Re: [Harp-L] History of harp tuning

<Steve Baker wrote:
<"This would appear to refute claims that the introduction of new tuning
<systems will increase the appeal of the harmonica (whether diatonic or
<chromatic) and boost sales. Unfortunately the evidence all points the other
<way. "
<I disagree with the claim you made. Consider these two customer groups:

I have championed alternate tunings, beginning with the country tuning, since the publication of my book "Jazz Harp" in 1980 (which Steve Baker credited on this list as inspiring him to take up the country tuning, which he now uses by his own estimate on about 1/3 of his pieces--thanks Steve!).  My two solo (as in unaccompanied) harmonica CDs, released in 1995 and 1998 respectively, both featured alternate tunings extensively.  I'm certainly not the only player who's made extensive use of alternate tunings; as PT Gazell remarked to me when I asked him what instruments he and Brendan Power used on their duet CD, "who knows what Brendan was playing."  (Indeed.  Whatever Brendan is playing at any given point in time, you can bet that it's substantially different from what the rest of us are using, not to mention anything we've ever seen.)

In other words, plenty of prominent players have made extensive use of alternate tunings, live and on record, but as per Steve's comments, only a small fraction of all harmonica sales represent these tunings.  I've given up trying to figure out why so few players reach for this low-hanging fruit, but there it is.     

Past is not necessarily future, but I tend to agree with Steve that introducing new tuning systems, some of them radically different from traditional Richter systems, will not change the picture much, perhaps unless (or until) some dazzling player comes along who captures the imagination of millions with, say, a Powerbender in her hands.  Until then, I think it's asking a lot of manufacturers to tool up and turn out millions of instruments that are very likely to sit on shelves worldwide forever.

If you disagree, then do the only thing that will get those manufacturers to move: go out there and buy alternate tuned harmonicas, and encourage your friends to do the same.

In the meantime, I'm just grateful that I can still get my hands on these instruments in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost, if not instantly and for free at every store in my neighborhood.

Regards, Richard Hunter 

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