Donate to This Project

Your donations help us continue to add new and exciting features. Please consider making a donation

HarmonicaSpace is a subsidiary of Brady Mills Graphics

tuning help!!!

Back to the Maintenance, Repair and Customization Room

jon s
Sep 30, 2009 5:30 AM GMT

ok so i got me the peterson stroboflip. im totally lost. iv been at this for hours. can some one give me some good tips on what to do. how to set up the tuner, how to tune the harp, other then scrape from the tip to sharp an scrape from the base to flaten. some one explain the strobe too?! i know up is to sharp down is too flat, but why are there 4 of them an what do i do with them??? i think it has something to do with octaves but so what? what do i do? ahhh!!! i scraped these reeds almost flat going back an forth an i have a D note ringing in my head now.

Share |

Comments (12)

Login or Register to Post Comments

Order by Date

Sep 30, 2009 1:46 PM GMT
Sjoeberg D Replied:


A huge subject ... as a start, take your time and read through this here ..

I think it explains in detail what you search for regarding understanding of your tuner. When you are ready to test your tuning skills you may want to buy this book from Richard Sleigh (Recommended)

Best regards


Sep 30, 2009 9:54 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

When you do the tuning, you also need to know what kind of tuning based on the genre(s) of music you want to play, how many chords or double stops you use in your playing and what standard pitch you want/need to use, and that alone is based on the breath force you tend to use, and these things ARE important considerations.

Also, your ears are gonna be the final judge and it would be a mistake to completely rely on the tuner alone. When checking against the tuner, make sure BOTH cover plates are on the harmonica, and one thing that I cannot overstress here and that's use the LIGHTEST breath force you can physically manage to get the most accurate tuning. Why? The harder the force, the lowere the pitch, as well as the reed may get bent in tterms of the note, and then the tuning will not be accurate. If it is right on soft breath, it's right on haarder breath, but NEVER the other way around.

When you scrape, scrape as LITTLE as possible because too much can actually weaken the reed, and like anything else you do on the instrument in terms of maintenance, NEVER be impatient and constantly in a hurry because you're buying something you don't need and that's trouble.

Some of those things you mention, like seeing sopme other things on the strobe wheel is for doing just tuning based on just doing the tuning from the root note of the harmonica (C on a key of C harmonica, for example), and then you tune to the harmonic overtone, based on the circle of 5ths, and many decades ago, with the earlier strobe tuners (which even today, are waaaay more accurate than any of the best quartz crystal tuners on the market today by a mile), when they could't be programmed for different types of tuning setups, this was often the way to go for just intonation.

I hope your practicing this on your junk harps or really cheapo ones first.

Sep 30, 2009 10:15 PM GMT
jon s Replied:

thanks for the info. i dont realy have any junk harps so no, im ruining my good ones. maybe ill go buy some cheap harps to practice.

Oct 04, 2009 12:59 AM GMT
Mondo Replied:

Oh, no! As much money as you spent on that tuner ($160+) you should pick up a cheap harmonica to use while learning. In fact, you can get whole sets of garbage harps out there for cheap. For instance check out Piedmont Blues by Hohner, Soul Man set or the Chicago Blues by Kay. All of these have 7 harps in them and sell for $35 or less. That's $5.00 each at the most! Tear these things up and stop worrying about it!

Oct 04, 2009 7:19 AM GMT
jon s Replied:

good idea thanks.

Oct 30, 2009 5:29 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Here's something I posted a while back somewhere else that might help:

OK, there are two schools of thought about this.
School of thought No. 1: the tuner is not that important. All you need is something like a $30 Korg, the only MUSTS are that you be able to change the reference pitch between 440 and 445 and it have a readout that tells you sharp or flat in cents in minimum of 10 increments. It is your ear that makes the final decision, like a writer uses a dictionary, it's just there for reference.
School of thought No. 2: You need a strobe tuner. It's the most accurate tuner you can get. It is also expensive. Again, in this school, your ear makes the final check, but the importance of the tuner is increased greatly.

