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Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 12:02 pm
by jasonrogers
Hi Nidalap,
The harmonica I used was a Hohner 270 classic which I retuned from a stock A harp.
Wow, a 270 - cool. So did you go to a key of A Power Chromatic, or a key of C Power Chromatic starting on A?
I think the half-valved Power Chromatic tuning is an upgrade of the standard chromatic harp, it can do better in almost every aspect, and every chromatic harp player should give a try, whichever genre he or she focuses on. I love it when it has a traditional sound on classical and folk tunes, I also love it when it sounds so much like a blues harp when playing blues and ethnic tunes, I use it for almost every music I play.
I haven't tried it, but visually, it looks very advantageous.

As an aside, I feel the same about the Diminished layout. It's pretty interesting to compare the Diminished Layout and the Power Chromatic.

As I recall:

I) PC has a whole step in every hole like the Dimi.

II) PC is based on two "blow/draw" Dorian tetrachords like the Dimi (if you start a key of C PC on A):

first dorian tetrachord: A B C D
second dorian tetrachord: Eb F Gb Ab

Power Chromatic (from A to A)
first dorian tetrachord: A B C D
second dorian tetrachord: E F# G A

III) They both have 4 enharmonics.

Dimi in C: C Eb Gb A
Power Chromatic in C: G A Bb C

So theoretically, it seems like PC would be the way to go for more diatonic stuff and Dimi for fully chromatic stuff, although there must be a lot of common ground as well.

Anyway, I don't mean to hijack the thread. You sound great!

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 12:24 pm
by EugeneRyan
So theoretically, it seems like PC would be the way to go for more diatonic stuff and Dimi for fully chromatic stuff, although there must be a lot of common ground as well.
There seem to be similarities in terms of patterns. Another area where the PC seems to have more options, especially in keys related to the "home" modes, is in having wider chords, for example, having two maj6 chords (or seen as minor 7ths) a tone apart, and then shifted up by a semitone to get 4 of those. Or major and minor triads... with diminished tuning we have m3rd intervals, so once we go over 2 holes, we get diminished 5ths and major 6th and have to be creative with tongue blocking for chords. We give up consistency (which gives us easier key changes) in diminished for those chords and "in-key-ness" in PC tuning.

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 12:27 pm
by EugeneRyan
BTW, I understand Ed Coogan uses this layout or one similar to it. His *may* be based off a m7th chord, which is like PC but shifted up three holes (or down one)... this is speculation on my part but I seem to remember that he uses a tuning where a dorian scale is built in starting from blow.

I wonder, do you tend to use multiple keyed harmonicas, do we have to keep a PC in every key? I know it can be played in every key but I wonder what are the common usages.

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:47 pm
by Brendan
You can of course play in every key in half-valved PowerChromatic. It's actually easier than on fully valved Solo, as there are so many bend-enharmonics: bent notes that are the same as the slide notes. This gives lots of extra options for playing tricky phrases, and a more legato feel than you get with the slider that I prefer.

However, I don't play all keys on one PowerChromatic, I go to the opposite extreme: keep a bunch of PC chroms in all 12 keys. I don't have the full chroms these days, just CX-12 inner units that I swap in and out of a couple of shells. This saves space and weight.

In the past I made a full set of hybrid 14 hole PowerChroms with CX-12 slide buttons on Suzuki SCX56 rears, with the mouthpieces held on with o-rings (!). Here is a ragtime tune played on one of those:


Here's a tune where I play the PC like a diatonic, with no slider use. You can still get lots of chromatic runs with bending alone:


Re: Power Chromatic - also Left-Handed Chromatics

Posted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 3:38 am
by StephenB
Brendan wrote:
Sat Mar 25, 2017 5:20 pm
Nice one :)

Considering 12% of the population is left-handed that has been surprising and, I must admit, a little disappointing after all the work it took to design and make these combs. But I guess left-handed players have got so used to adapating to right-handed chroms that it would take a lot of un-learning for them to play a true left-handed one.

Just shows I should have done some market research first, I guess!
I'm left handed and your guess is correct, at least in my case.... I'm too used to a right-handed slider. Ditto for scissors, guitar and jar lids.

Perhaps in your sales blurbs you could emphasise the novelty of possessing one of these amazing harps.

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 2:21 pm
by jasonrogers
Well, Brendan, between Exhalaration, Diggers and Hesitation, you certainly do make a great case for the PC. Your fast, accurate and colorful bending is certainly remarkable and the chord vamping is great too!

