Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

A space for players interested in my specialist harmonicas, alternate tunings, instructional material, recordings etc to ask questions and share information, experiences, videos etc.
Post Reply
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:44 am

Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by Lucho » Sat Jul 10, 2021 12:11 pm

Hi all,

I'd be curious to know what some more experienced players than me (probably everyone here), think of a minor tuning change to the Power Chromatic Lucky 13: Flattening the fourth draw reed by a semitone.

I'm learning harmonica while coming from primarily a piano background, so alternate tunings appeal to me more than Richter - especially Power Chrom. I'm interested in jazz, as well as some folk and classical music, and am particularly keen to be able to play expressively in minor keys. I have a low minor richter harp but want something more versatile when jamming with others.

So if I flatten the fourth draw reed in a "G" PowerChrom harp, the F# would become an F:
mPC tuning.png
mPC tuning.png (32.03 KiB) Viewed 4479 times

Essentially it would be like an A minor PC harp. These are the implications for me as I see it:

-Very simple to play a 3-octive A melodic-minor scale
-Blues scale on D is simplified, with a nice semitone run on the 5th/9th/13th hole
-Arguably more interesting minor chord options, with the tonic A on both blow and draw
-Second minor scale (Dm) with now bends and D on a draw note, rather than Em on the blow in the usual PC tuning.

-Loss of three draw bends
-A bit less 'chromatic' - now F# is missing, not just D# as before
-Some major scales require more bends

Does anyone have any thoughts about whether flattening that fourth draw reed might be a good/bad idea for someone who wants to slightly prioritise playing in minor keys? Are blow bends to play the missing D# and F# feasible for a beginner/intermediate player?

Posts: 244
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:02 pm
Location: Sweden

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by EdvinW » Tue Jul 13, 2021 12:28 pm

When I read 'melodic minor', I think of a scale where both the sixth and the seventh can be either major or minor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_sca ... inor_scale). The major sixth above the note A is an F#, which is missing from your proposed tuning (unless you use overblows or valved bends). Just in case we're using different conventions: which notes do you want to include in your scale?

To play what I refer to as melodic minor, or the "jazz minor scale" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_minor_scale) where the sixth and seventh are always major, I personally think Dm looks like a nicer key on your tuning. There are several reasons I like Dm:
  • The major sixh and seventh can be produced with draw bends.
  • It has bends on the root note and the fifth, even a small bend on the third.
  • There is a fifth below the root note right in the adjacent hole. It's nice to have important notes close to each other.
  • There are several chords: Dm, Em and G.
  • If you haven't played other tunings much this might be less interesting to you, but I feel right at home as it's very similar to playing 3rd position Paddy Richter.
I actually have a slide harp in this tuning, with the intention of playing Dm rather than than Am.

If you want to play Am, you could retune a D-tuned PowerChromatic in the same way as you proposed:

Code: Select all

Hole: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13
Draw: E  F# A  C  E  F# A  C  E  F# A  C  E
Bend: D# F  G#    D# F  G#    D# F  G#    D#
Blow: D  E  G  B  D  E  G  B  D  E  G  B  D
Edvin Wedin

Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:44 am

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by Lucho » Wed Jul 14, 2021 7:18 pm

Thanks for your response. It's cool to see I'm not the only one who likes the idea of having more minor scale options in Power Chromatic.

You're right about terminology. I didn't mean melodic, I meant Natural Minor, which is much simpler to tune.

So just to confirm, for A nm, it'd simply be A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A in the scale.

That makes sense about advantages for playing D minor generally (as well as D blues scale). On the harp you have tuned that way, do you notice the missing draw bends much, or any other disadvantages?

User avatar
Posts: 761
Joined: Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:28 pm

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by Brendan » Fri Jul 30, 2021 1:54 pm

That tuning is a change some make to Solo Tuning, swapping one of the doubled C notes for an A. It's generally called Sixths Tuning, and is used by some well known players on Chromatic harmonica, notably Will Galison and Long Deng-jie. On a chromatic harmonica you still have the F# available as a slide note.

As with any tuning change, you gain some things and lose others. PowerChromatic Tuning was conceived initially for chromatic slide harmonicas in half-valved setup, giving lots of draw bending expression to a fully chromatic harmonica.

