[Harp-L] Re: Searching for Half-Valved Players
--- Larry Marks < <mailto:larry.marks%40barberry.com>
> Fellow harmonica types,
>I just recently heard of both SPAH and this list. I have been lurking
> for a while and searching the archives, but have found little on
> (half-) valved diatonics, which I like to play. I am hoping to find
> who are similarly inclined.
Good to hear of players taking the half-valved harmonica seriously. I'm
a long-term acolyte: I started half-valving my diatonics in the mid
80's, and soon after did the same with chromatics; all my recordings are
on half-valved harps, diatonics and chromatics. Suzuki's ProMaster
MR350-V, the first commercial half-valved diatonic, was a result of my
suggesting the idea to Suzuki.
After getting used to the beautiful expressiveness of the half-valved
diatonic, it is very hard to go back to playing an un-valved harp. The
lower 7 blow notes and upper 4 draws can be given vibrato and bending
effects, which I really miss on an un-valved harp. However, using a
half-valved diatonic for fully chromatic playing is another kettle of
fish. On a diatonic, I use half-valving for expression, not
chromaticism. Getting the bend down to pitch is not too bad, but hitting
a valved bend in tune, stable and sounding nice is very hard, and for me
the results are too nasty to be practically usable. Knowing how hard it
is, I appreciate the efforts of those who try this route - especially PT
Gazell. It would be interesting to hear your experiences of using valved
However, I feel there is a better way to go: the half-valved chromatic.
Chromatics need to be intrinsically very airtight and preferably in
alternate tunings (where every blow and draw reed is at least a tone
apart) to really suit half-valving. But when it's set up right, in my
opinion the half-valved chromatic is the best all-round harp in terms of
combining expressiveness and real usable chromaticism.
Even on a Solo-tuned chromatic you can half-valve every odd-numbered
hole (1,3,5,7,9,11) to get semitone draw bends, though it's best to
leave draw valves on holes 4 and 8, and on hole 2 and perhaps 6. For
those familiar with Richter tuning, Hohner's half-valved Slide Harp is
available, though it is sadly not nearly as airtight as it should be.
With customisation it works a lot better, and better half-valved Richter
chroms can be made using the larger holes of the cross-style slider.
Diminished and Whole-Tone tuning are great on half-valved chromatic, as
you get a lot of enharmonics using slide or bent notes, and you can
think up an infinite range of other tunings that would also suit.
Though I love the half-valved chromatic, there are very few serious
players. Apart from the fact there is no good off-the-shelf half-valved
chrom available, there are two reasons, I think: Traditional chromatic
players are used to the sound of valves on all holes (many of the old
school wouldn't want to bend notes anyway), and Howard Levy's pioneering
work on overblow diatonic has given diatonic players a way to achieve
chromaticism whilst retaining the traditional unvalved diatonic.
Both instruments and approaches have their strengths and appeal, and I
love hearing great players using either approach, but to me the
half-valved chromatic gives the best of both worlds: all chromatic notes
easy to obtain and in tune, as well as diatonic-type bending on half the
notes, giving many enharmonics (and therefore alternate phrasing
options), and lots of expression.
WEB: http://www.brendan-power.com <http://www.brendan-power.com/>
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