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Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:30 pm
by EdvinW
I don't recall reading about this anywhere

When pressing the slider of a slide-endowed harp half way in, one can sound both reedplates. One use for this on a standard chrom could be to emulate blue notes, notes outside the standard chromatic scale. I know some people do this by rapidly shifting between two adjacent chromatic notes, but I'm sure people have experimented with sounding them together as well.

What if the two blow notes or the two draw notes in the same hole formed a more sonorous interval than a minor second? If we want to keep the instrument chromatic, with solo tuning (or any tuning where all notes belong to a single major scale) unfortunately the only regular intervals the slider can have are the minor second or a diminished fifth. The later is sometimes known as "the Devils interval", and is one of the most dissonant intervals there are.

For Bebop tuning, however, the extra b flat is just enough to allow a slide interval of a major third! It would look like this:

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Blow: Slide in     e  g# b  d
      Slide out    c  e  g  bb
Draw: Slide out    d  f  a  b
      Slide in     f# a  c# d#
It doesn't seem very comfortable in every key (to say the least!), but technically chromatic and with a lot of chords and double stops!

Perhaps a tuning like the Power chromatic, which is already almost chromatic using bends, would be a more natural candidate? Let's look at the chart:

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Blow: Slide in     e  f# a  c# 
      Slide out    c  d  f  a  
Draw: Slide out    d  e  g  b
      Slide in     f# g# b  d#
The only note missing using the slide is the b flat, but this could be achieved by bending. The new chrom tuning is a chord machine with 8 complete chords: F, Dm, G, Em, A, F#m, B and G#m. Counting the half-slide ones, there are 17 (!) usable double stops that can be used in a lot of diferent keys. Any key could be played either completely slide-in or slide-out using bends.
Edit: It seems I was up too late as well... There are three keys which cannot be played without moving the slide.

Of course the possibilities are yet much larger if we don't limit ourselves to regular slide intervals, but allow the slide to raise notes by different amounts.

What do you all think of this idea? Does anyone know of any previous use of the half-slide technique to produce (partial) chords?

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Wed Oct 30, 2019 5:00 am
by Brendan
Cool idea Edvin! I don't think it has been a 'thing', but your insight could make it one 👍

Playing chromatically using draw bends on a sympathetic tuning (PowerChromatic, Diminished?) would reduce the need to make awkward jumps to get the sharps/flats, as you say.

Observations, Suggestions:

1. Strictly speaking, these half-pushed slide two-note combinations are double stops, not full chords. However if you tuned two adjacent holes appropriately, you could get four notes on one breath for a full chord. Eg. CE-GC, or CE-GBb for a seventh etc. Of course then your melody scale is hugely compromised, but if you think of the instrument mainly as a compact chord harmonica instead, with the ability to play some single notes as well, then it would be another interesting possibility.

However, to make it sound good beyond just the lower octave the reedplates would need to have long slots everywhere. There is one slide instrument like that: Suzuki's chord chrom, the SSCH-56. I guess it could be re-imagined in your half-push concept to get double the number of chords it already has! But my brain hurts thinking about it...

1. You're going for all major third intervals in the half-pushed slider. If you were thinking of basing the harp in a few related positions/modes rather than as fully chromatic with slider notes, it would be more 'musical' to make some of the slide notes minor thirds.

Thinking of C and related modes as the tonic base, your Slide-Out/slide-in note relationships in Solo Tuning would be (blow notes on top, draw on bottom, slide-in notes to right):

CE. EG. GB. C?

But, because you already have most of those intervals as two-hole double stops, to retain the ability to play the normal Solo scale plus add chords, it would be more useful to go for this slide in/out pattern:


Then in two holes you'd have these full chords:
CGEB (C maj7)
DAFC (D min7)
EBGD (E min7)
FCAE (F maj7)
G something..
A something..
B something..

The full chords break down at the end of the Solo scale, but the two-note slide half-pushed intervals are still good.

As I was writing those notes, it struck me that this instrument is actually a 'thing': a C and G slide harmonica, where the slide simply selects a new key rather then gives chromatic notes or slide decorations.

