, or all keys with 12 (or more) harps. More than all the keys and all the positions, I get variety in the way I try to touch the soul of each note. Getting each note to feel right is a subtle, joyful, obsessive pursuit of mine - and I get great satsfaction when I hit those feeling right.

It also works well for me, as a traveller, who likes to travel very light. One of the beauties of harmonica for me is the portability. I consider it an instrument giving you the most music per square inch. 3 is really the most I like to travel with so I need to make the most out of 3.

Both PB and ED are miles better than Richter for me. I really despise the breath change, and all the different techniques / mind-bending needed for me to get the music I wanted. I never got far with that, though it in itself is an amazing tuning if one has the ability to master it (as shown by the many greats of yesterday and today).

In the end, it’s not about better or worse - I just feel at home with the ED tuning, and I’m the kind of person that likes to keep things simple and be creative within the limitations. Learning one tuning intimately is more satisfying for me than learning many tunings optimized for different music. Many tunings in my head would drive me insane because I would want to go deep with each one and I can’t handle that. The ED is complex enough that I can’t imagine getting bored with it within the practical limits of the time I have for music.

To each their own! I hope to share my own music online, but right now I’m enjoying a high learning curve and need time to regain my grounding after the switch. I also need more time to where I feel I would have something unique to share. I continue to look forward to your contributions!
Last edited by rishio on Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Brendan
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by Brendan » Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:35 pm

Well said rishio. Just three harps, huh? You win hands down on that count, without a doubt! And what you say about delving deep into just one tuning makes good sense - it's certainly worked for Howard Levy.

I look forward to hearing some tracks from you when you're ready to share :-)

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triona
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by triona » Sat Dec 29, 2018 11:15 pm

Brendan wrote:
Sat Dec 29, 2018 4:08 pm
... there is no perfect harmonica tuning! Either you choose just one and live with it, good and bad, for the sake of simplicity - or you keep a few tunings handy to suit particular styles/pieces. ... I know which side of the fence I'm on, but also that it's a minority choice: the vast majority will prefer the single-tuning approach.

I find myself too on the same side of the fence like Brendan. But I have found out as well, that my choices eventually often turned out to be a minority choice. :D

I surely will try this ED tuning within the next time. Sounds quite interesting what you have written, and could be that I like it too. But I am quite sure that it never will be the only one I like to play.

The argument with minimal baggage on travelling is beating for itself. And if you can do all of the music you ever like to play with just only 3 harps, you have all my respect. But I would not like to limit my choice on this minimum for all opportunities where I like to play music. But if I want to travel or even only to go out with merely a small handbag, I always have a long brooding in advance till I can decide which 3 or 4 harps I take with me, depending on what I expect what there might be played on the upcoming opportunity. :lol:

Just one time when I visited a festival with Martin's trumpet bands, I took only 1 harp with me - my CX-12 in C. It was the only one of all of my harps which I could play loud enough to keep up with a smaller band of Martin's trumpets (or a brass band) without any electrical amplification. And the key of C is sufficient for these, considering the CX-12 is chromatic anyway. :mrgreen:


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triona


edit: silly typo corrected
Last edited by triona on Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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CrawfordEs
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by CrawfordEs » Sun Dec 30, 2018 2:59 am

Since the EDharmonica is basically a triple Paddy minus the Richter, it seems the Paddy Richter Lucky 13 would give you two octaves of the EDharmonica tuning with the possibility of a change of pace up top.
Or you could take an A lucky 13, and by a little retuning get a proper EDharmonica layout in C/ Am in two octaves and do whatever you want up top. Double Paddy with Solo or something else up top might be nice, or...

rishio
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by rishio » Sun Dec 30, 2018 3:48 am

I personally like the size of 10 holes and since ED tuning starts on the A below the C, and is slightly more than 3 octaves - I get enough of the low and high to meet my needs musically. Infact, 10 holes feels just about perfect for me.

FYI, if anyone wants to try ED without messing with tuning, amazon sells them for $30 which is a pretty good deal for the buck (designed by easttop - search edharmonica). I prefer buying reedplates from Seydel.

