Author Topic: Tuning (440,441 or 442)  (Read 11649 times)

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gon

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Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« on: December 03, 2007, 01:23:09 AM »
               Whats going on all you lovely suckers and blowers. I'll make it quick , My diatonics are tuned to 442 I do this because when I play them It drops to 440 .
                      What should I do with my chromatics (cx-12 and Super 64X)

       Do you guys suggest :
                        A. Leaving them the way they are ,some notes slighly sharper then the next.(a well known chromatic player told me only if they get flatter then 440 should I open them up)
                       
                        B.Tuning every hole to 442 -443 like my golden melodys
                       
                        C. or shootin my self in the head because this is driving me  nuts


                                               Thank you Gonzalo

                                                                   

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2007, 09:18:00 AM »
Play your CX 12 and Super 64 against the tuner and see where they are. Factory tuning is nominally A=444; official Hohner reason is "Most professional players draw the pitch down."

If you're used to 442-3, and draw down to 440, you'll probably do all right to retune these chromatics.

I don't draw pitch down. Other manufacturers tune to 440 or 442, so Hohner's reasoning is a little suspect, IMO. I had Hohner retune my Super 64 to 440, and I've never regretted it. My CX 12 Tenor was so badly out of tune with itself, ranging from 436 to 448, that I was forced to either retune it or send it to Hohner. I chose to retune it, and I made it 442.

I've only played in public at two different types of place. One is church, where the piano varies in pitch depending on when it was tuned last; it's been as low as 436, and freshly tuned at 442. A harmonica tuned a little sharp to the piano works fine; but a piano at 436 and a harmonica at 444 is disastrous. My instrument of choice in church is a CX 12. If the piano has slipped a lot, I always have the option of my 440 Super 64.

The other place I've played is jam sessions at festivals, where tuning hardly matters when 15–20 people are playing together. At open mics, I'm playing to recorded accompaniments, where 440 to 442 sounds fine.

I don't play out much, so I'm not as fussy about tuning as others are. Close enough is acceptable to me, and most of my listeners don't notice.

Tom
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Offline Jason Rogers

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2007, 11:50:20 AM »
I've heard it said that the standard in NYC is around 442, and this seems to be a good pitch for me (in upstate NY) whenever I play out.

Hohner 444 drives me nuts, and I largely feel that it is unusable except in special situations - like when everyone can tune to me.  442 seems great, and whenever I play with a decent piano, it seems right on.

I'd like to hear how many pros actually draw their pitch down?  Is this common?  Or do many SlideMeisters who play Hohners have to do a lot of retuning when they get new harmonicas?


Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2007, 01:17:03 PM »
Let me guess, that this started with one player: Adler. Anyone trying to emulate him would draw pitch down (easier with pucker than with tongue block, at least for me). It's the same skill needed for bending notes, and as such, can be tough on reeds. It gives a distinctive sound not heard when a harmonica is played "straight."

Note to gon: If you try drawing down on a chromatic with the same force you use on a diatonic, and find that you're choking notes, you will probably need to back off some. The first octave is particularly troublesome.

Tom
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Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2007, 03:43:09 PM »
I've heard it said that the standard in NYC is around 442, and this seems to be a good pitch for me (in upstate NY) whenever I play out.
8<
Standards vary. Probably the most common tuning today is 442. Some European orchestras tune to 444. US military bands tune to 440. We've made flutes in all those tunings where I work. In my 22 years there, we've even made some 446s—maybe five, and that estimate might be a little high.

A resultant 442 is a good bet for harmonicas, whether you draw pitch down or not. If you can draw down consistently from a higher tuning, then tune high. Two ticks higher than 440 won't bother most people.

Drawing down has one particular advantage, if a player can control the amount of draw and play straight when necessary. It gives more flexibility when tuning with other instruments. Besides the playing skills, it takes a good ear.

Tom
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Offline Jason Rogers

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2007, 04:15:57 PM »
Tom -

Interesting about your flutes - 446's - yikes!  :)

Have you actually played a whole piece TRYING to bend down - even just a fraction?