I first made/sold these in G/D and called them the Irish Session Harp. Later Seydel offered the same concept in any key combination as the Seydel Sampler.

But I never thought of playing it with slide half-pushed. Doing so gives it added sonorous fifths, always a great sound! That makes it even more of a thing, or adds a new layer of thinginess to an already good thing... :-)

Hmmm... That's about as much as a sleepy brain and a finger tapping on a phone can manage at 5am. It's a fertile area of exploration, thanks Edvin!

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Wed Oct 30, 2019 10:04 am
by EdvinW
Diminished! :o

A diminished slide-harp will be chromatic for any slide interval that isn't already present as an interval between blow notes! (or draw notes) This seems a very interesting idea!

For instance, with the major-third slide in my first post, you get the following.

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Blow: Slide in     e  g  bb c# e  g  bb c# 
      Slide out    c  eb f# a  c  eb f# a  
Draw: Slide out    d  f  g# b  d  f  g# b  
      Slide out    f# a  c  eb f# a  c  eb 
Any chromatic note can be played within 3 different double stops, two minor thirds and one major third! Only 4 out of 12 major third double stops are missing, and the minor thirds are all there!

The patterns for playing scales with only the slide are a bit unusual, but not as bad as one might fear. Some actually look almost nice, like the natural minor scales starting on a blow note. For playing only using the slide, there are only three patterns to learn to let you play in any key.

Using bends and fixating the instrument is of course now chromatic even without the slide, but each scale is now available in two different patterns. We could also note that there are just two patterns needed to play in any key.

The most reasonable way to play, however, is probably to use both bends and the slide. Consider for instance moving up the natural Am scale (the scale without any sharps or flats), starting at the middle 'a' using only the slide and no bends all the way up to the next 'a'. We then play the 'b' and the 'c' as draws in hole 7 using bends. We then move back down to the middle 'a' the same way we came, and continue down to 2D 'f' without the slide with the 'g' as 3D bend. This scale is played with no awkward jumps. The pattern is again a bit different, but the regularity of the tuning should make it easier to remember.

Also, keep in mind that at any point playing our scale we have the choice of making the current note part of either a major or minor double stop, and choosing which one follows a completely regular pattern!

I know there is a small but active community of dimi players out there, and as my proposed tuning is simply the normal diminished tuning with the slide note shifted one step to the left this might not be such a great transition.

I'll try out how it plays using only the slide with my DM48 when I get home :)

Thank you Brendan for your input!

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Wed Oct 30, 2019 7:32 pm
by Brendan
That's cool using Diminished Tuning with all slide notes going up a major third. A simple way to look at it is two diatonic Dimi harps a third apart; in this case:

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SLIDE OUT = C Diminished:	CD	EbF	F#G#	AB	CD
SLIDE IN = E Diminished:	EF#	GA	BbC	C#D#	EF#
Quite aside from the nice things Edvin highlights (half-pushed-slide double-stop application, and the fact all chromatic notes are available without bends), if you think of it as two diatonic harps with half-valved reedplates and play them with draw bends to get the missing notes, it's nice in a different way also! That's because the two Diminished scales offer different bends:

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In other words, all the blow notes of C Diminished become bendable draw enharmonics when you push the slide in. So if you think of the harp as basically a C Diminished harp, it gives you a lot of nice draw-bending expression on every note of the scale. Sounds like a win-win for Dimi players.

The only 'problem' with prioritising half-pushed slide notes is that they need to be in tune for them to sound good when played together with the slide-out notes. If you are using major or minor thirds with the slider pushed, that means the slide-in scale needs to be adjusted away from a tempered tuning. Major third notes will need to be flat, and minor third notes will need to be sharp to be sonorous with the slide-out notes. That means the slide-in scale with not necessarily sound great by itself, if you use it for melody playing. If the notes are all a major third above the slide-out notes, the slide-in scale will need to be about 20 cents flatter than the slide-out scale. That would pose issues playing with other musicians...

