Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

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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Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by EdvinW » Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:25 pm

Given a tuning that repeats in different octaves, one always faces the question which notes to start on. A classical example is the Orchestra tuning, where a Solo tuning has been shifted to fit better to certain tunes in certain keys. For a spiral tuned harp, where the notes of a diatonic scale lie alternately on blows or draws without repeating or skipping any notes, it is not obvious what note to start on either. When ordering a spiral tuned harp in D from Seydel, the lowest note is an 'a', while 1 blow on the spiral tuned D harp in my pocket is a 'd'.

There are various reasons for shifting a tuning. One could be that you want certain notes in the scale to be at the bottom, like with the Orchestra/Solo tuning mentioned above. When this is the case, the whole instrument is normally transposed when the key is changed, so that the root note is always located in the same place on the harp.

Another reason, and the one this post is about, is to fit a certain range of notes. In a thread about the EDharmonica tuning, Rishio points out that going below a low e forces unpleasant bends, and starting much higher makes the top octave too shrill. For me, the reason for shifting is to try to match the range of another musical instrument, namely the fiddle.

My idea is this:
If each octave requires 4 holes, as is the case with the Solo, PowerChromatic and others, a 10 hole harp spans about two octaves and a third. This is about the same range that a fiddler normally use when playing traditional Irish or Scandinavian music! So: Why not shift the tuning so that the lowest note roughly matches the lowest note on the fiddle, which is 'g'? For example, take a look at the following harps in the popular keys of G and D. They both follow the same pattern, similar to that found on a PowerChromatic, but with one blow note raised in each octave.

Code: Select all

f# a  c  d  f# a  c  d  f# a
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
g  b  d  e  g  b  d  e  g  b 

Code: Select all

a  c# e  g  a  c# e  g  a  c#
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
b  d  f# a  b  d  f# a  b  d
With this setup, any single note fiddle tune in G or D would fit on one of these harps, provided they don't go higher than the high b or d (the ones on the E string, which not many traditional tunes go past).


In some ways this concept can be likened with the use of a capo on a guitar. Some guitarists play in different tunings, just like we do, and when they want to change the key of a tune they use a capo. This can be slightly awkward, as you need to play on a different part of the neck, and the dots on the neck don't really match what you are used to, but it works well for many guitarists. The normal way of changing to a harmonica in a different key is more like tuning all the strings up or down. The result is that playing in the new key uses exactly the same movements as the original key. The comparison is far from perfect, but I think it captures at least some parts of what is going on. The guitarists accept the capo, because it is much easier than retuning the whole instrument, and cheaper than keeping one guitar in each key. I think that we could do this as well, and that we might benefit from it.

I recently had a harp made in the same tuning as displayed above, but in the key of A and starting on a 'g#', mostly to evaluate the tuning itself, but if I find that I like it I plan to include the two above described harps to the collection.

Traditional music often develops in close connection to the instruments used. If a fiddler plays a tune in D, there is a low 'a' below the lowest root note, while tunes in G have a very low root note with nothing below it. For someone who wants to play fiddle music, it thus makes no sense having many notes below the root note on a G-tuned harp, while on a D-tuned harp you need at least three notes below the lowest root note.


Have any of you done anything similar to fit the range fiddles of some other instruments? I'm sure other musical styles also have typical instruments with certain ranges, and that tunes in different keys could be different enough to justify shifting the tunings. Any thoughts or input?

(I also make some points in the PowerBender versus EDharmonica thread, so some more points could be found there!)
Edvin Wedin

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winslowyerxa
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Re: Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by winslowyerxa » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:49 am

Having notes below the range of the fiddle does make sense so that you can get *below* the fiddle to accompany. I sometimes do this using a Low D.

On chromatic, I have retuned a Low E chromatic so that it's in the key of B with F# as the lowest note. This way common keys plays as slide-in keys, which allows for semitone-below ornaments and makes common fiddle keys such as D, A, G, and even E and C, play more smoothly.

EdvinW
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Re: Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by EdvinW » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:56 pm

winslowyerxa wrote:
Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:49 am
Having notes below the range of the fiddle does make sense so that you can get *below* the fiddle to accompany. I sometimes do this using a Low D.
You absolutely have a point! In an ensemble it is often useful to have different ranges, to easier accommodate different voices. Harmonicas are often tuned to allow for chord playing, and chord playing is often performed below the melody, which could be played on a fiddle. This is a nice combination!

This is a subtly different thing from what I'm asking for though: The reason for proposing a shift is not that I want to play together with fiddlers, but that I want to play tunes written for the fiddle.

Swedish traditional music, as well as its Irish counterpart, is very centred around melodies played on the violin, either alone or along with a few others in unison. Sometimes there are two or maybe even three voices to a tune, but in those cases these are also intended for the violin. Ensembles containing other instruments often incorporate these in a sort of ad hoc manner, and the fraction of traditional music that is explicitly written to play on different instruments is very small. There is, admittedly, a small body of traditional harmonica tunes, but that's not what I'm after.

