91% of Irish music with 2 harps and only 1 breath pattern!

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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91% of Irish music with 2 harps and only 1 breath pattern!

Post by IaNerd » Wed Oct 20, 2021 10:25 pm

This Topic's title is audacious indeed! Surely, there are provisos. Yes, of course there are. Let's get started ...

I begin by drawing on the “nine is fine” principle of George Kelischek. https://www.susato.com/collections/nine-is-fine If you don’t already know about George, look him up. https://youtu.be/qRFiNUiIJ50 He is in my opinion a national treasure of the USA. In an email to me this morning Mr. Kelischek said:
I named one of my series of instrumental settings “Nine Is Fine”, because no part in any of those compositions exceeds the range of one octave plus one, the ninth note. No “overblowing” is necessary to play those tunes, which makes them suitable for nine-note instruments such as gemshorns and most capped double reeds like Kelhorns, Crumhorns, Cornamuses, etc…
Now I am not saying that every single melody on the planet can – or even should -- be played with just nine notes. I would however posit that a person can accomplish a whole big boatload (metric or imperial) of music using only an octave and, when needed, a bit more.

In this discussion viewtopic.php?f=9&t=844#p3742 I showed that, of a sample https://www.irishtune.info/public/playlist/alanng/ of 686 Irish songs, 627 (or 91.4%) were generally played using some mode of either the D major or G major scales. Furthermore, of those 627 songs, the only four modes present were Ionian, Dorian, Aeolian and Mixolydian. That breakdown looks like this:
D Major 202
E Dorian 62
A Mixolydian 22
B Minor 8
total = 294
-------- --------
G Major 190
A Dorian 69
D Mixolydian 61
E Minor 13
total = 333
So now I propose two harmonicas which, taken together, can play those 627 melodies with the one simple breath pattern. In saying this I am assuming that their melodies can be played using one octave or thereabouts. The harmonicas in this scenario would be Slide-Diatonics à la Brendan Power. In this sense, “Slide” would also include the exciting new “Non-Slider” mouthpiece offered by Seydel. In any case, each of the two harmonicas would be capable of two different diatonic scales.

It is critical to note here that in Brendan’s Slide-Diatonic, pushing the button does not raise a blow or draw note by a whole tone (i.e. by two semitones). Instead, the slider button raises a note to the next higher note in the scale. This means, for example, that it raises an Ionian octave to its relative Dorian octave! And it just so happens that those are two of the four “critical” modes associated with the D and the G scales in Irish music.

In the diagrams below we can see that this idea has been extended such that two Slide-Diatonic harps of the appropriate tuning can provide all of the keys and modes which make up those 627 Irish songs … all with the easiest possible breath pattern!

A corollary to this is that the same ground could be covered with just four basic ten-hole harps: two in the key of Dmaj and two in the key of Gmaj.

In the words of our infamous American infomercials, “But wait … there’s more!” I have introduced this idea by stressing its useful (and easy!) Ionian, Dorian, Aeolian and Mixolydian modes. But look again and you will also find – using the same easy breath pattern—the other three diatonic modes, namely: Phrygian, Lydian, and even the rarely used Locrian. On the low ends of these harps you will also find -- for each of the four diatonic scales -- all seven of their respective diatonic chords!

Now before someone says that two or (even four!) harps are just too darned expensive or too much hassle to schlep around, I would urge that person not to cry out in the presence of a bassoonist or a baritone saxophonist.

Another naysayer might say, nayingly: “But I need two or even more contiguous octaves of identical breath patterns. I need RANGE, Buddy! Gotta have that RANGE!". To which I would say, “horses for courses – of course! Go and make music in your own way and live long and prosper.”

This idea hit me a few days ago; only now have I have the time to elucidate it. In all likelihood I will tinker with it a bit – especially in the top five holes. So for now let us please just wrap our heads around this as a concept. In its most general form, we can state that:
With primarily spiral tuning, two standard harmonicas – or one Slide-Diatonic harmonica – can provide, for each of the seven diatonic modes, more than one octave of the simplest possible breath pattern.
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Last edited by IaNerd on Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:55 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: 91% of Irish music with 2 harps and only 1 breath pattern!

Post by Brendan » Thu Oct 21, 2021 12:42 am

Things get a bit weird at hole 8. Why don't you continue with the Spiral pattern?

The Slide-Diatonic is a far more interesting harmonica than it first appears, whether in Solo or Spiral tuning.

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Re: 91% of Irish music with 2 harps and only 1 breath pattern!

Post by EdvinW » Thu Oct 21, 2021 7:54 am

It's a really nice observation that the old problem of different octaves can be solved by making it a slide diatonic!

Could you try again to explain what's going on at hole 8 though? I don't quite understand that either. Is it to make the slide-out pattern the same in both octaves? In that case people would have many options, like a "Power Chromatic joint" of GA.AB or some other doubled note that you have been exploring in your recent posts.

Or is there a special reason to make one hole with two identical notes?
Edvin Wedin

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Re: 91% of Irish music with 2 harps and only 1 breath pattern!

Post by IaNerd » Thu Oct 21, 2021 3:06 pm

Regarding the excellent questions and comments of Brendan and Edvin (above) ....

No doubt that holes 8-10 look funny. As I said in the original post, "In all likelihood I will tinker with it a bit – especially in the top five holes". It's a bit of a stopgap; however, there is a method to the madness.

I stated numerous times in the post that all eight of the "Irish" octaves would share an identical breath pattern. In order to say this without need of distracting qualifiers, I had to make all of the 8 blow notes an octave above their respective 4 draw notes. In other words, I kept all of the octaves' spirals uniform.

As for the 8 draw notes, let's start by observing that in each of the four slide layers (i.e. Dmaj slide out, Dmaj slide in, Gmaj slide out, Gmaj slide in), the "Irish" octave farther to the right is is either Ionian or Dorian. From a structural standpoint, only these octaves can have a full and exactly repeating higher octave ... and so I gave them such.

Also note that in the numeric breakdown of the Irish songs, Ionian and Dorian predominate. They are the Jupiter and Saturn of the modes in Ireland. And so I felt justified in giving them the special "second octave" treatment, because they sort of deserve to have this. In the States we call this good fortune: "Winner, winner -- chicken dinner!"

Again, I am not devoted to this exact arrangement in the top five holes. But for version 1.0 I think it's reasonable.

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