The only useful interval where you can use a tempered scale with the same relative pitch on the slide-in scale as the slide-out scale (eg. both tuned to A443) is a fifth. This is the one I highlighted in my previous post with the Irish Session Harp: two Solo Tuning scales in G/D.

I have some old ones lying about and just gave it a quick try. I played the G scale then half-pushed the slider to get the double-stop with the note a fifth below, from the D scale.

Hmmm... well, it's good - if both harps are perfectly in tune! Some notes have sweet stable fifths, whilst on others there is beating and the sound is unpleasant. That's despite the fact that the slide-out and slide-in scales still sound fine when played on their own as single notes. To get everything playing great for the slide-half-pushed double-stops would add another layer of tuning complexity, for sure....

Theory is great, but there is also the question is where you'd use them in a musical context. I just tried playing a couple of tunes with single notes, then half-pushed the slider to bring in the fifth below. Playing a series of notes that way sounds bad to my ears; it seems to work best when you come to rest on a long note. But that's only on a quick test; maybe I'd get more accustomed to putting them in quickly here and there in a fast moving melody, similar to the way tongue-blockers use octaves.

Another practical issue is getting a consistently accurate half-pushed slider position, where both holes are open to an even degree. It's not easy! Sometimes it happens perfectly, other times I push too far (or not far enough) and have to adjust. Some kind of mechanical addition to the slider with a half-stop button would take the hit-and-miss element out of it, but I can't think how that would work right now... Whatever way you do it, it adds yet more complexity!

But it's certainly interesting to discuss, that's for sure :-)

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:35 am
by EdvinW
Nice to hear about your empirical results! A switch harp like the Irish Session are indeed already set up to try this. It would be nice to hear what other switch harp players think about this :) I know it's not easy to get the push just right, but I figured that's something one can learn. As you note, people do learn tongue blocking ;)

The tuning issue you bring up is a real thing, and if one's to use the same interval all along the harp a fifth or a fourth are probably the two options which sound the best. The big BUT is that there are after all dimi players around, and though I havn't heard them much I do think some use quite some double stops. These must be just as out of tune as the half pushed major thirds would be. The point is that there seems to be people who think harmonies on an equally tempered instrument sound good enough to be useful. It might not be for every ear though :)

For me personally I think this would be more interesting in an augmented than in a dimi. I've always found dimi chroms a bit awkward with a lot of quick button work, while the augy feels more relaxed by comparison. I've tried the minor third shift for augmented on my midi harp, and though I can't test the actual half pushing regular playing is not that different from standard augy playing.

Another thought:
Different chroms have different sized holes in their slides. Consider the following borrowed from Seydel's spare parts shop:
This technique should work better with larger holes.

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:14 am
by Brendan
Hi Edvin - you wrote:

" I've always found dimi chroms a bit awkward with a lot of quick button work, while the augy feels more relaxed by comparison."

Try half-valving the Dimi. On a Dimi diatonic you can play all major and minor scales without a slider, just using bends, in only three positions:

1. Starting on a blow note
2. Starting on a draw bend
3. Starting on a draw note

On a half-valved Dimi chromatic, you can use the same technique but get the advantage of enharmonic scales, so you can choose your favourite couple of positions. Here's a small article I wrote about playing Diminished with bends years ago, along with some useful Phrase Maps (these can be applied to any tuning and type of harmonica BTW):
Diminshed Harp Phrase Maps.jpg
Diminshed Harp Phrase Maps.jpg (212.93 KiB) Viewed 3902 times

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:38 am
by EdvinW
I've played around with diminished and augmented on my midiharp, but I never had either tuning in a chromatic reed harmonica.

By the way, when you said above the the forths and fifths are the only equally tempered intervals that sound good to you, I think you miss the octave ;) I don't know if people play octave tuned switch harps, but if they do half-sliding could be an alternative way to play octaves.

Re: Playing chords by pushing the slider half-way in! (Is this a thing?)

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2021 11:30 pm
by EdvinW
Would the new Seydel NonSlider allow you to easily use embouchure to easily play both rows? That might shed some new interesting light on the ideas in this thread :)