The genre also imposes some restrictions, one of which is the pace. Keeping up whit a bunch of merry fiddlers is a challenge, one which at least I could not face relying on too many bent notes. This calls for tunings which are not always that space efficient, like Solo tuning. Many such tunings repeat in every octave, so with 4 holes a piece you are down to a little over two octaves on a 10 hole harp. I'm currently evaluating the tuning in my opening post, but the principle could be applied to other repeating tunings, as well as "semi-repeating" patterns such as the spiral tuning.

Under these circumstances, every note below the lowest 'g' is paid for by the removal of a note from the top of the range, a price I am hesitant to pay if it means loosing the ability to play most voices in a majority of the tunes the fiddlers play.

Just for the odd chance there are some people here who don't know what Swedish music sounds like, I thought I'd link some videos :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su5mCXsMPIA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eASpnw9MX2M
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Czicdg_W-o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlgBHyibp58

Most are in major keys, as those tunes are more likely to stick to a diatonic scale, but my secret dream is to find a way to do the minor ones with all their accidentals justice on a harmonica.
Last edited by EdvinW on Tue Jan 29, 2019 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Edvin Wedin

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triona
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Re: Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by triona » Wed Jan 23, 2019 1:12 am

Tusen tack för länkarna.
Jag älsker så mycket de gamla spelmans låtar. :D


Maybe you should try the TOMBO 1577.
It is also called "Violin Scale - Band Chromatic".
Here is the layout:

Image

It is a slideless chromatic in the keys of C and C#. The range is from G3 to C#7. That makes nearly 3 and a half octaves. The C and the C# are duplicated to keep the breath pattern constant through all the octaves. The layout is very common in Asia. It is not very appropriate for playing chords. But it is very fine for single note playing, including very fast playing, fiddle like playing, legato, glissando and any kind of trills (diatonic and chromatic) etc. Bending is possible, but not necessary because it is chromatic.

I think it is suitable for playing together with fiddles as well as for playing fiddle tunes with harmonica alone. I just have tried to play along with the linked YT-videos. As well as I already had done before with Irish fiddle tunes. It works fine. I guess you should give it a try. And it is not expensive anyway.

For a larger review including pictures and a comparison to the S-50 - another slideless chromatic by Tombo - see here (in German):
https://www.harpforum.de/phpbb/viewtopi ... 25&t=13621

I have purchased it here:
https://www.bax-shop.de/tombo-violin-sc ... dharmonika

Here is it available as well:
http://www.crafton.se/sv/artiklar/1577.html

In UK there are several shops who offer it, as well as in Italy and the Netherlands.
I do not know what it is like in the US.


dear greetings
triona


PS:
I hope the last 2 links are not considered as spam. I shared them because I know, that this harmonica is quite difficult to find in Europe. And direct importation on one's own from Asia is expensive and can be troublesome. I am not connected with any of these shops, and I get no percentage. There might be some other suppliers too. Maybe some shops who offer Lee Oskar harps (made by Tombo) can help as well and order one on request.


edit: picture changed against corrected version
Last edited by triona on Wed Feb 20, 2019 1:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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: Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by EdvinW » Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:53 pm

Thank you for the suggestion Triona! I have sometimes thought about slideless chromatics, but never tried one. Maybe it's time I did, if for nothing else to widen my horizons :)

It is a distinctly different solution though. I'd like to discuss it further, but I'll do this in another thread when I've given it some thought. The harp you show IS constructed with the range of another instrument in mind, but it's not available in different keys where the various keys conform to this interval.

I'm glad to hear you liked the links :)
Edvin Wedin

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triona
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Re: Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by triona » Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:46 pm

EdvinW wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:53 pm
... slideless chromatics ... a distinctly different solution though.
Of course, but it is certainly one that is already existing. It is ready to use. And there is no need of inventing new tunings, retuning instruments or building new ones first. Just get one and play.

Btw: I think the well known and quite common "orchestra" tunings of solo tuned chromatic and diatonic harmonicas aim at the same point, at least to some degree. (I mean layouts beginning a fourth lower than the root note of the respective key. For expl in the key of C beginning with the G of the octave below etc.)

And both of these are the very most simple way to shift the range of a harmonica to any range different from the standard default. At least as far as I understood your intention.

Building bigger harmonicas (i.e. with more holes) like f.e. Seydel Solist Pro 12, Hohner Marineband Soloist 364/24, Brendan's Lucky 13, or the mentioned Asian slideless chromatics like Tombo 1577 etc were another possibility to extend the tone range. This is including the possibility of shifting the range too.

I always tend to think like "Why chose the hard road when there is a possibility to reach a certain aim on a more easy way?" - or "Why to complicate things more than necessary instead of trying to simplify them to the max?" But maybe you are intending something else that I did not yet catch.

And last, but not least: Slide diatonics are one more - and a very different - way to try to keep up with a fiddle in a band or playing fiddle tunes solo with a harmonica, as far as concerning speed and melodic and rhythmic patterns typical for traditional fiddle tunes. I play them as well. And I have started to experiment with special tunings on them too. But that's a whole new game again.


