[Harp-L] Re: Richter+ tuning

Winslow Yerxa wrote:
As I said before every alternate tuning gives you something and takes away something else. I use a few of them myself, but they work for me and I'm not about to try to convince the world that any of them is the path to salvation.

All true.  I use six or seven different tunings for my pieces, but--and it's a VERY big caveat--all of them are variations on Richter: natural minor, dorian minor, country, Paddy Richter, harmonic minor, Melody Maker, and standard.  By "variations on Richter," I mean that all of them essentially have the same scale tones in the same place on the harp.  When I play a natural minor in 2nd position, I know where the scale tones are.  Ditto any of these other variations in any of the common positions.

Of course the scale tones are not the same--the 3rds and 6ths are minor on the Natural minor, the 3rds are minor on the Dorian minor, etc.  But the LOCATION of the scale tones is the same--the 3rd degree of the scale is in the same location in 1st/2nd/3rd position no matter which Richter variation I'm using.  That makes it easy for me to take advantage of the differences for a wide range of musical purposes, starting with expanded chording options.

I've made a habit over the years of swapping out my "pocket harps"--the ones I carry around to take advantage of fleeting opportunities for practice--with different variations at regular intervals.  It keeps my ear fresh, and it's a painless way to get comfortable with these different tunings.  But tunings like the Powerbender and Circular represent much more radical departures from standard Richter, and I know from experience that it takes a lot more time and effort to master something that different.  I fear that I will never really be able to play a Powerbender with the same fluency that I have with Richter variations, its obvious expressive advantages aside.

I don't think that problem will be as difficult for a player starting out now as it has always been for me, given how deeply habits are ingrained after 40-plus years of practice.  I urge younger players to take full advantage of new developments in diatonic harp tuning to create music that is simply impossible on a Richter variation.  

As James Brown said, "It's a new day, so let a man come in and make popcorn!"  Translation: try a new tuning every once in a while.  If you're just beginning to learn, try something radical like a circular or Powerbender.  If you've played standard Richter for years, drop a natural minor or Country tuning into the mix.  Either way, it's likely to be more fun than if you never tried.

Regards, Richard Hunter


author, "Jazz Harp" (Oak Publications, NYC)
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