The diatonic Lucky 13 version can be played fully chromatically with one overblow or valved bend, but is more suitable for playing in a bunch of keys that only need draw bends. For me personally, losing that F# note and the bend to F would be a step backwards - as it robs the harmonica of some important bending expression, and the ability to play full scales in critical keys: G, A, D major, B and E minor, A harmonic minor.

Chordally you gain some but lose others - notably DMaj and Bm. Those are the main keys I play in on a PowerChromatic in G, so I wouldn't want to lose them myself.

But it's all subjective and personal when it comes to tunings! There are no absolute rights and wrongs, just whatever works best for the individual player.

I suggest if you like this Sixths Tuning, you should try it on a Chromatic slide harmonica too 👍

Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:44 am

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by Lucho » Wed Aug 04, 2021 5:31 pm

Thanks very much for the insights, it's much appreciated. I'll look into those players and sixths tuning more generally - another nice rabbit hole to go down...

I'm gradually starting to appreciate the principles behind the different tunings and I find the inherent compromises very interesting. I guess for me coming from a piano background, I'm not looking for a tuning that can do absolutely everything in all keys, so sacrificing a little chromatic ability isn't the end of the world. Some interesting chord possibilities (based around the main key) do appeal, as that's a pretty unique aspect in a wind instrument.

I don't have enough experience to know how much I'd miss those draw bends for expression, or loss of the simple, elegant logic of the tuning. So if I do anything to my Lucky 13, it'll only be with temporary reed weights (blue-tac or putty). Hopefully it'll arrive soon!

Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:44 am

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by Lucho » Sat Aug 14, 2021 11:59 am

Just a little update. My Lucky 13 arrived (Power Chrom in G), but unfortunately wasn't in a very good state. Perhaps because its box was rattling around un-padded inside a larger box, or maybe a QC issue.

It had a few buzzing reeds, rattling valves and some minor tuning issues, so it took a bit of work to get it sounding okay. Also, I'm curious about why two blow reeds are valved as well?

I tried both the original tuning and flattening the 4th draw reed. I quite enjoy the latter for some chord possibilities and it's great for playing tunes based around A minor, but it does make it less versatile.

I'm definitely a fan of the extended range though. A 12-13 hole harp still fits great in the hand, so it seems like there's pretty much no downside!

User avatar
Posts: 572
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:42 pm
Location: Iowa, USA

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by IaNerd » Fri Aug 27, 2021 9:07 pm

You've got a lovely and simple re-tuning there, Lucho. Bravo!

I've got a re-tuning which is similar insofar as it converts a Lucky 13 to a natural minor tuning. But mine is different in two ways. First, it is based on a Solo Lucky 13. Second, the resultant natural minor scale has an "inverted" breath pattern (ie. starts with a draw tonic). You can see it here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=791#p3459


Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:44 am

Re: Minor tuning adjustment to Power Chromatic Lucky 13

Post by Lucho » Fri Oct 22, 2021 6:18 pm

That natural minor tuning looks nice, it's good to have repeated notes with one on the draw and one on the blow.

On my side, after playing around for a while, I switched back to regular G PowerChromatic tuning (without flattening the F#). PC seems more versatile when changing keys and overall still pretty comfortable for playing in A minor.

Anyway the conclusion to this is that after struggling a bit with the Lucky 13, I've settled on an offset stack of two 10-hole Seydel's with Powerchromatic tuning:

Code: Select all

draw-------[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-
blow-------[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-
-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-[F#]-[A ]-[B ]-[D ]-------draw
-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-[E ]-[G ]-[A ]-[C ]-------blow
I have them tuned so that the ranges partially overlap, but the holes on the top harp are an octave higher than those directly below. So there is a four octave range overall (A2-A6).

Unlike using an extra mouthpiece (switch-harp style), this avoids any impact on the tuning or responsiveness. The vertical marker ties make it easy to jump between octaves by feel alone, and it's small enough to cup fully in the hands. Plus, stacking them like this adds a fun party trick: turn it sideways and it can be played as an octave harmonica in the middle range.
Harmonica 1.jpg
Harmonica 1.jpg (641.68 KiB) Viewed 2044 times
Harmonica stack 2.jpg
Harmonica stack 2.jpg (646.96 KiB) Viewed 2044 times
The steel reed Seydel's I've tried always sound great to me. If anyone's interested, I'd definitely recommend this as a simple way to play chromatically and pick up a wide range of pieces intended for other instruments.

It would be good to know what people think, especially compared to other options for playing harmonica stacks.

Post Reply