Snake Solo. Countering the regular-breath hegemony!

Anything apart from the two mainstream default harmonicas (Solo-tuned fully-valved chromatic, and un-valved Richter 10-hole diatonic). Alternate tunings, different construction, new functionality, interesting old designs, wishful-thinking... whatever!
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EdvinW
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Snake Solo. Countering the regular-breath hegemony!

Post by EdvinW » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:24 am

I had another episode of the what-if's, and thought I'd share it here in case it would tickle someone's imagination.

Somewhere in the recent talk about ornamentations, Brendan pointed out something many harmonica players know: the 6 and 7 draw notes on a (Paddy) Richter are one step apart, and this can be used for jaw-flick ornaments. The same is true in every octave for the corresponding holes of Solo tuning.

This irregularity, along with the reversed breathing pattern in the Richter top octave, is a quirk of Richter based tunings, and many players have come up with ways to "correct" it. But what if, after noting the extra opportunity for ornaments, we would like to extend this principle instead of removing it? With very small means, we'd get a very different relative of the Solo tuning! Hold on to your hats!

What I'm talking about is changing the following

Code: Select all

C E G C C E G G
D F A B D F A B 
into the following

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C F G C C F G G
D E A B D E A B
In its own way, it's actually more regular than the ordinary Solo, as holes 1-2 and 3-4 are laid out exactly the same.

Where standard Solo tuning has one ornament-pair, A-B, this Snake Solo tuning has three: D-E, F-G and A-B. (I named this pattern because of how it sort of snakes through the diagram.)

The reason this quirk was put into Richter tuning in the first place, and thus why it was inherited by Solo tuning, was to provide a fifth below the high root note to get a nicer chord. Looking at the chart above, it turns out that benefit is also tripled in this variation: Where there was one inverted power chord, C, there are now three: C, F and A. The price is, of course, the two complete chords of Solo.

At this point, it doesn't look like we gained all that much: Some extra jaw-flick notes, and three incomplete chords at the price of two complete ones. And the chords you get aren't THAT good. Certainly not enough for most Solo players to consider trying it out.

Things get a little more interesting if we consider a slide diatonic, however. Consider the following example in the very Irish key of D: (Slide-in notes on the outside)

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      E  A  B  E  E  A  B  E
Blow: D  G  A  D  D  G  A  D
Draw: E  F# B  C# E  F# B  C#
      F# G  D  D  F# G  D  D 
There's a synergy here. A slide diatonic provides ornaments and shortened jumps and the snake pattern provides some ornaments and some new power chords, but the sum is more than its parts. The combine effects are rather multiplied. Here are some properties:
  • Though Brendan doesn't deem them quite good enough to be "real" rolls, there's a large number of jawflick + button ornaments.
  • The number of power chords double! We can play two note open variants of all the chords in D major: D, G, A, Em, F#m and Bm.
  • The important root-and-third duo D-F# can still be found next to each other, with the fifth A above in the next hole without moving the slider.
I guess it's sort of a compromise between between my Wedin tuning and Solo. I haven't tried it out but I suspect it would share both some of the drawbacks and the advantages of each tuning. On top of that it would have as many chords as Spiral tuning, though smaller ones.

While I'm certainly not suggesting my Snakey should replace the slide diatonics that exist today, I think it would lend itself well to a certain kind of playing. For slower stuff with ornaments and chords I imagine it would be quite nice.

Any comments?
Edvin Wedin

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Brendan
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Re: Snake Solo. Countering the regular-breath hegemony!

Post by Brendan » Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:32 am

Thought-provoking as always, Edvin...

The Slide-Diatonic version looks quite usable for fiddle tunes. Having the root and upper/lower fifth of the blow notes of the scale in adjacent holes is a plus - although for the draw notes they are still two holes away up and down, in most cases.

When you say 'jawflick + button', what do you mean exactly - jawflick first? I was thinking more 'button + jawflick': button first, then lower jawflick. In that pattern I only see two, on the F# and C# draw notes.

The power chords are a nice aspect, for sure.

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IaNerd
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Re: Snake Solo. Countering the regular-breath hegemony!

Post by IaNerd » Thu Oct 21, 2021 1:44 pm

My favorite part is this Subject's title. You've got verve, Edvin!

EdvinW
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Re: Snake Solo. Countering the regular-breath hegemony!

Post by EdvinW » Fri Oct 22, 2021 11:53 am

IaNerd wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 1:44 pm
My favorite part is this Subject's title. You've got verve, Edvin!
:D
Brendan wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:32 am
When you say 'jawflick + button', what do you mean exactly - jawflick first? I was thinking more 'button + jawflick': button first, then lower jawflick. In that pattern I only see two, on the F# and C# draw notes.
I mean that there are various possible ornaments, including the one you describe. In that particular pattern, if you refer to what I think you refer to, there are three: the two you noticed and one around blow A.

There are eight ways to play the sequence corresponding to A-B-A-G-A in a single breath, and the same for the sequence around F#, and one would have to experiment a bit to find which is faster. My bet would be one of the two "circular" ones, where you alternate either moving one hole or changing the state of the slider. In this way, both your moth and your finger can work at half the speed of the notes, as long as they keep out of synch. If there is some fix upper speed you can both push and release the button and move back and forth one hole, the circular rolls would (in theory) be twice as fast. In practice, of course, other things come into play as well, but I would be surprised if they would add up to make the circular rolls slower than those where you change hole or slider state for two notes in a row.
Brendan wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:32 am
The power chords are a nice aspect, for sure.
They are, aren't they? When I thought up this tuning I thought of it more as a curiosity than an actual tool, but it has some features which are rather unique. Whenever I find some peace I should sit down and try it out with the midi harp. If anyone beats me to it I'd be happy to hear about the results!
Edvin Wedin

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