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Time to tune

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Peter H
Jul 31, 2009 5:51 PM GMT

Finally time for tuning. I've been fiddling with my d harp (a special 20) and I really have no clue what I am doing. What I want to do is temper this special 20 to the same temperment that a honer marine band comes with, because I know that works with how I play. there a chart anywhere on the net that tells you the frequency of each of the notes? I looked through pat missn's page, which was very informative, but honestly I don't care about the theory at this point, I just want to know the frequencies/cents for various temperments. Can anybody point me in the right direction?

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Jul 31, 2009 6:41 PM GMT
Peter H Replied:

Found it!

Jul 31, 2009 7:41 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

If you check out the Gear Section, I have already posted a list of the various temperaments for everyone's convenience and information.

Jul 31, 2009 7:48 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I should add that when you do tune, NEVER completely rely on the tuner alone, especially in regards to just intonation, as you will need to use your ears to pay close attention, and also make sure that BOTH cover plates are on before checking the tuning so that you do not accidently bend a note while checking. In additon, make sure that you always use the softest breath force that you can physically manage because if correct whenplayed soft, it should be correct when played hard, but NOT the other way around.

Aug 01, 2009 5:28 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

One that you don't see among lists very often is Seydel's compromise tuning. It's like Just, only the really flat ones aren't so flat.

What's especially crucial is the blow plate, since it's the same chord from 1-10. Tune the 1 2 and 3 blow for the chord, and then tune the rest of the plate from those reeds, check with tongue-block octaves, you want no beating. Same thing on the 1 and 4 draw.

Seydel compromise tuning:

blow 0 -14 2 0 -14 2 0 -14 2 0
hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
draw 4 2 -12 4 -2 6 -12 4 -2 6

divergence in cents

Aug 01, 2009 6:49 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Dave, I actually have that posted in the gear section, and the info I got personally from Seydel was that they tuned 5 & 9 draw 6 cents flat, rather than 2 cents flat (unless they recently changed it closer to 19LJI). I agree that it is essentially just intonationwith the 5 & 9 draw the only "comprimise" tuned note, and this tuning is really close to 19 limit JI, which would have those two notes tuned 3 cents sharp, as opposed to 7LJI, which has those two notes somewhere between 29-31 cents flat.

Aug 02, 2009 2:28 PM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

One more thing - should the tuner be calibrated to 440, 441, 442 etc. ???

Aug 03, 2009 5:45 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Most harmonicas come out of the factory tuned to A442-A443 so that no matter how hard anyone plays it, it will never fall below A440. The Bushman Delta Frost is tuned to A441, and I've had tons of discussions with Jon Hall that it should be higher. The Hering Golden Blues is tuned out of the factory pretty high at A446.

I wouldn't recommend tuning to real A440 because the way most people play (95% of players on the planet, including many big name pros) will windf up playing closer to A438, or worse A437, which would be really flat (something like close to 50 cents flat, a full 1/4 step flat, and that's extremely noticeable).

A couple of weeks ago, I had a 20 minute long phone conversation with Brad Harrison and he told me that the only player he knows of that has his harps tuned to real A440, and can actually play in rreal A440 on any harp tuned that way is Howard Levy, and you have to play with an incredibly light amount of breath force to do that, and almost no one can do that at all, including yours truly.

You may want to invest in one of those testing bellows Hohner has for store use because that plays at a force light enough so that when you calibrate a tuner to tune at A442, in real breath force it should come out at A440, and the best, but most expensive way would be investing in a tuning table like they use in the factory connected to a low PSI air compressor for that purpose.

Aug 03, 2009 9:52 PM GMT
walterharp Replied:

so if there is beating with an octave, how do you know to tune up or down other than trial and error, check against a tuner?

Aug 04, 2009 5:30 AM GMT
Reed Triller Replied:

"You may want to invest in one of those testing bellows Hohner has for store use because that plays at a force light enough so that when you calibrate a tuner to tune at A442"

Bob, in one of my posts,about my first store bought harp, I mention the Hohner Examina being used by the guy behind the counter to test the reeds before selling the harp.

I bought my second store bought harp today and a different person, a tiny female,used the Examina. When she used it, it was much quieter than when the guy testing my first store bought harp used the Examina.This means the pressure used depends on the user,not the Examina.

That being said,would it really make a good choice for a calibration tool?