They also have a nice website at edharmonica.com with music using the tuning.
CrawfordEs wrote:
Sun Dec 30, 2018 2:59 am
Since the EDharmonica is basically a triple Paddy minus the Richter, it seems the Paddy Richter Lucky 13 would give you two octaves of the EDharmonica tuning with the possibility of a change of pace up top.
Or you could take an A lucky 13, and by a little retuning get a proper EDharmonica layout in C/ Am in two octaves and do whatever you want up top. Double Paddy with Solo or something else up top might be nice, or...

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triona
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by triona » Sun Dec 30, 2018 9:52 am

rishio wrote:
Sun Dec 30, 2018 3:48 am
FYI, if anyone wants to try ED without messing with tuning, amazon sells them for $30 which is a pretty good deal for the buck (designed by easttop - search edharmonica). I prefer buying reedplates from Seydel.
I recommend this too. :)
And if I want to save money with just trying any new tuning, I take an old harmonica laying around in some drawer which I do not really play any more and retune it. Those new tunings which I want to play seriously after a first test I buy in high quality.

rishio wrote:
Sun Dec 30, 2018 3:48 am
I personally like the size of 10 holes and since ED tuning starts on the A below the C, and is slightly more than 3 octaves - I get enough of the low and high to meet my needs musically. Infact, 10 holes feels just about perfect for me.
And considering travelling with small luggage the 10 holes have the advantage, that they fit into any of the current belt bags (i.e. gig bags) or alike, small handbags, side bags of a back pack etc. Very convenient.


dear greetings
triona
Aw, Thou beloved, do hearken to the Banshee's lonely croon!
sinn féin - ça ira !
Cad é sin do'n té sin nach mbaineann sin dó


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EdvinW
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Re: PowerBender Versus EdHarmonica

Post by EdvinW » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:10 pm

Thank you Rishio for the well thought comparison! It has served as nice holiday reading and food for thought :)

Getting by with few harmonicas is something I can relate to, though my approach is quite different. I generally carry two or three different tunings which I play in a handful of keys and modes. I mostly play by myself, and if I run into someone they'll have to adjust. To me, the different tunings are so helpful to give different feeling to the various songs that this makes up for the lack of keys. But as you regularly play with others, being able to play in any key definitely seems like a more reasonable configuration.

There is one thing that puzzles me though: Why don't you set them up to play diatonically in ALL keys? The G-harp and the A-harp overlap, in that both are capable of playing in keys G and D, while none of the three are capable of playing in keys B or Bb. If you would instead use, for instance, ED-tuned harps in G, Eb and B, you would be able to play not only pentatonic scales in all keys, but full major and minor scales, and even some more exotic scales in some keys.

EDIT: Writing the paragraph above I was confused about how EDharmonicas are labelled: I thought of the diagram at the end of your post showed a G-harp! This means the keys you miss are Eb and E. (I write more about this in a later post!)

Another thing that crosses my mind is that most of the points you make in favour for the ED hold for other tunings as well. To keep ALL the advantages you want, without a doubt the ED is a good choice, but as I'm myself not that a skilled bender I can't help but think how I would solve the problem of playing in all keys with at most three harps. The following is thus not to be taken as criticism to your approach, but rather as an account of some personal thoughts that your post gave rise to.

I have recently started to experiment with repeating variations of the following pattern, found for instance in the PowerChromatic:

Code: Select all

c  e  g  a
d  f# a  b
The above tuning can be played in C, G, D and A (and their respective parallel minor keys) using 1, 0, 1 and 2 bends, respectively. This covers a third of the circle of fifths, so if we accompany the above tuning with harps that use

Code: Select all

e  g# b  c#
f# a# c# d#
and

Code: Select all

db f ab bb
eb g bb c
We can now play in any key with at most 2 bends per octave:

Keys A, Db and F require 2 bends.
Keys C, D, E, F#, Ab and Bb require.
Keys G, B and Eb get by without any bends at all!
(of course we could choose another partition of the circle of fifths if we are not happy with which keys are the most comfortable.)

Also, none of the keys would have their root note as a bent note, which I with my limited bending skills would be troubled by.

One drawback with doing it this way would be that the range on any one harp would go down from over three octaves to two octaves and a fourth. This could be important for some people, but I'm personally not that bothered by it.

Thanks again for the inspiration, and have a happy new year!
Last edited by EdvinW on Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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