I have, on my 444 Hohner playing with piano.  I don't find it fun at all - it seemed to give me less options with what I wanted to do with the note, and it seemed to stifle my melodic line a bit.

I am sure there are players better than I that could do this and pull it off without a second thought - and it seems this is some players' regular style?? - but for me, now, not great... ::)
« Last Edit: December 03, 2007, 04:32:45 PM by chespernevins »

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2007, 04:40:45 PM »
Tom -

Interesting about your flutes - 446's - yikes!  :)

Have you actually played a whole piece TRYING to bend down - even just a fraction?

I have, on my 444 Hohner playing with piano.  I don't find it fun at all - it seemed to give me less options with what I wanted to do with the note, and it seemed to stifle my melodic line a bit.

I am sure there are players better than I that could do this and pull it off without a second thought...but for me, now... ::)
Not a whole piece, but some passages. It's not comfortable, esp. tongue blocking. It also messes with my tone. I don't even know if I'm making that much of a difference.

We're not the only ones who prefer to play straight, I'll bet. It's possible, however, that I'm drawing a little without conscious effort; my (supposed) 444 CX 12 Gold (haven't checked it lately) sounds pretty good with our church's piano (haven't checked it lately).

If an accompaniment doesn't contain a lot of melody notes, it will sound better than, say, playing hymns, doubling the melody, along with a low-tuned piano. Yuk. Ain't no joyful noise there. And people probably would notice.

Tom
« Last Edit: December 03, 2007, 04:44:32 PM by Grizzly »
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gon

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2007, 03:21:51 AM »
                        ;DThank you guys this is a lot of help .
          I  took my chromatica and tuned it to 440 straight and now when I play
                           to most jazz or blues I  find myself very limited with bending possibilities.

       I most admit its hard  to figure whats best....................................so I am now gonna do a 442 and then i'll have  more opions 440 , 442 , and my CX12 which is between  :'(442-444.
                                 

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2007, 10:26:31 AM »
Just playing with the radio can be frustrating with 440. It's pretty much useless, unless you just play by yourself or with tunable accompaniment (like guitars and stuff)  or are an very mild player.

age

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2007, 08:50:49 AM »
So do you stick with 444's when they come that way, Age?

Which do you think is worse, being sharp or flat?  If your harmonica is sharp are you able to bend down a little for the duration of a performance?

harpsurgeon

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2007, 12:00:45 PM »
Hi Gonzalo:

My two cents.......tune the harmonica to A442, medium breath pressure. It will give you the best all around combination. You can blow it hard if you want which will lower the pitch....you can play it soft, which since it's not tuned too high, will sound in tune with whatever instrument your playing with.
Plus, when your playing, you don't have to think about bending notes into tune, which for me takes away from the playing part of it.

Steve M.

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2007, 01:43:34 PM »
442 sounds like a good medium.

Tom
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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2007, 05:41:04 PM »
So do you stick with 444's when they come that way, Age?

Which do you think is worse, being sharp or flat?  If your harmonica is sharp are you able to bend down a little for the duration of a performance?

Now this is going to sound weird but I've always played stock tuned 270s without knowing exactly what they were tuned to at the factory. I do know that I got a couple stinkers over the years that just sounded flat whenever I played them with any instrument that was actually in tune. So, just guessing, I can't help but think, those must have been 440s) Come to think of it, I have a F 270 around here somewhere that I bought back in the sixties (E Gads :)) and never played cuz it sounded flat, that I should probably dig up and tweak. (Either take it down to an E or at least just make a good F out of it)

What ever stock 270s are tuned to is pretty good for me, though lately I've been loading the reeds a bit more, so I may have to actually find meself moving up a bit, aye.

Age

ejacob4

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2007, 10:22:55 PM »
442. I seem to recall Blackie Schackher palying 444 with . . .Bands. . . sometning about cutting better. I've heard pianos are, or used to be 440, or "orchestral."I was a diatonic beginer, and tend to bend, and draw down. I also favor U block, which tends to bend and pull down. So some of this, or probably most, is the nut behind the mouthpiece. Find a frequency you like.

