Re: [Harp-L] History of harp tuning

I play steel guitar too, Richard, in several tunings. The difference is
that I can drop a six or eight string steel
from A6th to E13th in about fifteen seconds, and return it likewise, almost
always without breaking a string.
To change tunings on a harp is time consuming or expensive, often both; and
in that my local music store doesn't keep anything more exotic than a
Special 20 in Eb.

On 15 May 2014 00:45, Richard Hunter <turtlehill@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Rick Dempster wrote:
> <Custom tunings amount to a Tower of Babel.
> When Robert Johnson tuned his guitar to open G; when Keith Richards or
> Sonny Landreth or Derek Trucks tune their guitars to open E; when a heavy
> metal guitarist tunes the low E string down to D to get a heavier tone; are
> those all examples of a Tower of Babel too?
> I don't see why it's perfectly okay for a guitarist to radically change
> the tuning of his instrument to make different styles easier to play, but
> it's not perfectly okay for a harmonica player to do the same.  Any
> instrument is a tool.  If you can't change the tool to do a different kind
> of job, then the tool is a prison.  That's not how it's supposed to work.
>  The tool is supposed to increase capabilities, not restrict them.
> Lots of modern harmonica music uses overblowing techniques to augment the
> built-in scale, which is certainly non-traditional (at least in terms of
> tradition before 1970, isolated examples aside), and it certainly enables
> some players to create some great stuff.  Why is non-standard tuning any
> different from that?
> Of course there are many ways to make great music, and great traditional
> harmonica music in many cases only requires a standard Richter tuning. But
> if you want to make new traditions, you may very well require new tools to
> do so.
> Robert Khayat, the former Chancellor of Ole Miss during a period of steep
> change, wrote in his autobiography that everybody wants progress, but
> nobody wants change.  Unfortunately, you usually don't get the former
> without the latter.
> I'm in favor of any tool that enables a player to create great music,
> assuming of course that small children and animals are not harmed in the
> process.  (Grown men and women can watch out for themselves.)  I think
> alternate tunings pass that test.  Players who don't need those tools to
> make the music they want to make are welcome to use whatever tools they
> prefer.  For me, simple variations on Richter tuning are too easy and
> useful to pass up.  And yes, I do think the simple variations (country
> tuning, natural minor, etc.) are easy--certainly much easier than the
> transition from a diatonic harp to a chromatic, which many players
> practically take for granted.
> Regards, Richard Hunter
> author, "Jazz Harp" (Oak Publications, NYC)
> Latest mp3s and harmonica blog at
> Vids at
> Twitter: lightninrick

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