[Harp-L] Draw bend 5
Fri Feb 2 10:31:30 EST 2018
The conversation about the 5-draw bend has me thinking about the various
tunings available on our beloved 10-hole diatonic and how that affects
everything. Ask any Harp Tech, and they will tell you that the most
commonly blown out reed is the 5-draw and many believe that it is due to
the fact that players try to bend it down a full semitone. As a player, it
is enlightening to hear such prominent players and Michael Rubin and Steve
Baker state their cases in favor of the use of the 5-draw bend. And I like
Iceman’s point about the ability to “humanize” or “color” a note using
something less than a full semitone bend. I must confess that I have
probably allowed the Left Brain to suppress my Right Brain on this.
But here are my thoughts about tunings. We know that there are 100 cents
between semitones. On harmonicas that are tune to Equal Temperament, like
a Golden Melody or a Lee Oskar, the 5-blow and the 5-draw are, in theory,
tuned 100 cents apart. But with other tunings, the two reeds are tuned
slightly sharp or slightly flat, and in the case of 7-Limit Just
Intonation, very flat.
For example, with 7-Limit, the tuning chart calls for the 5-blow to be 14
cents flat and the 5-draw to be 29 cents flat. So, with 7-Limit, the
interval between 5-blow and 5-draw is 115 cents. One might think that
would give us a little more room at the bottom when bending the 5-draw.
And, it is worth pointing out, that an awful lot of the traditional blues
music that is such a huge part of the harmonica heritage, was played and
recorded on harps tuned to 7-Limit.
Modern Compromise Temperament calls for both the 5-blow and the 5-draw to
be 12 cents flat, it maintains the interval of 100 cents.
19-Limit Just Intonation calls for the 5-blow to be tuned 14 cents flat and
the 5-draw to be tuned 3 cents sharp. That reduces the interval to only 83
cents between the 5-blow and 5-draw. In theory, should that not affect the
ability to flatten the 5-draw?
I have noticed from my numerous conversations with other harp players, that
many have a much better ear than I do and hear subtle differences in tone,
etc. that I don’t. I’m not tone deaf, but I am probably middle of the road
relative to the fantastic ears pro players have. Have any of you noticed a
difference in the 5-draw bend from one tuning to the next?
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