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intonation and tuning

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Peter H
Feb 01, 2009 6:21 PM GMT
When I'm practicing intonation with my piano (an electric piano), I notice that the three hole draw is slightly flat (as well as many other notes).

I also notice, that I tend to overbend this hole when bending down a half step. I tend to want to be flatter than the equivelant note on the piano.

My Questions: once I start tuning my harps, will bends and overblows be radically or minimally affected by the change?

Do bends and overblows on a just intoned harp sound different than equal tempered or richter?

Yes, I realize Im overthinking this, but I'm curious.

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Comments (7)

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Feb 01, 2009 6:40 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

It can effect how much, but it also depends on what pitch standard on the harp you use, and when tuning, you have to use the lightest breath force possible or use the Hohner testing bellows because harps are generally tuned to A442-A443 because in real playing breatrh by most people, they're gonna make it flatter without even knowing it and the harder the breath force, the flatter the pitch.

Pianos are tuned to 12 tone equal temperament, but also what's called stretch tuning, meaning each octave away from middle C is 2 cents sharper each time.

Equal is supposed to have an equal distance between the notes regardless and just is basically favoring chords so the harp is actually in tune with itself. Prior to the 1700's, all instruments were tuned to some sort of just intonation and the site has a complete listing of all the historical temperaments ever used.

The two most popular just intonations for harmonica outside of comprimise tunings are 19 limit just and 7 limit, with the latter used on nearly all Hohner diatonics until 1985, but still being used on the Hering 1923 vintage Harps and the just tuned version of the Suzuki Fabulous. The main difference between 19 & 7 limit is in holes 5 & 9 draw. In 7 limit, these two are tuned 31 cents flat and with 19 limit, it's 3 cents sharp, and the latter is the most versatile of the two, but if you're looking to play the classic chicago blues sounds of both Walters, Sonny boys, butterfield, tune to 7 limit.

Feb 11, 2009 2:39 PM GMT
John P Replied:

I play Suzuki Hammonds and Firebreaths which are tuned to 12T ET. I think I sound so much more in tune with the rest of the band than when I used to play Hohner Pro Harps which have a compromise tuning. ET sounds so much better for my style of play (primarily single notes and using multiple positions). FWIW.


Feb 14, 2009 9:19 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

The thing is with harmonica reeds, because it has a weak fundamental overtone and gives ff a huge number of odd numbered overtones, much like an accordion or melodica, which are really related instruments, when you hear a chiord played with ET, they sound harsh and beat like living hell> If you're playing more than 3 positions, ET or comprimise is better. The one Seydel uses is one that's very close to 19LJI and the chords sound smooth bty comparison. Comprimise tuning was devised first by Hohner because they no lonbger were gonna tune to just, but if they tuned all their diatonics to ET, the blues players would totally drop them, and many big name endorsees told them that straight up, and here in the US, that's way too large of a marketshare to lose, and companies like Hering would've beaten them to a pulp with a move like that. I still use tons of chords and double stops and so ET tuning doesn't work for me at all.

Feb 14, 2009 10:58 PM GMT
gray r Replied:

Thanx Petre H for the question and to BBQ Bob M for some anwsers.I have a question= If I have a special20 (ritcher tuned),how do I know how flat to tune each note and/or what notes do I tune flat?
(I am using a standard electronic chromatic (guitar) tuner that allows me to change pitch from 440 to 442,3,4 etc)

Feb 15, 2009 3:22 AM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Here's a link to a table of 19-limit and it can lead to a ton of data about tuning and other schemes.

Check out the Chromatia software info--this tuning program can accept your own files to adjust tuning to your own taste--so when I load the 19-limit scheme, all I have to do is hit 0 on the dial for each note without having to think much about how flat to make the 5 draw.

This makes it relatively easy for me--I'm still a klutz at it, but I did a test on an old Blues Band (Cheapie) harp and it actually sounds pretty damn sweet! ...

Feb 15, 2009 4:03 AM GMT
gray r Replied:

Thanx Oldwailer
Great link up.

Feb 15, 2009 2:42 PM GMT
John P Replied:

i recognize that chords unquestionably sound smoother in just intonation. However, i don't necessarily agree that chords played on my 12T ET Suzukis sound "harsh." I can hear the "beating," but, to my ear, it's a subtle shimmer that actually sounds sort of cool, especially when playing amplified.

Now , I don't play a lot of chords anyway. I regularly use 5 different positions, and although I do play blues, I don't play in a particularly traditional style, and almost always play amplified. The Suzukis I play (Hammmonds and Firebreaths) are pretty well set up out of the box and have pretty nice tone to start with, which may help. So, I have no opinion on how ET may sound on other harps.

But the chords on my Suzukis don't sound harsh or dissonant to me or the musicians I play with. I don't find the shimmer objectionable at all, especially since I sound SO much more in tune with the rest of the band playing ET harps. FWIW.

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