Re: [Harp-L] Fwd: middle eastern tuning

I remember Howard Levy describing a middle eastern tour he did with
Rabih Abou Khalil. He said he did a lot of playing where the main note
was a bent note. That way when he did pitch-based vibrato, the pitch
wobbled UP instead of down in pitch, which accorded with the type of
vibrato used by middle eastern signers - when he did that they felt he
"got" their music.

Howard never uses anything but a standard-tuned diatonic in equal
temperament. But by using a position that relied on bent notes (Db or
Ab on a C-harp might be examples, though that comes from me and not
from him) he was able to place his instrument in a microtonal zone.


--- Robin Willis <niborsilliw@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> I recently went to Beirut a couple of weeks ago and the quarter tone
> scales really got under my skin. While walking around I would try to
> approximate these sounds on my harmonica, usually in the lower
> register. Some how the sound of the harmonica just fit. Maybe it´s
> sound of the reeds against the very natural, beautiful, unpolished
> sounds of middle eastern instruments like the Ney and the Oud. Maybe
> it's the soulfulness of the singers. Maybe it's that "blues thing" or
> as the flamenco folks call it "duende."
> Anyway I emailed Pat Missin about this and he sent an amazing reply.
> I
> thought I would share with our hamonica community.
> I have to say that guys like Pat are so open in sharing thier
> knowledge. Thank you very much, "Dr. Missin."
> "Hi Robin
> That's an interesting question. Of course, it's perfectly possible to
> tune a harmonica to any given scale, including any scales with
> quartertones or other microtonal intervals. Somewhere, I have a
> diatonic tuned to a neutral scale, ie the thirds and sevenths are
> tuned in between major and minor intervals. I also have a quartertone
> chromatic, which gives two complete octaves of 24 quartertones to the
> octave. I've mostly tended to use this for ear training, as much as
> for actually playing music.
> As you say, much Middle Eastern music requires the ability to slide
> between pitches, in much the way that blues requires note bending.
> For
> that reason, you might try to work out a few scales in the lowest
> register of a standard diatonic, getting at the microtones by using
> bending. If you pick your position well, you can get some nice stuff
> this way. Also, it might be worth trying some things in the lowest
> octave of a harmonic minor harp.
> On this page:
> I talk about some very basic stuff in this vein. As an exercise, try
> taking the Byzantine mode through a few different positions on a
> standard harp:
> Starting on the 1 blow (with a plain number indicating a blow note, a
> bracketed number indicating a draw note, a 'b' for each semitone
> bend,
> and a '+' for an overblow)
> 1 (1b) 2 (2bb) (2) (3bbb) (3) 4
> Starting on the 1 draw bend:
> (1b) (1) (2bb) (2b) (3bbb) (3bb) 4 (4b)
> Starting on the 2 draw bend:
> (2b) (2) (3b) (3) (4b) (4) (5) 5+
> Starting on the 3 draw bend:
> (3bb) (3b) (4b) (4) 5 (5) (6b) (6)
> With all of these examples, you will find different possibilities for
> slurring one note into the next, or adding microtonal ornamentation.
> Even without overblows, there's a lot of exotic stuff lurking in the
> lower end of a standard harmonica.
> I've seen pictures from old Hohner catalogs that showed special
> models
> made for the MiddleEastern market with Arabic writing all over them,
> so harmonicas must have been reasonably popular over there. Also,
> accordions have been made with quartertones for the MiddleEastern
> market. However, in the same way that the harmonica really hasn't
> been
> accepted in Western classical music, it has also not been accepted in
> the MiddleEastern art music traditions.
> Hope this is useful,
>  -- Pat."
> Absolutely invaluable!
> Robin
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