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Valveless Chromatics thread on Slidemeister

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2020 5:33 pm
by Brendan
I've been following this thread on Slidemeister about valveless chromatics: ...

In the last few pages, an interesting bespoke chromatic commissioned by Crazy Bob from the Chinese custom maker Will Wu is discussed. I think people here might find the tuning scheme options intriguing.

Re: Valveless Chromatics thread on Slidemeister

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 8:37 am
by EdvinW
Thanks for the tip!

I try to keep up with the SlideMeister subforums about custom tunings and instruments, but I had missed this thread.

Your idea for a tuning is cool, and it seems reasonable. There is one claim you make, however, that doesn't seem to be totally true:
2. The wholetone-based tuning scheme I recommended, since (like yours) it is symmetrical and consistent, would still only have two patterns for all 12 keys. Here it is:

CD. C#D#. EF#. FG. G#A#. AB. | CD. C#D#.... etc

The pattern starting on a blow note would be identical for keys C, C#, E, F, G#,A. The pattern starting on a draw note would be identical for keys D, D#, F#, G, A#, B.

BLOW PATTERN (Key C Example)
Hole 1: blow/draw
Hole 3: blow
Hole 4: blow/draw
Hole 6: blow/draw
Hole 7: blow

DRAW PATTERN (Key D Example)
Hole 1: draw
Hole 3: blow/draw
Hole 4: draw
Hole 6: blow/draw
Hole 8: blow
Hole 7: draw
Two patterns cannot be enough to play any major scale. The easiest way to see that is probably to note that a C scale needs a G, while a C# scale needs a G#. These two notes are draw and blow, respectively, and while G# can be played as a bend, the G can't.

It turns out you need 4 patterns to play any major scale with only straight notes and bends.

Your claim IS true if you include overblows though, which should be possible if there are no valves involved.
the patterns would be

BLOW PATTERN (Key C Example)
Hole 1: blow/draw
Hole 3: blow/drawbend/overblow
Hole 5: draw/overblow
Hole 3: blow

DRAW PATTERN (Key D Example)
Hole 1: draw
Hole 3: blow/draw/overblow
Hole 5: blow/draw
Hole 7: drawbend/draw

Edit: These last patterns are the same that you use for Augmented diatonics with a two seminote difference between blow and draw in each hole (what Seydel (and I) like to call Whole Tone tuning), only you skip every other hole. On the one hand you could argue playing like this sort of defeats the purpous of building a chromatic harmonica, but on the other hand you could argue knowing these patterns can help thinking about the tuning even if you use some other pattern in practice.

Re: Valveless Chromatics thread on Slidemeister

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 9:36 pm
by Brendan
You got me scratching my head there Edvin. Not for the first time! Damn, you're right again! It's because in my suggested tuning the intervals between holes alternate between a small and a larger one. I hadn't spotted that - thanks.

Hmmm... My wholetone-based tuning scheme for this harmonica, whilst it has advantages in terms of reed life and draw bending, loses out to the basic version in that respect. This is because Crazy Bob's original tuning WOULD have just two patterns, since his pattern is completely symmetrical from hole to hole. It is:

CC#.  DD#.  EF.  F#G.  G#A.  A#B.  CC#.  DD#.  EF.  F#G.  G#A.  A#B.  etc

In this case there in only one pattern starting on a blow note (C, D, E. G#, G#, A#) , and one pattern starting on a draw note (C#, D#, F, G, A, B).

Talking scale degrees as numbers, Blow pattern is:
1-.   2-.  34.   -5.   -6.   -7.   1

Draw pattern is:
-1.   -2.   -3.   4-.   5-.   6-.   71.   

Quite a legato sequence on both versions of the scale, with lots of same-breath moves between scale notes. However the obvious disadvantage of this harmonica is that large jumps are necessary for most melodies. I have a feeling Crazy Bob might find that outweighs the advantage of just two scale patterns in the long run.

Re: Valveless Chromatics thread on Slidemeister

Posted: Tue Sep 01, 2020 5:07 pm
by EdvinW
Slideless chromatic tunings are tricky, especially if you want them to be regular :)

I think I've managed to prove mathematically the following: (If anyone wants the proof I could try and put it in a readable format, but that might take some time.)

Theorem: If you want exactly two patterns to play any 7 note major scale, and don't want any repeated notes, your only option is to make C, D, E, F#, G# and Bb blow notes and C#, D#, F, G, A and B draw notes, or the other way around.
Further, the notes must come in this order, and the only room you have for variation is shifting the one of the plates left or right.

Having only two patterns thus forces the regularity upon you!

Shifting the draw notes one step to the left would solve the problems you mention with closeness-of-pitch-induced fatigue, and would make room for a LOT of bending. In fact, every note would have a bend enharmonic, and would be available as a pure note OR a bend!

Take a look at this:

Code: Select all

Blow: C  D  E  F# G# Bb C  D  E  F# G# Bb
Draw: Eb F  G  A  B  C# Eb F  G  A  B  C# 
The drawback of this shift would be that, if you require notes to be played without bends, some already huge jumps would be even huger. Jumping from a draw G up to a C is a three hole in Bob's proposed tuning, and a four hole jump in mine; too large for such a common interval!

With good bending control, however, you could instead play the G as a bend down from the A, and the C as a bend down from the C#. This reduces the whole thing to a 2 space jump! It just strikes me that if you set this up well enough for overblows, you could even play the C by overblowing from the B, a one space jump!! With these techniques, each pair of holes cover half an octave, and the overlapping holes would offer a bucket-load of possible ornamentation.

This still would be a tuning that requires a lot of jumps, but it would retain Bob's Property of requiring only two patterns to play any scale.

Easy patterns, totally regular with legato stretches in any key, large bends and lots of room to explore for the advanced player. I kind of want to see this built :D

Re: Valveless Chromatics thread on Slidemeister

Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:35 am
by Brendan
Thanks Edvin for your interesting-as-always insights and suggestions. And now you have invented a new Theorem to boot! Maybe we should call it Wedin's Law? Plus a new tuning variation for Crazy Bob's harp based on your Law - wow, a good days' work!

As you say, it has advantages and disadvantages, like the other two scales proposed already - and indeed any harmonica tuning scheme so far known. Surely the PERFECT harmonica tuning must be out there somewhere? ;-)

I posted on the Slidemeister group asking why Bob didn't go for reduced distances between holes to overcome the big jump problem. But he seems to have answers to all my queries :)

Re: Valveless Chromatics thread on Slidemeister

Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2020 1:14 pm
by EdvinW
I'm glad someone finds what I do interesting! The Perfect Tuning might never be found, or even exist, the search must continue :lol: I've been checking in on the thread a few times a day since you alerted me to it, and it's really nice reading!

By the way, though i found the theorem yesterday, the tuning I proposed actually isn't totally new; my earliest notes of it are from an early morning writing session in January 2019. (Those scribbles were an important step towards another tuning I've been happily using ever since, and which I hope to make public soon ;) )

By the way 2: I don't have a user at SlideMeister and thus can't answer there directly. Anything I write here on the board I consider public, so retelling on SlideMeister or anywhere is totally fine should anybody want to, just include where you found it.