Chromatic tuning with irregular slide notes. Pros and cons?

Anything apart from the two mainstream default harmonicas (Solo-tuned fully-valved chromatic, and un-valved Richter 10-hole diatonic). Alternate tunings, different construction, new functionality, interesting old designs, wishful-thinking... whatever!
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EdvinW
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Location: Sweden

Chromatic tuning with irregular slide notes. Pros and cons?

Post by EdvinW » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:39 pm

Does anyone have any experience with chromatics where the slide does not affect every note in the same way, i.e. raising/lowering one half step? I am aware of slide diatonics, but "going to the next note in the scale" seems to me like a fairly regular thing to do. I could imagine this would make it harder to have a good intuition, but I could also imagine you learn where the notes are pretty quickly anyway.

Main question: What are your relationship with sliders that do different things to different notes?

I have close to zero experience with chromatics at present, and what little I have comes from tooting in borrowed ones. I've started to thinking about buying one, but I am not sure how to think when choosing a tuning; as one of my main motives for buying one would be playing melodic minor tunes in a few keys the standard solo tuning just doesn't make sense. I'd like to buy a decent harp and with a custom tuning those are comparatively pricey, so I try to gather whatever advice I can find not to have to spend this money twice.

One of my main contenders right now is this:

Code: Select all

Blow:   Slide in   g# a  c  eb g# a  c  eb
        Slide out  g  a  c# e  g  a  c# e 
                   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 
Draw:   Slide out  a  b  d  f  a  b  d  f 
        Slide in   a  bb d  f# a  bb d  f#
(I made 2 identical octaves for clarity, it repeats again in subsequent octaves)
A press of the slide will change the note half a step up or down or not at all. I am still unsure about some notes, but this is a feature of most of my suggestions. Does this seem reasonable?

It is mainly intended for Dm, but has some other chords as well. The reason I put chords there is mostly that I think it would facilitate playing arpeggios in some keys, but they might be useful to play as actual chords as well. Thus keeping some useful intervals I imagine would be a pro of leaving some notes unchanged. If there is a short passage in D major I would not have to work the slide so much in an arpeggio, and I think this would be nice.

Second main question: Do you have any other comments on this tuning?

Any thoughts on this would be most welcome!

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Brendan
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Re: Chromatic tuning with irregular slide notes. Pros and cons?

Post by Brendan » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:38 am

When I played in the Riverdance Show in the 1990s I created a whole batch of bizarrely tuned slide harmonicas to enable me to play the music as written. Bill Whelan's score had some very tricky parts that could not be played at tempo on any conventional harmonica, but these altered chroms allowed me to do the job. You can hear them on my Riverdance album:
http://www.brendan-power.com/Riverdance.php

Currently I have a few slide harmonicas with varying slide note intervals to get particular bends, or enable authentic phrasing in a particular genre (eg. Bluegrass).

The chromatic is great for enabling one to experiment and extend the capability of altered tunings, so well done for taking the opportunity to create your own.

As for the scale you show, I'm a bit puzzled by it, esp. all the repeated A notes. However no doubt you have your own logic that will become apparent when you play. Post a tune with it when you have it made :-)

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triona
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Re: Chromatic tuning with irregular slide notes. Pros and cons?

Post by triona » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:32 am

Brendan wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:38 am
... all the repeated A notes. However no doubt you have your own logic that will become apparent when you play. Post a tune with it when you have it made :-)

Maybe there is in mind to play a bordune (drone)?

I am thinking about veritable clusters of repeating redundants besides and above each others, on both of the slide positions, to create a "true" drone while playing melody and rhythm on the rest of the harmonica - or at least to simulate this for the ear properly, and practicably for the breath flow. My intention is to achieve an effective drone register - not more and not less. 8-)

My second attempt is to use octave harps for this. They have doubled each single note all around the whole instrument, just in octaves. You just brought me to think about the combination of slide and octave. :D Is here anyone who could tell, if this might work by any means, concerning the construction and the arrangement of the reeds and the channels?

Btw, up till now I prefer diatonics for these experiments. On those are the distances (physically) shorter between the same notes (or matching chord notes as well) respective their octaves. This makes tongue splitting easier. And i prefer the low range of the harmonica too for setting up the drone register.


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


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1yI3H ... 9ktgzTR2qg

EdvinW
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Re: Chromatic tuning with irregular slide notes. Pros and cons?

Post by EdvinW » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:44 am

Thank for the encouragement! The music I try to play is really not written with the harmonica in mind :)

The purpose of the repeated notes is twofold, but I'm afraid it has nothing to do with drones.

One reason is to save me many changes of the slider; it would allow me to play quick passages in the different sets of notes [a bb c d e], [a b c# d e], [d e f g a] and [d e f# a]. As they often appear together in various permutations this seemed a good idea. If the slider would change the a's or the d's, any squiggling within at least some of these sets would force me to push the slider for maybe just a single note and then release it, and I fear this would jam up the fluency of quick tunes.

Another reason is that it gives me both the tonic chord and the major dominant (i and V, Dm and A), which are two of the most important chords in the key of melodic minor. Fiddle players of Swedish music use double stops in many tunes, and I would like to have the opportunity to at least try and capture that.

The variation I'm currently leaning mostly towards at the moment is

Code: Select all

Blow:   Slide in   g# a  c# e  g# a  c# e 
        Slide out  g  a  c  e  g  a  c  e 
                   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 
Draw:   Slide out  a  bb d  f  a  bb d  f 
        Slide in   a  b  d  f# a  b  d  f#
This is essentially a switch harp that alternates A major and D minor. As a bonus, I could bend the f# to get a kind of "dirty in-between third", a quarter note that is not so common but which appears some times and would be really cool to have. Though it would mainly be intended to play in Dm it should also work almost as well in Am, and thus cover the vast majority of traditional minor tunes from the region where I'm from. (Major tunes are, as a rule, less complicated in terms of the notes included. I get on fine with diatonics for them, but the situation is complicated by the fact that minor tunes often incorporate short major passages)

I have more or less settled for the above tuning in terms of which (well sort-of) CHROMATIC tuning I would prefer. The only question left is whether or not to go with a sort of slide diatonic instead.

The tuning for that would be something along the lines of

Code: Select all

Blow:   Slide in   a  bb d  f  a  bb d  f
        Slide out  g  a  c# e  g  a  c# e 
                   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 
Draw:   Slide out  a  b  d  f  a  b  d  f 
        Slide in   bb c  e  g  bb c  e  g 
This would be more specific to the key of Dm (less so for Am), the accidentals f# and g# would have to be bent, and I might loose too much space between f and f#(?), but this sacrifice would buy me a lot of rolls. I currently think the rolls would be worth it, but I'll think of this some more.

One drawback with both of them is that I must learn to tongue-block a single hole if I want anything but a d in the tonic chord. (does anyone know if the larger holes of a chrom makes this easier than on a diatonic?) I recently bought another custom Dm harmonica where I can play [a d f a] as a draw chord, and it is a really nice feature! I'll make a thread for that harmonica when I have familiarised myself a bit more with it :)

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Brendan
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Re: Chromatic tuning with irregular slide notes. Pros and cons?

Post by Brendan » Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:49 am

I'd say it's time to put theory to one side and actually try your ideas out. That's the only way to know if an alternate tuning is really useful or not.

Looking forward to hearing the results :-)

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