Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

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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IaNerd
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Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by IaNerd » Thu Oct 28, 2021 4:22 pm

This discussion will be an extension of this: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=829#p3642 and this: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=845#p3752

Here I propose a set of tunings (two sets, actually) which are designed for digital/midi chromatic harmonicas (or DMCHs).

I realize that a person can (and some DO) say that a standard Solo-tuned chromatic harmonica is “all that a person needs” to play any song in any key. I don’t doubt that since some folks have proven this to be so. Of course, a person could meet that goal more easily by carrying multiple chroms in the case – up to twelve, one for each key. Doing so pretty much mitigates the need to learn twelve different sets of breath/slide pattern to master all of those scales. With a DMCH, a Transpose button (or dial, or whatever) provides the utility and simplicity of having twelve chroms within a single unit. Pretty neat!

Now let us extend the utility and simplicity of the DMCH by loading into it seven different but highly related tunings – one for each of the seven diatonic modes. Twelve transposing keys multiplied by seven modes equals 84 possibilities. Doing this eliminates most of the typical needs for using the slider (except for leading notes, ornamentations, etc.). It also means that most songs could have breath patterns that are highly consistent and easy.

Below I show two sets of tunings; each set has seven tunings, one for each mode. The upper set retains the chords in the lower end. The lower set is more focused on having the breath pattern be absolutely consistent from end-to-end. Both make use of my Double Leading Tone (or DLT) structure for re-setting the breath pattern just before an octave tone (whatever mode it may be in).

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by IaNerd » Thu Oct 28, 2021 7:34 pm

I studied the database of over 25,000 songs at https://www.hooktheory.com/cheat-sheet/key-popularity and found this:

By diatonic modes:
Ionian 50.4%
Aeolian 39.5%
Dorian 3.8%
Mixolydian 3.7%
Phrygian 1.1%
Lydian 1.1%
Locrian 0.3%

By parent major scale (includes all relative modes of each parent major scale):
C Major 15%
G Major 11%
D Major 10%
F Major 10%
Eb Major 9%
A Major 9%
E Major 8%
Bb Major 7%
Ab Major 6%
F# Major 5%
Db Major 5%
B Major 5%

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by Brendan » Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:05 pm

Hi Patrick, you're certainly right that Midi Harmonicas such as the DM48 and HM12 add a lot of fascinating options for extending the capability of existing tuning scales, and offering other new possibilities as well.

We should probably have a whole category in this forum just for them, because they break most of the rules which apply to standard harmonicas.

For example, John Shirley showed how you can play a two octave chromatic scale on the DM48 in one hole!
https://youtu.be/TdAqr73qcUU

Your proposal is one approach which takes advantage of the ability of Midi Harmonicas to have multiple tunings loaded in one instrument, and in all keys. I use that capability a lot!

Personally, instead of the modal concept you describe (which seems designed to reduce use of the slider?), I prefer to have a bunch of my favourite tunings and use the slider plus the two extra note alteration buttons to give them greater functionality not possible on my standard harps in the same tunings. It's interesting to think up how best to use the buttons, and very useful to have those extra notes available.

I know Edvin has a DM48 and, like me, uses it to test
his tunings out. You might like to do that with your many scale ideas also, rather than pay for analogue harps to be made. Besides the alt tuning capabilities, they are great instruments to play in general.

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by IaNerd » Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:58 pm

You might like to do that with your many scale ideas also, rather than pay for analogue harps to be made.
Absolutely! I'm nearly ready to pull that trigger.

Q: For an alt tuning nerd like me, would I be better off with the DM48 or the HM12?

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by Brendan » Fri Oct 29, 2021 6:08 am

Definitely the DM48. At the moment alt tunings in the HM12 need to be sent to the factory, you can't input them yourself.

The 'downside', if you perceive it as such, is that the DM48 doesn't have onboard sounds, HM12 does. My recommendation for external sounds is the iPad: many fantastic options in there, and growing by the day.

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by Brendan » Fri Oct 29, 2021 9:20 am

Your concept of having the same breathing pattern for every mode is interesting.

Of course, all seven modes can already be played without bends within a single tuning scale on a standard harmonica (eg. in Solo, Bebop, PowerChromatic tunings). This way, each has its own unique character because of the place it starts in the home major scale.

What advantages do you perceive from discarding that model and laying out each mode with exactly the same breathing pattern?

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by IaNerd » Mon Nov 01, 2021 11:03 am

It's a fair and good question.

Ever since I introduced Inverted Bebop viewtopic.php?f=9&t=612&hilit=Inverted+bebop#p2619 over two years ago I have been fascinated by keeping the tonic, third and fifth in the draw layer. I understand that having a note-bending joystick makes this unnecessary when playing a DMCH but I like to keep things consistent. As I became better aware of modes it seemed like dorian and sometimes mixolydian were disrupting what has become my favored breath pattern. The idea of modal tunings seems to put things "right" again. I am also drawn to having the octave's "re-set" be at the leading tone (and there are at least two compelling ways to do this).

I haven't actually tried it yet. At this point I'm trusting my intuition. In science when you see strong elegant patterns emerge you pursue them. To me, modal tunings feel that way -- even though I can comprehend and appreciate the alternative model. In this case "discard" is too strong a word. Maybe "set aside", for trying an experiment?

In actual practice I don't think I would "need" all seven modal tunings in a DMCH. Having Ionian, Aeolian, Dorian and Mixolydian would probably be plenty for me.

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by Brendan » Mon Nov 01, 2021 1:02 pm

It's a worthwhile alternative approach. I can see it speeding up learning a new mode, because you can use most of the patterns you've already learned to master other ones. With the scale numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 5, 6 , 7) always in the same places physically on the harp, it could orient you easily and give a familiar feeling to all modes, even if the actual notes are slightly different between each one.

In a way it is similar to the Indian system of Ragas, where they classify them with their names Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa, and then use small letters to denote minor alterations. Thus the Dorian version would be Sa Re ga Ma Pa Da ni Sa, and so on.

Since the harmonica is payed with a blow and draw breath, in the traditional way of playing every mode has a different 'character' (depending on whether it starts on a blow or draw note), and a different physical starting point on the instrument: hole 1 blow, hole 3 draw etc etc.

Your system always puts the starting note on hole 1 regardless of the mode, which has a certain logic. The main disadvantage is that you would need to own a huge number of harmonicas to cover all models in all keys to use your system for traditional analogue harps! But this is where the Midi Harmonica comes in, as you rightly point out.

Definitely a useful alternative way to approach learning if you want to base your playing on modal scales.

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Re: Sets of modal tunings, especially for digital/midi chroms

Post by IaNerd » Mon Nov 01, 2021 2:34 pm

I appreciate those encouraging words.

As for:
The main disadvantage is that you would need to own a huge number of harmonicas to cover all models in all keys to use your system for traditional analogue harps!
That might be true for a stage or recording artist like you -- but I can count my lifetime stage events on two hands. I'm a living room or front porch player, so for me the variable of song key is usually irrelevant. Therefore, four analog harps (one for each of the top four modes) is not very different cost-wise than a digital rig.

That being said, I would be foolish to think that I will never again want to explore even more funky tunings. I'm kind of waiting for a harp model that is user-tuning-programmable (like the DM48) and also has onboard sounds and speaker (like the HM12).

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