Aug 04, 2009 1:42 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

For someone new at it, yes, because at least the force of air is going to be consistent, and many players new to tuning often use too much breath force in tuning as well, unknowingly forcing a bend somewhere, and once that happens, accuracy becomes lost.

In the early stages, especially with an equal tuned harp like most Asian made harps or a GM or Delta Frost, a tuner may be necessary, but the more you do it, the less you will need it. The faster the rate of beating, the more out of tune it is, the slower, the closer, and of course. no beating, it's a done deal.

With JI, you also listen to the other notes of the chord as well (don't do with with equal because the chords will ALWAYS beat like hell), and so let's say you're trying to tune 2 draw on a JI tuned harp, you first check 1-2-3 draw, and then move up to 2-3-4 draw to check it, and if there's any beating (and you could still move further up to be sure as well), then you know you stil have a bit to go.

If you use a file, rotary tool, emery board or anything else, remove as little as possible to prevent overdoing it and wind up weakening the reed, which you don't want to do.

Aug 05, 2009 8:55 PM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

Hi Bob - which temperment do you tune to for your blues work?

Aug 06, 2009 1:50 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Whenever I'm doing more traditional blues with a diatonic, it's 7 limit just intonation, generally, or 19 limit, as usually I won't use anything past 3rd position. However, in other genres, it's more wide open, often times tho, I'd use 19LJI for greater versatility.

Aug 06, 2009 6:21 PM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

Thanx for the info Bob - I've taken your advice and started retuning my Bluesmasters - I was wondering what the reasoning is behind the -29 in 7 limit on the 5 draw. It seems a bit extreme to my old ears.

Aug 06, 2009 10:18 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

The reason is where the beating stops at and with a tuner, especially a strobe tuner, that's where it stops. When you tune to 19 limit, where holes 5 & 9 are tuned 3 cents sharp, as opposed to 7LJI, where that's 29 cents flat, the beating will also stop, tho it makes the tuning more versatile for positions beyond 3rd, it's slightly less clear that 7LJI. It will seem evfen more extreme if two things happen:

  • if you tune the harp to real A440 rather than A442 or A443 (remember, most players, including many big name pros don't have the kind of breath control of a Howard Levy to play a real A440 tuned harp in actual A440, so often most players using a harp tuned this way are usually gonna play closer to A438 or worst case scenerio for someone who really "steps on the gas"FAR too hard, more like A437, and doing this even without bending any notes at all, will really sound way out tune before you're even started), and
  • if you do tend to really try to play 5 & 9 draw too hard and bend way past the floor (you should NEVER try doing this, a common newbie mistake that too often carries on for years after, trying to get a 1/2 step or more that's clearly not there at all because there's only 1/2 step between 5 blow and 5 draw, and max bend is 1/4 step at best), then this note will sound even more out of tune, and wind up sounding closer to about 50-60 cents flat, and it's something you do not want at all,

Before you start retuning, you really need to know what your playing needs are and if you intend to play beyond 3rd position because 7LJI ain't gonna be for everyone and ditto with other tunings as well, and unfortunately, the average player often really doesn't have a clue as to what they really need based on their own playing needs.

Aug 07, 2009 3:52 AM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

Thanks Bob, I think I'll stick with 19 limit for now, that -29 just sounds off to me when I'm playing single notes. I'm going with A443. Does that sound appropriate?I play mostly staight ahead blues and only play in 2nd and 3rd and the odd time 1st. I hope I'm on the right track - I've never dabbled in tuning much before.

Aug 07, 2009 3:09 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

The diatonics used by both Walters, both Sonny Boys, Butterfield, George Smith, pre-1985 James Cotton, Junior Wells, Carey Bell, Kim Wilson, Papa Lightfoot, DeFord Baileu, and many more were all tuned to 7LJI. The two stock harps today using this tuning right now are the Hering 1923 Vintage Harp and the just tuned version of the Suzuki Fabulous. 19LJI will give you more versatility., but if you get one of these, check it against their recordings and go from there.

Aug 09, 2009 11:46 PM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

Thanx Bob - Does that well of info have a bottom???!!!! ;-)

Aug 10, 2009 1:56 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I'm always learning something new every day, and tho it may not keep the body young, it sure keeps the mind young, and I'm a firm believer in that there's always more to learn no matter what level you're at, and if you get too complacent in anything, you stagnate, and so that prevents the well from bottoming out.

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