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Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 8:56 am
by Nick
I know this is the nichest of topics on an already niche but growing forum.
I've been playing diatonic for a couple of years and have been working hard on getting a tuning system
that works for me.
I play mostly English dance tunes and the problem I came across early on was the C#s in the tunes in G.
I started with G Paddy richter which worked really well but no bent C#.
Couldn't figure out Paddy richter in D and I'm still at a loss there.
I then found Melody Maker in G, now this works for D tunes.
I also had a go with Fiddle tuning on a G Chrom but couldn't settle with the way it's set out.
I then found G major cross tuning, this was it, I could easily bend the D draw on 6 down to C# and all the notes from G3 up to c5 are there :D plus a couple more.
For tunes in D I tried D Major cross but it ment learning new places for the same notes .
Then I thought why not just sharpen the Cs on the G Major cross and make it a G major cross melody maker tuning..
For me this works brilliantly, patterns in G and D are the same and I've got my C# accidentals on the G.
This is how it looks.

Major cross in G.
Blow G B D F#A C e g c e
Draw A C E G B d f#a b d

'MM' Major cross in D.
Blow G B D F#A c# e g c#e
Draw A C#E G B d f#a b d

Let me know what you think.


Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 3:16 am
by Harmonicatunes
I can see the logic here. At the end of the day, if it works for you, then go with it. Doesn't matter what it's called.

A couple of comments.

1) the layout for the D Major Cross is different than for the G. I know that you would end up using the same patterns with both, but if the notes are in the same place all the time, then life is easier all round.

2) The G Major Cross has G as the lowest note. While this makes intuitive sense for tunes in G, it's actually better to include the fifth scale degree below this, if possible (i.e. a D for the G harmonica). You need this note all the time.

3) You've got some useful chords as well.

No need to change anything though. Just keep using it. The tuning actually isn't Major Cross, so perhaps think up with another name? Better still, post a video so we can see how it sounds.

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:41 am
by Brendan
We're all about niche topics here, you're in the right place. A video is a good idea :-) And Tony's right, you should give the tuning your own name.

Modal tunings designed for trad tune playing, like Paddy Richter or Major Cross, are good for probably 80-90% of the repertoire. But some of the most interesting tunes break out of the modes with commonly-used accidentals.

In G major and related modes these would be F and C#, plus G# and D# less often - would you agree?

The question is: how to get them when needed on a diatonic harp tuned for optimal pure modal playing? Some can be bent within the mode (eg. G#/D# in G Paddy Richter), but others can't.

One way to go is to retune the harp altogether, as you've done. The only problem with that is it could compromise the efficiency of the original tuning for playing the simple pure modal tunes.

Another is to get them with techniques like overblowing. But that requires specially set-up harps, lots of practice, and is not an option for someone like me who prefers half-valved harps, or Tony who doesn't use them either.

A third way is to keep the optimal modal tuning and diatonic-style flavour, but transfer it to a harp with more accidental note abilities.

That's what I prefer. My harp of choice for fiddle tunes is Paddy Solo half-valved Slide Diatonic. You can bend all the same notes as on a stock diatonic, plus the slider notes give you lots of enharmonics for easier phrasing and nice authentic-sounding decorations. But their extra advantage is that they also give you all the missing accidentals as bends.

So that C# we're discussing would be slide-in D draw bent down a semitone - easy to get when needed. Half-valved Slide Diatonic would work well in Major Cross too.

But if a slider and the form factor of a chrom are steps too far for diatonic harp purists, there are other options.

One is an X-Reed harp like the Suzuki SUB30, which gives you full chromaticism with draw/blow bends in a 10-hole harp. Same close hole spacing and no slide.

Another is Jim Antaki's Turboslide, which allows all the blows to be bent via magnetism on a steel-reed harp like the Seydel Session Steel Tony uses for his comnercial Major Cross model.

The great thing with harmonicas is that "there's more than one way to skin a cat" :-) Lucky for us, maybe not for cats.

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:22 pm
by Nick
Thanks for some really good info and suggestions.
My tuning is not as I realise now Major cross. It's probably closer to Circular, certainly on the G harmonica and maybe the D too?
As Tony said Major cross in G would start with a D on the 1 blow, my D is on the 3 blow giving me the C, B, A and G below which I find useful.

What to call this tuning? I've no idea.

As for efficiency, and I presume you're talking about hole placement for particular tunes rather than air efficiency or the compromising of reeds after retuning, I'm finding most of the English tunes I play on a regular basis fit nicely.

Brendan, I'm curious now about you're Paddy solo slide diatonic, how does this differ from a standard solo tuned harmonica? I know the slide in notes would be a whole step up, but slide out?

Lots of questions I know but I suppose it's what it's about.


Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:00 am
by Harmonicatunes
A few things I would add. Sort through your own ideas, take suggestions from here, then settle on a tuning, whatever it is. It may be the one you've already got.

Then get the best harmonicas you can in your chosen tuning. For example, top end Seydel models, which the factory will build to whichever tuning you specify. Or perhaps get a customiser to make them, Joe Spiers or Andrew Zajac for example. Spend as much as you possibly can, especially since you probably only need ones in G and D.

You may have already done this. If not, then don't deny yourself the extra grunt a top class harmonica provides, particularly if you currently play standard out of the box mid range models.

Then stop fiddling with tunings. Settle with what you have, build up a substantial repertoire, and hone your technique. Again, you may have already done this. If not, then give this last step your full attention. It may be a 20 year journey (it has been for me with Major Cross). Doesn't matter. Own your tuning, get it under your skin, and show the world what you can do with it.

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 7:15 am
by Nick
Hi Tony
You have probably hit the nail on the head with what I've done over the last 6 months.
I'm now settled on what I'm calling 'English' G/D tuning. English tunes are what I play most of the time so it makes sense.

I've been retuning my own Suzuki Promasters, (I wanted to use Seydels but I can't add soft solder to the stainless reeds), and added Andrew Zajac combs.
They're working nicely, I've also ordered a Seydel Sampler in my tuning through their customising site which should arrive this week.
I play a few tunes that change key in the B part and it gives me a slide in A chord 123 draw and 567 blow, and a C# in the same place as the C nat but slide in.

As you said there are lots of good chords in my tuning which I'm now starting to explore.

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:29 am
by Harmonicatunes
Sounds great. Nail some of the tunes, then share them with us.

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:37 am
by Brendan
Nick, I'm still a bit puzzled with your English G/D Tuning:

Blow G B D F#A c# e g c#e
Draw A C#E G B d f#a b d

BTW, I have a thread on how to input tunings so they come out with good registration on the main board. Here's how yours looks:

Code: Select all

HOLE	1	2	3	4	5	6	7	8	9	10
You said initially it was to get the C# notes when playing in G, and I assumed this would be a minority choice: most tunes would use C natural but you'd need the C# occasionally. (That's how tunes in G in Irish music are anyway, my main reference point for trad tune playing).

OK, I can see that your C# notes are now built in, and but to me it looks as if you've simply tuned the harmonica in D! All the notes are in the D scale. OK you can get the C natural as a draw bend on hole 2 but you can't get the C in the middle octave, the main melody area. So how can you play in G there? Surely not all English tunes in G have a C# instead of C?

To me this looks no better than using Paddy Richter in D, which is:

Code: Select all

HOLE	1	2	3	4	5	6	7	8	9	10
All you need to do is change the F# in hole 2 to a G and D to C# in hole 10 and it's virtually identical in the main area holes 2-10, barring switched breath directions in holes 7, 8. Certainly in the notes and bends available it's identical:

Code: Select all

HOLE	1	2	3	4	5	6	7	8	9	10
Probably my puzzlement is because I know little about English folk tunes. How about you give some examples or, better still, play some on your new tuning so we can hear what you're going for. Otherwise I'm confused about why you need to reinvent the wheel - in order to gain nothing...

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:41 pm
by Nick
Hi I think you may have got things mixed up a bit, below is my English G tuning so the Cs are natural.

Code: Select all

English G tuning
Blow G   B   D   F#  A   c   e   g   c   e
Hole 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10
Draw A   C   E   G   B   d   f#  a   b   d  
Here is my English D tuning where the Cs are #

Code: Select all

English D tuning
Blow G   B   D   F#  A  c#   e   g   c#  e
Hole 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10
Draw A   C#  E   G   B   d   f#  a   b   d 
This is two harmonicas one tuned to 'G' and the other to 'D'. In the G tuning I get the c# on the draw 6 half step bend for those accidentals that crop

I hope this clears things up and you can see where I'm coming from.

Posting a video!!!! Maybe soon, harmonica is very much my second instrument so I'm in the learning phase.

I'll sort some ABC of English tunes with the c# accidentals and post them here.

Re: Alternative Major cross.

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:22 pm
by Nick
Here's an example of what I like to play, Lester Bailey on melodeon.
I get a lot of tunes from Lester's blog. Nothing fancy just Lester playing. ... kstep.html

T:Louth Quickstep
C:Joshua Gibbons, Lincolnshire.
B2 BG B2 d2|c2 A2 A4|B2 G2 F2 G2|AGFE D4|
B2 BG B2 d2|c2 A2 A2 c2|cBAG FGAF|G2 B2 G4:|
|:g4 f2 e2|e2 d2 d4|e4 d2 c2|c2 B2 B4|
g4 f2 e2|e2 d2 d2 c2|cBAG FGAF|G2 B2 G4:|