Bending very far, and quarter notes

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!
Post Reply
Posts: 188
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:02 pm
Location: Sweden

Bending very far, and quarter notes

Post by EdvinW » Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:36 pm

Some musical traditions use quarter notes that fall between the steps of the western chromatic scale. One way to handle this would be to use something like Brendan's QuarterTone, but a more accessible way is to simply use bends.

On most of my harmonicas most of the holes with a half step between blow and draw allow me to bend to the quarter note in between. This is somewhat unpredictable though, and the precise distance between the blow note and the lowest draw bend seems to vary between holes. (the same for blow bends)

The general rule seems to be that, for holes with a half note difference, in the high register I can get almost all the way down to the other note, while this is somewhat harder in the low register. For holes with more space I don't feel I get as close, but I'm not at all sure this is objectively true.

Since most of us only use chromatic notes, the precise limits of the bending range does not play a large is not that important. It might matter for microtonal music though, and

Do you know if there is any truth behind my suspicions, or if there is some other principle that governs how far a two-reed-per-chamber harmonica can be bent?

Do you know of any tunings that are known to accommodate usable quarter notes?

I'm aware of Brendan's QuarterTone, and also about the microtones he uses with the AsiaBend. Are there any players known to regularly play with quarter notes, and in that case, what kind of harmonica do they use? Or are Brendan's inventions the closest thing to "conventional" microtonality there is? I think I've heard Swedish player Erland Westerström use quarter tones playing fairly normal harps, but it I can't find any in his youtube channel.
Edvin Wedin

User avatar
Posts: 663
Joined: Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:28 pm

Re: Bending very far, and quarter notes

Post by Brendan » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:26 am

Its an interesting question. Actually I've been talking about this recently with Roni Eytan, who plays my Quartertone DoubleChrom. It works, but is an expensive, unwieldy beast, so I was looking for another way to give him the quarter tone options he needs in a simpler harmonica.

What you can do is use the slider notes of a standard chromatic to give quarter tone options on particular notes - just the ones that would be flattened in a particular maqam. For instance, the doubled F and C notes in Solo tuning give opportunities. Since you already have straight notes in the C scale, you can tune the enharmonic slider notes to other desired half-flat pitches in the vicinity.

According to Roni, Maqam Rast (the equivalent of the Ionian Mode, or major scale) in C would have half-flat notes on E and B. So I'm making a couple of altered chroms for him that use the slider to give him straight and half-flat options on those two notes.

This is one way it can be done. Another is to use my Slide Diatonic concept, which gives you doubled notes (enharmonics) of opposite breath on all notes of the major scale. So, for example, in key of C you have the D note as draw slide-out and blow slide-in, the E as blow slide-out and draw slide-in, and so on.

You could choose to make all the slide-in notes half-flat if you wanted. That would give you a diatonic harmonica capable of accurate quarter tones on all notes. And, if it's half-valved, it can be played fully chromatically using bends.

Hope that gives you a useful direction you can pursue. Keep us posted if you try it :-)

Post Reply