[Harp-L] Searching for Half-Valved Players

One of the things that most appeals to me about half valved harps -- I prefer 
Suzuki's ProMaster
MR350-V -- is the "logical" relationship of the blow bend to the unbent note, 
compared to overblows.

I like the idea that if I want to create a B on the C harp I merely blow bend 
the 1 Blow. If I want to get an Eb, I blow bend the E (Blow 2).   Obviously, 
I am not looking at the harp before I sound the note. I am using my "mind's 
eye" as reference.

It's helpful to know that when you blow bend on the notes that you will get a 
note a half-step lower -- not a minor third raised (maybe).

With overblows, even if I could execute them on a more or less regular basis 
(which I can't) I have trouble keeping track of where they are. To get that Eb 
via overblow, you overblow C (Blow 1) and Blow 4 but overblow Blow 7 (C) you 
get Db.   

(Obviously, if you play overblows, you already "know" where   the overblows 
logically belong and probably don't need any valved bends.)

As far as hitting valved blow bends on pitch, you can pick up a good quality 
chromatic tuner from $20-50 and a good electronic keyboard for about $100 or 
less -- to help on hitting those bends spot on.   Bends have always been 
tricky. Anybody can bend a note; it takes a little extra effort to play them in 

And if you don't want to waste your money on getting some of the traditional 
draw bends in tune, simply play the scale on the first 4 holes of any diatonic 
so that it sounds like the scale on holes 4-7. You need to create the F and A 
notes. Failing that, pick up the telephone and listen to the dial tone. It's 
an F and use that for a reference point for the bent F.

I think the half-valved diatonic is one of the great underutilized harps 
around -- whether you buy a Suzuki valved and play it out of the box (like I try) 
or build you own with mylar, scotch tape or medical tape et cetera.

The best part is that you don't have to change what you already know, you 
just add a few bent notes where they "logically" belong.   

Phil Lloyd

In a message dated 6/13/07 6:17:56 AM, bren@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

> --- Larry Marks < <mailto:larry.marks%40barberry.com>
> larry.marks@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> > 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
> others
> > 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
> bends, PT.
> 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.
> Brendan
> WEB: http://www.brendan-power.com <http://www.brendan-power.com/> 
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