Author Topic: Diminished or Augmented - why do we still play solo or bebop tuned chromatics?  (Read 4997 times)

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dougharps

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My reply #7 above has links to information on this subject.

I have no experience or opinion to relate regarding these tunings other than noting that SaxonyFan has practical experience to relate and Gnarly has explored many tunings.


Doug S.

EZ-Slider

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My reply #7 above has links to information on this subject.

I have no experience or opinion to relate regarding these tunings other than noting that SaxonyFan has practical experience to relate and Gnarly has explored many tunings.


Doug S.
Yes thank you Doug..
Been digging into that stuff for the last several hours.. About to get a Symphony 48 and trying to figure how I want it tuned.. Have not spent enough time on solo to be stuck.
EZ

Offline Gnarly He Man

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I don’t see any advantages of the diminished tuning over the augmented tuning.

I do!
There are enharmonics--every draw button note is the same as the next highest blow (slide out) note.

I have tried waaay too many tunings, and keep trying new ones, even tho I know the best thing you can do is choose one and stick with it.
I can only think of one professional chromatic player who uses an altered tuning exclusively--
I can think of maybe twenty professional chromatic players--in order to qualify, they can't have a day job.
That lets you out, Neil Adler and Slim Heilpern, and you too, Ed Coogan (he plays Power Chromatic) and Phil Caltabellotta (he plays standard).
Stevie Wonder, Will Galison (he occasionally uses that Paddy tuning, it's like bebop but replaces the redundant C with an A), Rod Piazza (mote famous for diatonic), surely there are more "professional chromatic harmonica players" I just can't think of.

Bottom line, we still play solo tuned chromatics because that's what is most available, and most of our role models used that tuning.

Bill Barrett is my role model, and I am not qualified to carry his amp.

Offline SlimHeilpern

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...
I can think of maybe twenty professional chromatic players--in order to qualify, they can't have a day job.
That lets you out, Neil Adler and Slim Heilpern, and you too, Ed Coogan (he plays Power Chromatic) and Phil Caltabellotta (he plays standard).
Stevie Wonder, Will Galison (he occasionally uses that Paddy tuning, it's like bebop but replaces the redundant C with an A), Rod Piazza (mote famous for diatonic), surely there are more "professional chromatic harmonica players" I just can't think of.
...

Hey, I no longer have a day job, does that make me a professional? :-)

I make very little money playing harmonica though, have to live off savings.

Actually, I was a professional musician for about 19 years (no day job and I played chromatic, but guitar was what brought in the not-so-big bucks). That was before I gave in to the allure of (relatively) easy money (software development).

I wouldn't get hung up on the professional moniker. I've heard plenty of professional musicians that I would not take advise from as well as "amateurs" that could play circles around some so-called professionals. What matters, to me, is do you have something to say (musically), and how well you say it.

I don't know why, but I still consider myself a professional on guitar and harmonica -- can't explain it, maybe I just like to fool myself.

As for your list of professional chromatic players I think you can safely add Hendrik Meurkens, Tolak Ollestad, Antonio Serrano, Yvonnick Prene, Brendan Power, Filip Jers, Robert Bonfiglio, Hermine Deurloo, Rob Paparozzi, Joe Powers, Dennis Gruenling. That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure I'm forgetting many and many whose 'professional' status I'm unaware of... Maybe some of the above have side gigs to supplement their harmonica income, but really, they are all true professionals in my view (and they all play mostly or at least a fair amount of chromatic, many otheres play _some_ chromatic).

I don't think any of the above play either diminished or augmented. But that doesn't mean those tunings aren't better than solo. If you're interest is being able to improvise in all keys, diminished and augmented tunings are both inherently easier (better?) for that specific purpose. But, obviously, there are other considerations as detailed in this and other threads. When taking those considerations into account, most of us stick with the standard (for better of for worse).

Me, I'm just starting to feel like I'm getting good in all 12 keys in solo tuning, and I love this tuning for the variety it brings when changing key centers. In most cases, the same lick will not flow well in more than a few keys, so this ends up forcing variety, and I like that. And hopefully my listeners are less easily bored with my playing than they might otherwise be.

- Slim
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Offline Gnarly He Man

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OK, Slim, you are back on the list LOL
Brendan uses Power Chromatic slide harps a lot, so there's a second altered professional (so to speak).
But I bet he makes as much money from the various products as he does from gigging--and AFAIK, isn't doing repairs anymore. Wonder if he teaches?
Winslow can play altered slide harps too, he uses that Paddy slide sometimes. And I believe he gave SaxonyFan a lesson or two . . . using an Augmented Tuned Chromatic.
But mostly, standard tuned harps rule the Chromatic Universe.

SaxonyFan

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“Bottom line, we still play solo tuned chromatics because that's what is most available, and most of our role models used that tuning.” - Gnarly


Most available? Yes but not by much.