The disclaimer is there are a lot of folks with more experience than me and better builders than me in School No. 2. That doesn't change my opinion, though.
Here's using the school No. 2 tuner.
Starting on the blow plate. Reed No. 1 is tuned to top dead center, right on at whatever the reference pitch is. You can use the tuner to tune, say on JI tuning, the 2 blow at somewhere around minus 14 cents. Tune the 3 blow at plus two.
All of these will be your best guess so far. As you sound the note, you won't be able to hold a pitch steady. Just hold it steady as you can, the needle will swing back and forth, try to minimize that swing to about 10 cents. Your actual pitch will be somewhere about the middle of the swing, or maybe a little on the sharp side.
But the PRECISE tuning of the harmonica isn't as relevant as you'd think. There is a window of elbow room you have... for instance, there is a huge window between harps tuned at 440 and 444 Hz, but all are OK, although 444 is a bit sharp for my ear. What is CRUCIAL is that the harmonica be in tune with itself. That's where your ear comes in.
You will be doing all the blow plate with the harp apart, you hold the two plates on the comb with your fingers to check pitches.
You can use another harp of the same key for reference, provided you want to tune your harp that same way. Blow 1 and 2 together. Do they react together how they should? Again, you are not listening for pitch. You are listening for an interaction of those two sounds. The sound energy from each will hit each other in the air and the effect of that is a little bit of a warble provide one is tuned higher or sharper from the EQ pitch, say if the 1 is dead on an A=442 reference and 2 is 14 cents flat, they will react to one another. At Equal temperment, both will be at 0, right in tune. The two sounds interact little and when played together, sounds boring as hell to me.
So your ear makes a decision, are they fighting too much? Not enough? You're looking for something like the speed of a warble.
If you are not satisfied, look at the tuner again and see what it says. Listen to the notes again, now you have to make a decision, provided your 1 blow is dead on and it should be, whether to sharp or flat the two blow. Make a very minor adjustment and repeat that process.
Now, on to the three, playing the two and three together, making an adjustment, then playing 1-2-3 blow together and making an adjustment if necessary.
Once you are happy with the 1-2-3 blow chord, it is pretty much ALL ear from this point on the blow plate. Put your mouth on holes 1-4, cover up 2-3 with your tongue. Now, you should hear the 1 and 4 blow played together ringing like a bell. There should be no warble. There probably will be warble, so you can either listen to the two pitches or check the tuner, but you have to make a decision whether the 4 is flat or sharp. Tune a little in that direction, check the octave again. You will need to play a sustained note for at least 10 seconds if you don't hear warbling, here's why:
When two pitches are relatively close to each other, say within a semitone, they warble. At say 40 cents difference, they warble really fast, like a machine gun. The closer they get in pitch, the more the warble slows. When they are really close, but still off, that warble is delayed. It can be delayed as much as five or six seconds.
Repeat process with tuning the 5 blow to the 2 blow, 6 blow to the 3 blow, all the way up to the end. As you go higher in pitch, they warble faster with less difference and it gets noticeably harder to get it exact around hole 8 and 9, especially hole 10.
Now the draw. Tune the 1 draw to the reference pitch. But this is NOT your reference pitch for the draw plate. After you've tuned 1 draw, tune 2 draw to the 3 draw on the blow plate (they are the same note). Once two draw is the same as hole 3, leave two draw alone. Now repeat the process you had with the 1-2-3- blow chord with the 1-2-3 draw chord, only the 2 draw is the one you do not change.
After that chord is good, tune the 1 and 4 draw octave.
Now, on to the five. You can use the tuner primarily on that one if you want to start. Now tongue block and play the two and five draw together. Your five draw can be tuned any number of ways. 2 cents sharp, 20 cents flat, whatever, those are all viable ways to tune a five draw. What you are looking for in the two and five draw together is a degree of fighting. A flat five draw will make it roar together, which is good when you hit the 2 and 5 draw for a 7th.
Once you've got your 5 draw tuned, play the 4-5-6 draw chord. Again you are looking for an interaction of notes. Is it what you want? Put the six somewhere around plus two or three. Play the six blow, then the six draw? Does that sound OK? Now play a scale starting at 4 blow going up to six draw. Does that sound OK? Now go back to the 4-6 draw chord. How does that sound to you? If you want to change how that chord sounds, concentrate on the 5 draw.
Now when you get up to 7, tune the draw plate to whatever the pitches should be according to the layout you are using. You can put some tape over the 6-8 holes, if you can't tongue block three holes at a time, but you need to tune the 5 and 9 holes to the octave, just like all the other octaves. Run some scales on the high end. Does it sound OK? The end result is the 8-10 draw chord will sound the same as the 4-6 draw chord.
Lower notes flatten more under increased pressure. SO, if you blow harder and the warble speeds up, the lower note is flatter than the higher note.
If you blow harder and the warble slows, it's the other way around.

Again, very little of this has been listening for pitch. You do not have to have a trained ear to do it.

Oct 30, 2009 7:32 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Dave, this basically describes my procedure for doing JI to a T. However, for the last 20 years, with JI, I almost never use a tuner anymore because my ears have been trained as to what to listen for. I agree with you 100% you don't necessarily have to have perfect pitch hearing to do it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Nov 25, 2009 4:30 AM GMT
Tuggy B Replied:

Elk River, Thank you very much for your awesomepost on tuning, it has helped me tremendiously! It has given me a much betterunderstanding of tuning harps.I use your "howto" to the letter,and my harps have never sounded soooooo good!!! Damn I love my harps :)

Nov 25, 2009 4:46 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

You are welcome. ;)


Feb 03, 2010 6:26 PM GMT
Carl M Replied:



Feb 04, 2010 11:38 PM GMT
Carl M Replied:

Just came back from the music store,really not looking to buy ,just window shopping yuh know.I was trying out a new model of guitar and wanted a tuner so i could set up a special tuning to try out and the tuner they gave me to try was a new Seiko model SAT 800 ,.I have a lot of good tuners but this model shows you how much you are sharp or flat buy 1 cent digital readouts.Fully chromatic,has sound if wanted ,auto mode,manual mode,sits on an angle,big screen,backlite,external mic with optional clip mic for some acoustics.I bought one,$34.95cad, plus tax.I am learning how to set up harps and this tuner is the cats A--..I now can get the harp real close before i use my ears.GREAT BUY.I think a lot of tuning beginner like myself will find this will be a great help..Carl


Feb 12, 2010 11:17 PM GMT
Reed Triller Replied:

Ant techies on here ever used AP Tuner?What`s your opinion of it?

© 2009 HarmonicaSpace

Advertise with Us | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Anti-Spam Policy | Report Abuse | Report Problem | Contact Us

Harmonica Space offers free social networking, harmonica forums and harmonica chat for harmonica players.
Join today and meet other harmonica players from all over the world!

Web Development and Web Design by Brady Mills Graphics