[Harp-L] Re: Starting new players on an alternate tuning

Richard Hunter responded to my post regarding spiral tuning with:
<< Robert Coble wrote:
<< To me, it makes more sense having all the diatonic notes for a << particular major scale available naturally (without bending) than << worrying about the breath reversal from one octave to the next. << It is no more of a problem than on the "standard" German Tuning << where the direction of breath changes abruptly at hole 7 in order << to keep the major I chord going unbroken all the way up the harp. 
<< This is all true where single note playing is concerned, and I agree < that a spiral tuning offers a lot in that regard. However, the Richter < tuning and its variations (natural minor, country tuned, paddy richter, < dorian minor, melody maker, etc., etc.) offer the player a lot of big < chord voicings over a 3-octave range, and I don't see how you get < that out of a spiral tuning. And because these variations in the Richter < layout are conceptually very similar (meaning that the root, 3rd, 5th, < etc. are generally found in the same location on all of them), the time < it takes to learn each variation is relatively low (compared to mastering < something as radically different as a spiral tuning). But I'm really kind < of conservative when it comes to tunings; Brendan Power's or James < Conway's setups, to take two players whose work I admire, are WAY out < there compared to the stuff I use. (And we haven't even discussed < alternative tunings for chromatic harp, like David Fairweather's new setups...) 
< As with any tuning (and life in general), you give something up for < everything you get. The question isn't "which tuning scheme is the best?"; < the question is "what can a particular tuning scheme do easily that's < difficult or impossible to do on the others?"
< Regards, Richard Hunter

I totally agree that "you give something up for everything you get." There is NOTHING magical about spiral (Circular) tuning compared to the traditional German Major tuning, or the many variations of it. The choice of tuning schemeshould be made on the basis of what you want to do MUSICALLY and how easyit is to do it with that scheme. I.E., pick the right tool for the job to be done.I use the spiral (Circular) tuning because it gives me great single-note soundsAND it allows me to comp using chords AND I get all the notes of all the modes.So, I don't have to carry but just one set of harps to a jam session or gig. I play a lot of bluegrass, OTM, country and gospel, so that works for ME; YMMV.

However, I really don't understand the observation regarding the paucity ofchords in spiral (Circular) tuning. Rather than being limited in chords, thespiral (Circular) tuning provides a full chord (triad or extended chord) onEVERY scale degree across two octaves. My reason for switching to spiral(Circular) tuning was the combination of having (1) ALL diatonic notes in a major scale [AND all associated modes] (plus easy half-tone bends to get missing chromatic notes) AND (2) having full chords (not partial chords) thatare harmonized from the underlying diatonic scale.

What do you lose with spiral (Circular) tuning? 

You lose the ability to play octaves. If that is a consideration of importance, then I suggest NOT using spiral (Circular) tuning.

I've also seen discussions that state the spiral (Circular) tuning MUST be pure Equal Temperament. That's just not true. The stock Seydel Circular Tuned harpsare tuned using a compromise scheme. Consequently, the chords are not as harshas they would be if a pure ET scheme was used. On the other hand, if you need avariation of Just Intonation, then I'm not sure the single-note capabilities wouldbe satisfactory. It's possible to get a Circular Tuned harp that is tuned JI, but I don't think that would be as useful for single-note playing.

If you really want the traditional BLUES bending and wailing capability, then it's hard to beat the German Major tuning. I can bend and wail as I need using the spiral (Circular) tuning, but I don't play a lot of blues. In fact, the most blues I've played in several years was the blues jam at the 2010 VA Harmonica Fest. I didn'thave any problems playing blues-style licks. It must have sounded okay to the other participants: they didn't kick me out of the circle! (Or maybe they were just beingkind - [SHRUG])

In any event, Richard, thank you for your response and all the great contributionsyou make on this list and others, as well as for the great jazz tutorial and all the wonderful music you make! I've learned a lot from you over the years!

Crazy Bob

Hotmail has tools for the New Busy. Search, chat and e-mail from your inbox.

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