[Harp-L] Harmonica tuning


I am new to this site and the first thing I read about is how every "...serious U.K. (harp) player" plays only harmonicas that have been customized. So, am I right to understand that these days no "serious" professional simply purchases a harp at a music store and plays it on a gig as it comes out of the box? Having played professionally for over 40 years (chromatic and diatonic), "out-of-the-box" is the only way I have ever played a harmonica---straight as it comes from Hohner. I guess I feel it is somewhat a cop-out to do otherwise--like it's part of the challenge of playing a harmonica, or, put in terms of contemporary athletics, playing the game straight instead of using performance enhancing drugs.

 With this said, I will admit to having the good folks in the Hohner
repair shop specially tune Marine Band harmonicas for me to A=440 Equal
Temperament instead of the tuning Hohner uses for Marine Band harps,
which is (approximately) A=442.5, Just intonation. I need harmonicas
tuned to standard orchestra pitch because I play the piano at the same
time I play the harmonica, and when on tour I need to make sure the
harmonicas are in standard tune with the pianos that are provided by the
venues. Until I discovered that Hohner would retune a Marine Band, it was
quite difficult for me to tour outside of my home area because I was
never satisfied with the sound I got trying to match my harmonicas with
pianos tuned to another pitch. It's a big enough challenge trying to play
a harp on the rack without it sounding like a toy, let alone not be in
tune--this only emphasized shrill toy-like sound qualities. In contrast,
when the piano is perfectly tuned to the harmonica, a powerful synergetic
wedding a the tones takes place that  creates a combined sound that seems
bigger than the sum of the two parts.

 My home studio pianos are tuned to A=442.5, and I use harmonicas I buy at
the local music store. I save the A=440 harps for when I am touring and
playing pianos properly tuned to A=440. Also, the intonation of my home
and studio pianos are somewhat modified to partially match  the Just
Intonation of the "out-of-the-box" C Marine Band diatonic harp. This is
the key harp I normally use for the six or seven keys in which I commonly

 I sometimes wonder why Hohner doesn't simply produce Marine Band harps
properly tuned to standard pitch and equal temperament. In this day and
age of people playing in multiple keys upon the same diatonic, the need
to give the harmonicas a tuning in Just Intonation is unnecessary.

 All diatonic Marine Band harps used to be tuned to A=440 until around
1982. I have a couple of pre 1982 Marine Bands and they are, indeed, not
in tune with the harps made after 1982.  So, if any of you have concerns
about this same issue, please pass it along to Hohner if you haven't
already. Perhaps Hohner may go back to the tuning they used before 1982
if enough harmonica players voice their concern.

Best wishes,

Patrick Hazell

http://www.patrickhazell.com http://www.myspace.com/patrickhazellcom


For tour schedules, CD orders, and other information about Patrick Hazell, please go to http://www.patrickhazell.com

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.