Offline smojoe

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2007, 06:21:57 PM »
Yeah, I've heard Blackie play quite a few times. He always sounds SHARP. Stick with 442 'IF' you're playing with other musicians. You may draw down pitch but it won't be for EVERY note and won't be noticed as out of tune with everyone else. If you use 444, you will sound sharp on some notes and OK on others (those which you sucked down). So, what you wind up needing is to suck EVERYTHING down. Sorta silly....to ME.

I have heard some of you and none of you sucks down a pitch so hard as to make 443 or 444 necessary. Only Leo Diamond or Spanky McFarlane need that kind of tuning. Besides, this constant fooling with pitches fouls up everything.

Clarinets, (for example) can't stay in tune with bands anymore (on their own) because the way the riser is designed, you can't get up above 440. To GET above 440, you NOW have to either file/machine the riser or do what the pros do. Get an adjustable riser. The problem with this is that by shortening a riser, you will be IN pitch on the lower regiter and SOUR on the higher.

Why? Because the finger holes and doors haven't been moved.

smokey-joe 

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2007, 10:53:27 PM »
Yeah, I've heard Blackie play quite a few times. He always sounds SHARP. Stick with 442 'IF' you're playing with other musicians. You may draw down pitch but it won't be for EVERY note and won't be noticed as out of tune with everyone else. If you use 444, you will sound sharp on some notes and OK on others (those which you sucked down). So, what you wind up needing is to suck EVERYTHING down. Sorta silly....to ME.

I have heard some of you and none of you sucks down a pitch so hard as to make 443 or 444 necessary. Only Leo Diamond or Spanky McFarlane need that kind of tuning. Besides, this constant fooling with pitches fouls up everything.

Clarinets, (for example) can't stay in tune with bands anymore (on their own) because the way the riser is designed, you can't get up above 440. To GET above 440, you NOW have to either file/machine the riser or do what the pros do. Get an adjustable riser. The problem with this is that by shortening a riser, you will be IN pitch on the lower regiter and SOUR on the higher.

Why? Because the finger holes and doors haven't been moved.

smokey-joe 
I guess it's ridiculous to expect harmonica makers to offer the same models at different pitch standards. But I'm surprised clarinets only come in 440. We offer flute tunings in two-hertz increments from 440 to 446.

Harmonicas can, of course, be tuned up or down several cents. In some ways, it's easier than with woodwind instruments: Pulling the mouthpiece out brings some notes into tune with other instruments, but messes with other scale relationships, as Joe says. A few cents isn't going to make that much difference; but to make woodwinds at different pitches means retooling for each pitch standard. Changing pitch on an existing instrument is expensive, involved and risky.

OTOH, you can't pull out or push in a harmonica's tuning slide to adjust pitch. The only alternative besides retuning is to tune high and draw pitch down. That offers options, but at the expense of accuracy

Tom
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Offline Vern

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2007, 02:13:47 AM »
If you play with other instruments, then you should strive for A440 on your tuner when you are playing medium loud. 

The longer/lower reeds are more subject to flattening with high pressure & flow / loud playing than are the shorter/higher ones. Therefore a low reed might be tuned very high when sounded lightly/quietly and descend to 440 when played at normal or loud volume.

At the high end of the harp the short reeds do not pull down at all.  They can be at 440 at any volume.

If your tuning standard is light, low-volume playing, then the low reeds must be much sharper than the high ones.  That means that one frequency offset won't work for all of the reeds on the same harp. IF you can consistently tune at performance volume, then tune them all in the "pulled-down" condition at 440.

IF you are tuning higher or lower than A440 to play with other instruments that not tuned to A440, then that is a different matter.

