Re: [Harp-L] Circle of Fifths, and different tunings

"Robert Laughlin" wrote:

> I wonder,,,
> Over the years I've only used 10-hole major diatonics. I'm assuming they are "Richter tuned", 
> though I'm not certain what that means. This is what you get when you just go and buy a 
> "harmonica", for the most part.
> If I were to dabble in the different tunings, e.g., Paddy, natural minor, circular, etc., 
> would these different tunings negate or modify the usefulness of an understanding of the 
> Circle of Fifths?


1. The "Richter Tuning" actually refers to the default "standard" layout of notes on a 10-hole
diatonic harmonica. I'll use a key of "C" harp as an example.


The advantage of this layout is the very important I chord (any combination of 3 blow holes)
and the V (draw holes 1-2-3, holes 2-3-4) or V7 chord (holes 2-3-4-5) on the low end for
rhythmic accompaniment, and the complete diatonic scale from hole 4 blow through hole 7 blow)
in the middle octave. (I'm intentionally ignoring playing the "blues" and bending.)

The discussion regarding the usage of the Circle of Fifths includes why the I and V (or V7) chords
are so important.


2. Alternate tunings do NOT negate the benefit derived from understanding the intervalic
relationships underlying the Circle of Fifths. However, the oft cited "positions" do NOT adhere
to the accepted "standard" for numbering positions (IF AND ONLY IF that "standard" is assumed
to begin with hole 1 blow.

For example, I am a rabid advocate of Circular (also called Spiral) Tuning. I reference the
"positions" relative to the underlying major key of the harmonica. Again, I'll use a Circular 
Tuned harp as an example, with the proviso that the underlying key (in other words, the diatonic
major scale (Ionian mode) that is implemented on the harp, rather than the note in hole 1 blow.

According to Seydel's labeling system (labeling based on hole 1 blow), the "G" harp actually uses 
the C major diatonic scale as the underlying diatonic major scale. Here's the note layout of a "G"
Circular Tuned harp.


The C major scale has the following notes:

Scale Degree --1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8
Note ----------C--D--E--F--G--A--B--C

(Please forgive the excessive usage of the "-" (hyphen) character: Harp-L compresses out multiple
spaces, making formatting using spaces not useable.)

As can be seen, the "G" Circular Tuned harp actually uses the notes of the C major diatonic scale.

I consider the "positions" to correspond to the underlying diatonic major scale, NOT the labeled
key of the harp. Given that rationale, here are the 7 positions corresponding to the 7 modes.

 1st position (C) Ionian ------ Begins in hole 2 draw and hole 6 blow 
 2nd position (G) Mixolydian -- Begins in hole 1 blow and hole 4 draw
 3rd position (D) Dorian ------ Begins in hole 3 blow and hole 6 draw
 4th position (A) Aeolian ----- Begins in hole 1 draw and hole 5 blow
 5th position (E) Phrygian ---- Begins in hole 3 draw and hole 7 blow
 6th position (B) Locrian ----- Begins in hole 2 blow and hole 5 draw
12th position (F) Lydian ------ Begins in hole 4 blow

One of the major advantages of this note layout is two full octaves of ALL notes in the diatonic 
scale AND for all positions/modes (except for the Lydian mode). That means that I have a "natural"
note to play, instead of a bent or overblown note to play. Since my interest lies in playing MUSIC
and not trying to coax/force "unnatural" sounds from the instrument, I consider that a significant
advantage. Another significant advantage (to me) is that 3-note chords are available harmonized on 
every scale degree, not just the I and V (or V7) chords. Given that i play a lot of OTM and gospel, 
that is very important.

I also like to approach the tonic note from the 5th below it as a nice little stereotypical run.
Since the tonic is in hole 2 draw, the 5th is in hole 1 blow, making that achievable without bending.
And, if I really want to play some blues, the 3b, 5b and 7b notes are there in the lowest octave as
half-step bends. I don't have to slip and slide all over hole 3 draw, trying to get those pesky 
bends "just right."

What does that have to do with the Circle of Fifths? The Iceman alluded to the very important role
that tension and resolution requires, traveling through the Circle of Fifths backwards. The V (and
especially the V7) chord has a very strong "feel" of resolution toward the I chord. That feeling 
occurs regardless of which two chords (in the I--V relationship) are being played. A typical "jazz" 
progression is to start somewhere away from the tonic, and then resolve back toward the tonic using 
the chordal relationships from the Circle of Fifths.

It then becomes important to know what those chordal relationships are. In fact, it becomes fairly
easy to anticipate the chordal movement within different passages of most songs by knowing just the
relationships of the chords using the Circle of Fifths. (For those inclined to be pedantic, NO, that
is not even close to the entire story.)

Suppose you want to move from the I chord to the iii chord, and then resolve back to the I chord.
If you know the Circle of Fifths relationships, you know to move iii-vi-ii-V-I (E-A-D-G-C, using
the C major scale). If you look at the positions above, you can see that this corresponds to moving
from the Phrygian mode through Aeolian mode through Dorian mode through Mixolydian mode to the
Ionian mode. That knowledge (combined with a knowledge of the notes available in each mode) gives
a much richer palette of notes with which to improvise.

I am a firm believer (based on my own personal experience) that understanding MORE music theory is
very helpful in increasing the musicianship of the player by giving more options to the player.

My apology in advance if I wrote something patently stupid above.

Crazy Bob 		 	   		  

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