I'd be curious to know what some more experienced players than me (probably everyone here), think of a minor tuning change to the Power Chromatic Lucky 13: Flattening the fourth draw reed by a semitone.
I'm learning harmonica while coming from primarily a piano background, so alternate tunings appeal to me more than Richter - especially Power Chrom. I'm interested in jazz, as well as some folk and classical music, and am particularly keen to be able to play expressively in minor keys. I have a low minor richter harp but want something more versatile when jamming with others.
So if I flatten the fourth draw reed in a "G" PowerChrom harp, the F# would become an F:
Essentially it would be like an A minor PC harp. These are the implications for me as I see it:
-Very simple to play a 3-octive A melodic-minor scale
-Blues scale on D is simplified, with a nice semitone run on the 5th/9th/13th hole
-Arguably more interesting minor chord options, with the tonic A on both blow and draw
-Second minor scale (Dm) with now bends and D on a draw note, rather than Em on the blow in the usual PC tuning.
-Loss of three draw bends
-A bit less 'chromatic' - now F# is missing, not just D# as before
-Some major scales require more bends
Does anyone have any thoughts about whether flattening that fourth draw reed might be a good/bad idea for someone who wants to slightly prioritise playing in minor keys? Are blow bends to play the missing D# and F# feasible for a beginner/intermediate player?
To play what I refer to as melodic minor, or the "jazz minor scale" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_minor_scale) where the sixth and seventh are always major, I personally think Dm looks like a nicer key on your tuning. There are several reasons I like Dm:
- The major sixh and seventh can be produced with draw bends.
- It has bends on the root note and the fifth, even a small bend on the third.
- There is a fifth below the root note right in the adjacent hole. It's nice to have important notes close to each other.
- There are several chords: Dm, Em and G.
- If you haven't played other tunings much this might be less interesting to you, but I feel right at home as it's very similar to playing 3rd position Paddy Richter.
If you want to play Am, you could retune a D-tuned PowerChromatic in the same way as you proposed:
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Hole: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Draw: E F# A C E F# A C E F# A C E Bend: D# F G# D# F G# D# F G# D# Blow: D E G B D E G B D E G B D
You're right about terminology. I didn't mean melodic, I meant Natural Minor, which is much simpler to tune.
So just to confirm, for A nm, it'd simply be A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A in the scale.
That makes sense about advantages for playing D minor generally (as well as D blues scale). On the harp you have tuned that way, do you notice the missing draw bends much, or any other disadvantages?
As with any tuning change, you gain some things and lose others. PowerChromatic Tuning was conceived initially for chromatic slide harmonicas in half-valved setup, giving lots of draw bending expression to a fully chromatic harmonica.
The diatonic Lucky 13 version can be played fully chromatically with one overblow or valved bend, but is more suitable for playing in a bunch of keys that only need draw bends. For me personally, losing that F# note and the bend to F would be a step backwards - as it robs the harmonica of some important bending expression, and the ability to play full scales in critical keys: G, A, D major, B and E minor, A harmonic minor.
Chordally you gain some but lose others - notably DMaj and Bm. Those are the main keys I play in on a PowerChromatic in G, so I wouldn't want to lose them myself.
But it's all subjective and personal when it comes to tunings! There are no absolute rights and wrongs, just whatever works best for the individual player.
I suggest if you like this Sixths Tuning, you should try it on a Chromatic slide harmonica too
I'm gradually starting to appreciate the principles behind the different tunings and I find the inherent compromises very interesting. I guess for me coming from a piano background, I'm not looking for a tuning that can do absolutely everything in all keys, so sacrificing a little chromatic ability isn't the end of the world. Some interesting chord possibilities (based around the main key) do appeal, as that's a pretty unique aspect in a wind instrument.
I don't have enough experience to know how much I'd miss those draw bends for expression, or loss of the simple, elegant logic of the tuning. So if I do anything to my Lucky 13, it'll only be with temporary reed weights (blue-tac or putty). Hopefully it'll arrive soon!
It had a few buzzing reeds, rattling valves and some minor tuning issues, so it took a bit of work to get it sounding okay. Also, I'm curious about why two blow reeds are valved as well?
I tried both the original tuning and flattening the 4th draw reed. I quite enjoy the latter for some chord possibilities and it's great for playing tunes based around A minor, but it does make it less versatile.
I'm definitely a fan of the extended range though. A 12-13 hole harp still fits great in the hand, so it seems like there's pretty much no downside!
I've got a re-tuning which is similar insofar as it converts a Lucky 13 to a natural minor tuning. But mine is different in two ways. First, it is based on a Solo Lucky 13. Second, the resultant natural minor scale has an "inverted" breath pattern (ie. starts with a draw tonic). You can see it here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=791#p3459
On my side, after playing around for a while, I switched back to regular G PowerChromatic tuning (without flattening the F#). PC seems more versatile when changing keys and overall still pretty comfortable for playing in A minor.
Anyway the conclusion to this is that after struggling a bit with the Lucky 13, I've settled on an offset stack of two 10-hole Seydel's with Powerchromatic tuning:
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draw-------[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]- blow-------[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]- ------------------------------------------------------------- -[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-------draw -[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-------blow
Unlike using an extra mouthpiece (switch-harp style), this avoids any impact on the tuning or responsiveness. The vertical marker ties make it easy to jump between octaves by feel alone, and it's small enough to cup fully in the hands. Plus, stacking them like this adds a fun party trick: turn it sideways and it can be played as an octave harmonica in the middle range.
The steel reed Seydel's I've tried always sound great to me. If anyone's interested, I'd definitely recommend this as a simple way to play chromatically and pick up a wide range of pieces intended for other instruments.
It would be good to know what people think, especially compared to other options for playing harmonica stacks.