Vern



Offline Wendellfiddler

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2007, 08:57:43 PM »
I only had one chromatic that came tuned to 440 - it was a Suzuki Magic Garden.  I couldn't play it with anyone else until I retuned it to 442.   I've never had this problem with Hohner, and my Suzuki SC56 came tuned to about 442.  I did have to touch up the tuning on three or four reeds though.

doug
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Offline smojoe

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2007, 11:17:13 PM »
In the old days, chromos came in at 'Charger 440'. Eventually we got up to 'Olds 442'. But if you think I'm going for 'Vette 454' or 'Continental 460', fageddabowdit.

smo-joe

Offline Wendellfiddler

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2007, 09:49:25 PM »
In the old days, chromos came in at 'Charger 440'. Eventually we got up to 'Olds 442'. But if you think I'm going for 'Vette 454' or 'Continental 460', fageddabowdit.

smo-joe

And you were cruising right along until you got a little flat

dt
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Offline SlimHeilpern

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2007, 12:04:51 PM »
Just a few of points on this topic:

One of the reasons to play with your reeds tuned sharp is to be flexible enough to play with other instruments that may be a bit sharp for whatever reason. You can always lower the pitch by bending a bit, but you can never make the pitch sharper without retuning.

I keep hearing folks equate playing flat with loudness. Playing loud is one way to bring the pitch down, but you can bring the pitch down while playing very quietly as well -- you can indeed bring it down a whole lot further than the distance from 444 to 440 while playing very gently.

If you like to play a lot of chords or even octaves, you probably need to have the harmonica tuned very close to where you want it to end up as it's difficult to bend multiple notes equally while playing them at the same time unless you have learned how to bend independently out of each corner of your mouth or something like that. If on the other hand, like me, you mostly do single note playing, the starting pitch may not be nearly as important and in this case a sharp harp can be more versatile.

I think Tom mentioned that playing flat is hard on the reeds and I know that lots of folks say the same thing. I haven't found that to be true in my own experience. I spend most of my time playing below the pitch of the reed and very rarely do I have to deal with a dead reed -- maybe once or twice per year. I probably average 2-3 hours per day and do my best to punish my reeds with incessant bending for most of those hours ;-). And, I'm not alone in this position -- Bonfiglio teaches that you absolutely can't hurt a reed by bending it -- I believe he says that reeds break due to imperfections in the manufacturing process as opposed to player abuse.

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mikeboy

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2009, 03:52:28 PM »
 OK. Here's my question. My CX12 black is badly out of tune with it's self. I naturally bend when I play so I want to try 442. At that point do I tune the "A" and use the the difference in clicks on the rest or try and tune by ear off the "A". Vern "my hero" mentions having the high reeds closer to 440 as they don't bend as much. If that is the case, then at what hole would you leave it at 440?
 I have read what Pat Missin says "another hero" so don't point me there. I would like the opinions of Meisters.
One more thing. Since I have the CX silver now, I can afford (time not money) to be without the black for a while. That being the case I would love it if some of you techs would PM me with some prices for a tuning.

Thanks in advance.
mikeboy ( Head gatman to Duke Mantee)

ejacob4

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2009, 05:17:10 PM »
442. I have different harps, different keys, all kinds of different environments. One constant: 442.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2009, 05:19:47 PM by Ed Jacobson »

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2009, 05:28:36 PM »
Rule of thumb: The more you load the reed, the higher you need.

A very "conservative - no-load" player usually does okay with 440. Add shapes, texture, reed-load, throat vibrato, etc. and you may find yourself sounding flat. Conversely that same "conservative" player mentioned above. playing a 443 will sound "pitchy."

@gey

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2009, 09:07:13 PM »
I think Tom mentioned that playing flat is hard on the reeds and I know that lots of folks say the same thing. I haven't found that to be true in my own experience. . .

I do not have the experience but I have theories (borrowed from Control Engineering):

A reed is bent when it is oscillating in a dampened mode.  The dampening comes from the cushioning effect of an air column formed by the player's vocal tract; which --like a shock absorber-- takes energy away from the reed for every oscillating cycle.  In this case, the swinging amplitude of the reed is less than that of an undamped one because the driving force is muffed by the air-spring formed by the air column.  The reed is experiencing LESS stress and hence playing flat is NOT harder on the reed.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2010, 02:28:33 AM by Mansing »

Offline SlimHeilpern

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2009, 10:07:28 PM »
I think Tom mentioned that playing flat is hard on the reeds and I know that lots of folks say the same thing. I haven't found that to be true in my own experience. . .