To get along with your initially proposed idea:
EdvinW wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:53 pm
... The harp you show IS constructed with the range of another instrument in mind, but it's not available in different keys where the various keys conform to this interval.
Most of the common chromatic harmonicas are only available in one key (usually C+C#). But I did not understand the last part of your sentence (which I did highlight in the quotation). Are you shure that this is correct English? Or did I just not catch your point? Which intervals did you mean where any key conforms to or should have to conform to? Maybe you can enlighten this with a concrete example?

And I did not either understand the doublings (repetitions / redundants) in your layout examples you gave in your first post above (i.e. the D in the the key of G and the A in the key of D). Usually it is the root note of the key that is doubled.


EdvinW wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:53 pm
I'm glad to hear you liked the links :)
Jag älsker de gamla visor och spelmans låter för nästan femtio år sedan. :D
Särskild jag tycker om Emma Härdelin och Triakel. Jag har deras alla skivor (och många till).
Den här sjunger jag själva: :D
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PODziqUrOrs

Också tycker jag om Dan Anderssons visor, framför alla "Tiggarn från Luossa", som jag också sjunger själva på decennier sedan. :D
Men de alla kommer mycket sällan häråt. :(


kära hälsningar
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
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:02 pm
Location: Sweden

Re: Shifting a tuning to fit a certain range (i.e. that of a fiddle)

Post by EdvinW » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:41 am

triona wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:46 pm
Of course, but it is certainly one that is already existing. It is ready to use. And there is no need of inventing new tunings, retuning instruments or building new ones first. Just get one and play.
And I did not either understand the doublings (repetitions / redundants) in your layout examples you gave in your first post above (i.e. the D in the the key of G and the A in the key of D). Usually it is the root note of the key that is doubled.
I suppose I should had made examples using some standard tuning from the start. What follows is an explanation using the solo tunig. In my first post, I illustrated the principle with a special tuning I have come to like lately. It is interesting, but I see how it distracts from the topic of shifting.

So: Imagine I really love the solo tuning, that I am totally comfortable and don't want to change to another tuning. Now, imagine a 4 hole solo tuned harp to the key of C:

Code: Select all

c  e  g  c
1  2  3  4
d  f  a  b
If I want another similar harp that is instead tuned to F, the traditional way of building this would be like this:

Code: Select all

f  a  c  f
1  2  3  4
g  bb d  e
Now, for some reason, I find the range between the two 'c's in the first harp desirable. Maybe this is the range where my bends sound the best, or perhaps I want to match the range of my favourite ocarina. To to keep this tonal range, the only way to build the harp is this:

Code: Select all

c  f  f  a
1  2  3  4
d  e  g  bb
I want to stress that this is only a small scale example, I see that the just presented F-harp would not be very useful for playing in the key of F.(more useful for Dm!) But it has some key properties:

1) It could reproduce any song in the key of F (or Dm!) played in the prescribed range.
2) I could play the solo tuning just like I'm used to. With a set of harps I could use the same patterns in any key.

A violin has a 'g' as its lowest note. For a more realistic example, following the principle outlined above, a 10 hole solo tuned harp in the key of E but shifted to (the bottom end of) this range would look like this:

Code: Select all

g# b  e  e  g# b  e  e  g# b 
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
a  c# d# f# a  c# d# f# a  c# 
The already mentioned "orchestra" tuning uses this same approach, to achieve a C-tuned harp matching (the bottom end of) the range of a violin:

Code: Select all

g  c  c  e  g  c  c  e  g  c
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
a  b  d  f  a  b  d  f  a  d
When the lowest note can't be put as a blow note, one could either add or remove an extra note at the bottom to keep the same breathing patterns. A fiddle-shifted solo tuned harp in D could thus look like this:

Code: Select all

f# a  d  d  f# a  d  d  f# a
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
g  b  c# e  g  b  c# e  g  b
or like this:

Code: Select all

a  d  d  f# a  d  d  f# a  d
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
b  c# e  g  b  c# e  g  b  e
depending on which of the notes bottom 'g' or top 'd' is the most important.

Of course making the instrument larger circumvents this problem, but it comes at some cost. Larger harps are harder to carry if you have a bunch of them, and also more expensive if you want the same quality.
I always tend to think like "Why chose the hard road when there is a possibility to reach a certain aim on a more easy way?" - or "Why to complicate things more than necessary instead of trying to simplify them to the max?" But maybe you are intending something else that I did not yet catch.
To get along with your initially proposed idea:
EdvinW wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:53 pm
... The harp you show IS constructed with the range of another instrument in mind, but it's not available in different keys where the various keys conform to this interval.
Most of the common chromatic harmonicas are only available in one key (usually C+C#). But I did not understand the last part of your sentence (which I did highlight in the quotation). Are you shure that this is correct English? Or did I just not catch your point? Which intervals did you mean where any key conforms to or should have to conform to? Maybe you can enlighten this with a concrete example?
I hope I've here managed to better explain my idea :) I don't think it's complicating things more than any other idea I've seen in this forum ;)
Edvin Wedin

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