Role models? They didn’t have a choice.

We have a choice. Choose wisely.

Offline Eugene Ryan

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I don’t see any advantages of the diminished tuning over the augmented tuning.

Here are three advantages that I see of diminished over augmented (if I remember the layout of augmented correctly):
- in dimi, you have 4 enharmonics, 4 notes per octave where there are multiple ways of playing the note. Some people don't rate this as an advantage but I do really appreciate multiple ways of attacking a problem - easier ornaments etc.
- in dimi, you can bend 8 out of 12 notes per octave if you half valve it (6 for augmented)
- dimi is easier to retune from solo if you are doing the job yourself or getting it retuned by someone.  If getting it done by the manufacturer via reed replacement, no advantage

Not knocking augmented tunings at all, in fact, I've never tried them. The range and intervals seem great and either tuning will make great music with a logical layout so kudos to anyone who tries or plays them. Just listing out some practical things I've found about dimi.

Feel free to ask any questions, EZ, although forgive me if I don't reply immediately, I don't tend to be on a lot these days.

Eugene

Offline SlimHeilpern

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...
- in dimi, you have 4 enharmonics, 4 notes per octave where there are multiple ways of playing the note. Some people don't rate this as an advantage but I do really appreciate multiple ways of attacking a problem - easier ornaments etc.

And that is an excellent point Eugene. If you want to play legato lines with ease, those extra choices become priceless.

- in dimi, you can bend 8 out of 12 notes per octave if you half valve it (6 for augmented)
...

Just to clarify, you can bend the valved notes, just not as easily and not with that diatonic-style bend quality. I mention this because many people are under the impression that you can't bend notes on a fully valved chromatic. But all the valved reeds can bend a a full half step or more, depending on air tightness of the axe and technique. Bending is an integral part of any real vibrato, and that's one of the reasons valves are so important. (Not that there's anything wrong with half-valving, just thought it worth clarifying this for those who don't already know.)

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SaxonyFan

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And that is an excellent point Eugene. If you want to play legato lines with ease, those extra choices become priceless.


I have no use for the enharmonics. No matter which pitch layout you play there will always be situations where you have to change breath directions. Always. So you had better get good at it and learn to make it not matter.

Offline SlimHeilpern

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And that is an excellent point Eugene. If you want to play legato lines with ease, those extra choices become priceless.


I have no use for the enharmonics. No matter which pitch layout you play there will always be situations where you have to change breath directions. Always. So you had better get good at it and learn to make it not matter.

Hi SaxonyFan -

Of course there will be direction changes and it behooves players to get good at that. Regardless, there are many phrases that benefit from a smoother line than you can achieve if you have to change breath too many times. There are players who can play ridiculously fast while changing breath direction, but they tend to sound a bit punchy, which is great in some contexts and not so great in others. The duplicate notes with opposite breath direction are extremely helpful if you're going for smoothness on a given phrase. With fewer breath changes, the line can be played more smoothly.

You're right though, especially if you're playing music written for another instrument -- there will be times when playing legato with lots of breath changes is what's called for and you'll want to be able to at least cut it. And it can be quite difficult on our instrument -- regardless of tuning.

- Slim
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SaxonyFan

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You're right though, especially if you're playing music written for another instrument -- there will be times when playing legato with lots of breath changes is what's called for and you'll want to be able to at least cut it. And it can be quite difficult on our instrument -- regardless of tuning.

- Slim

Just as an aside ... I was playing with a Bay Area jazz pianist about 3 years ago and lamented the problem of breath direction changes in a conversation with her. She had no idea what I was talking about. She hadn’t even noticed it.

Offline Eugene Ryan

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Just to clarify, you can bend the valved notes, just not as easily and not with that diatonic-style bend quality. I mention this because many people are under the impression that you can't bend notes on a fully valved chromatic. But all the valved reeds can bend a a full half step or more, depending on air tightness of the axe and technique. Bending is an integral part of any real vibrato, and that's one of the reasons valves are so important. (Not that there's anything wrong with half-valving, just thought it worth clarifying this for those who don't already know.)

Excellent point, Slim - you can indeed bend all notes on a chromatic. Well worth pointing out, in case anyone got the impression that you can't - indeed, I was writing about diatonic-style bending in a bit of a hurry. For a great example of fully-valved bending on a (probably) stock chromatic, check out Larry Adler playing Le Rififi - what a treat:

SaxonyFan, I'm glad you're enjoying the altered tuning! Each tuning brings its own advantages and qualities.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2019, 12:29:22 PM by Eugene Ryan »

Offline Gnarly He Man

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The new tuning (not really new!) I am putting time in on these days is like an auggie on holes 1 and 2 --
It's Power Chromatic . . . with a slide  ???
So C E blow, sharped with a button--Draw D F#, also sharped with a button.
So no enharmonics there--hasn't stopped me from trying to use it.
But I'm a bebop baby . . .