I do not have the experience but I have theories (borrowed from Control Engineering):

A reed is bent when it is oscillating in a dampened mode.  The dampening comes from the cushioning effect of an air column formed by the player's vocal track; which --like a shock absorber-- takes energy away from the reed for every oscillating cycle.  In this case, the swinging amplitude of the reed is less than that of an undamped one because the driving force is muffed by the air-spring formed by the air column.  The reed is experiencing LESS stress and hence playing flat is NOT harder on the reed.


Cool! I've never heard it described that way and I find it to be very believable.

I hadn't thought about it before, but it is possible to lower the pitch to some extent simply by blowing really, really hard (as opposed to what you describe above). The sound of bending by pushing a ton of air through is not a good sound (to my ears -- it sounds distressed) and perhaps this could cause a reed to die over time. Does that make any sense?

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Mansing

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2009, 11:09:07 PM »
. . . it is possible to lower the pitch to some extent simply by blowing really, really hard . . .

Probably, by pushing the swinging amplitude of a reed to its limit, the stiffness of the reed is no longer linear and therefore the 'natural' resonant frequency of the reed lowers.  This bending mechanism is different than that of the 'shock absorber' model.

The easiest way to bend a reed is to narrow down the embouchure to a pinhole, so that the very little amount of air inside the comb formed an air-spring and the player's soft lip and narrow air passage formed the lossy part (resistance) --an absorber is thus formed.  But the timbre and control range of such bending is not great.  This can be improved by loosening the embouchure from the lip, but tightening air passage at the tongue (for tongue blockers) or throat.  There are some magic muscle combinations that can give a better sound.

The easiest way to do a vibrato is to rock the harp against your lips/mouth when a bending has formed, so that the characteristics of the 'absorber' undulates.  Just my two cents.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2009, 11:11:52 PM by Mansing »

ejacob4

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #27 on: February 15, 2009, 01:13:58 AM »
I can't figure out what I'm missing here. All this sounds interesting, and impractical. I set a lot of store by volume control, even in the smallest increments. It seems as though we're talking about sacrificing control over a fairly basic performance element to compensate for tuning. I'd sooner get another harp, and tune that to what the venue would require (let's say a 440 for orchestral play).

At the same time, hard use shortens the life of anything. I have not seen this rule violated often enough to put my money on it, and hard players do put their money on it.

Mansing

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #28 on: February 15, 2009, 09:34:38 AM »
. . . I set a lot of store by volume control, even in the smallest increments. It seems as though we're talking about sacrificing control over a fairly basic performance element to compensate for tuning. . .

Hi Ed,

Not sure if I understand your message correctly (idioms are difficult...), but if you meant "why do we sacrifice volume control for tuning versatility?"  then I think this is not the case:  We do not loss the ability to control volume in bending because bending can be done with a wide range from very quiet to very loud.

The purpose of bending (besides for bringing the instrument in tune) is to add tonal variation for musical expression.  Playing a freereed 'free' (unbent) is like playing a violin open string; it is nice but we often need more control.  Bending can add colour to the tone but for it to work, the reed must be tuned to a higher pitch.  It can be a personal taste: If you play Romantic music and want a more meaty tone, then you do heavier bending, and then you might need a higher pitch tuning.  OTOH, Baroque music should not be played too 'meaty', hence a correct pitch (440) tuning is adequate?
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 09:40:54 AM by Mansing »

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Tuning (440,441 or 442)
« Reply #29 on: February 15, 2009, 11:13:11 PM »
It's interesting how vibrato is produced on various instruments, and where the pitch center is. Sometimes the vibrato pitch is below the center, and sometimes it's above. A singer's center is the high part of the vibrato; a guitarist's is the low part. With still other instruments, a vibrato effect can be achieved by varying the timbre. That's a technique some harmonica players use.

On harmonica, vibrato by bending would put the pitch of the natural reed at the highest part of a vibrato. I take it that it's unusual to make a reed go sharp on a chromatic.

If a person bends notes down regularly and consistently to bring a reed into pitch, then the reed would have to be tuned higher. Of course, this gives the option of sharping the pitch for tuning or for effect, the way flattening (bending) does.

Just my take on the situation.

Tom


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