I think I recognize the sound of the PC from many tracks on many of your albums, correct?

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 8:32 am
by Brendan
Correct Jason :-) Half-valved PowerChromatic is used exclusively on a couple of my albums in Swing/Hot Club jazz style:

BP and the Swingfellas

Back to Back with PT Gazell

Great for that stuff, as the extensive use of draw bends in place of slide pushes allows a more fluid style than playing jazz on fully-valved Solo tuned chromatics, I think. The bends give you a natural legato 'flow' closer to the style of players like Johnny Hodges on alto sax or Stefan Grappelli on violin - among the many great swing players I listened to for inspiration.

And having options for choosing how to play the notes within phrases, with bends or without, can make difficult phrases easier. It's a win-win :-)

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:08 pm
by EugeneRyan
Those tracks sound great, Brendan. Certainly a great demonstration of what's possible and how the PC tuning can be used very expressively as well as playing the music itself.

Having those enharmonics must be very useful. We have similar things with diminished tuning, enharmonics and multiple ways of phrasing via repeated notes or bends... they're just in different places to PC. Anyway, I don't mean to distract from the thread, just interesting to note the similarities in terms of finding ways of playing phrases through bending and multiple ways of playing phrases via either slide enharmonics or bend enharmonics.

I must tune up a PC, I don't know why I haven't done it before now... just committed to playing the diminished and taking that further, I guess.

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:08 am
by Brendan
Diminished half-valved chromatic is a truly great harmonica combination, Eugene. Beginners who aim to play jazz on the chrom would be well advised to choose it instead of Solo.

Unfortunately there is very little knowledge out there of excellent all-round alternate chromatics tunings like Diminished and Wholetone - so 99% of players start on Solo and then get entrenched with it. Plus the availability of alt-tuned chroms is very poor. Thanks to Seydel it's better than in the past, but the numbers playing them are still miniscule. Hopefully players like you can slowly change that.

If I were starting on the chromatic from scratch and had the knowledge to make an informed choice, I'd likely choose Diminished half-valved as my main axe for jazz. It's wonderful for the key modulation so central to that style, and Classical too.

The only area where Diminished and Wholetone are inferior to tunings like Solo and PowerChromatic are for playing fast and fluidly in the home key. They require slide pushes and/or bends just to play a simple major or pentatonic scale. For the kinds of folk and ethnic styles I'm interested in that's a big drawback, as it's essential to get a smooth easy rhythmic flow to the music. So I've always used a bunch of custom chroms in different keys and tunings to suit particular styles, like Irish, Bulgarian, Chinese etc

PowerChromatic in different keys gives me that easy flow in the home key plus easy chromaticism with the bends, but I know it's not the normal way to go on the chrom. For playing all keys on one harmonica it will work well but, like Solo, be easier in some keys than others. I'd say for jazz and all round key balance on one chromatic, there is no better choice than half-valved a Diminished. So stick with it and inspire others to try with the music you put out.

Re: Power Chromatic

Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 2:29 pm
by EugeneRyan
Hey, Brendan - no doubt that the approach of using keyed harmonicas works very well, as demonstrated in your many tracks. Thanks for the vote of confidence in diminished tuning - I'm pretty happy with it for the reasons you mention.... occasionally I'd love to have diatonic-like chops on it and be in key but i guess there is a tradeoff for that ease of key-changing.

I take on board your mentioning of the disadvantage of soloing in the home key or modes of on dimi. I still use keyed alternative tunings (this layout I call Irish Fiddle) on chromatic and diatonics for Irish music, so the keyed approach is OK with me too. Over time, I'm putting more of the Irish tunes on diminished in an effort to have it as a place where all the music is available at the "fingertips".. does that make sense. As you mentioned, it has more slide work and the decorations etc are in different places or perhaps not available as they would be on keyed harps in more diatonic tunings. And like PC, some keys (or positions if we want to think like that) are more expressive than others... and some less flexible in terms of being able to fly around.

The chording on the PC is great too, with pretty wide m7 or maj6 chords. On diminished, we have stacks of minor thirds, so we can play minor 3rds or then other chords with tongue blocking... the voicing being dependent on the chord at the time and taste or lack thereof.

You're very right that availability of alternative tuned chroms is an issue, especially in a format airtight enough for half-valving. It would be ideal to have a ready place to supply them without having to tune up yourself... depends on how much time is available too. Jason is writing a book on diminished tuning BTW.