Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

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!
EdvinW
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Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by EdvinW » Sun Jun 06, 2021 10:12 pm

I've been using a rather different kind of tuning for chromatic harmonica for a few years now. For years I had been looking for a harmonica that lets me convincingly play minor Swedish folk tunes with diatonic ornamentations. After finding this tuning I haven't bought or built a slide-harp tuned any other way. I thought someone might find it interesting, so I decided to finally get off my behind and share it.

Instead of going into the technicalities of the tuning (that's a later post!), I thought I'd start at the other end and first share a couple of short sound clips to show what it can do. I'll just say that the tuning is fully chromatic and repeats every 4 holes to give a range of 3 octaves in a 12-hole harmonica. All the tunes are played using the same harmonica. It doesn't require any modifications and can be played out of the box if bought custom tuned from Seydel.

So here we go!

Only two patterns are required to play 8 easy and flowing major pentatonic scales: Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A, and E. Their relative minor pentatonic scales are Cm, Gm, Dm, Am, Em, Bm, Fm# and C#m. In the following clip I use exactly the same pattern four times to play a simple Irish tune in four keys, starting in Bm.
https://cloud.fripost.org/s/qnrkBskDjYs5xcc

The tuning has 6 "home key signatures": Bb, F, C, G, D and A. Within these major keys and their related modes, diatonic decorations such as trills are easy to add at evrey note in the scale. The following clip is played in Bm, but the tune can be played just as well, using almost the same pattern in Gm and Am. (Dm and Em are just as nice and easy using a different pattern, and F#m is not too bad for this tune either.)
https://cloud.fripost.org/s/2Rx8tef4zxb7GSE

In several minor keys (especially Gm, Dm and Am which are important in Swedish folk music) tunes where the sevenths and/or sixths are major are not any harder to play or ornament than tunes in natural minor. The tune in the following short clip follows a Dm scale with major sixth and major seventh.
https://cloud.fripost.org/s/DCzYi4nHkidK5tq

Many Swedish tunes have notes all over the place. The following clip shows a tune in Am where the third, sixth and seventh change several times. I also like to play this tune in Gm and Dm, and the different keys offer slightly different opportunities for ornamentations.
https://cloud.fripost.org/s/ydd8BtWJAkfYsaA

I conclude with another example of a tune with a lot of accidentals, this time in Gm.
https://cloud.fripost.org/s/HinGGEfCxCfYS68

---

I do own a standard solo tuned chromatic, but I must admit I don't play it much. My impression though, is that the things I've demonstrated are rather hard to reproduce on a standard chromatic. Solo tuning has a bunch of easy pentatonic scales, but they are fewer and require more diverse patterns. Diatonic ornaments can be made easier by using a slide diatonic, but that strategy gets harder when tunes start to modulate and incorporate accidentals. Of course there are people who put in many years of hard work and can play anything, but I don't know of any chromatic tuning where playing melodies with diatonic ornaments is easy in many keys.

So what do you all think? Any input is very welcome! I've tried other tunings for chromatic harmonicas, but this was the first one I liked enough to start playing the chrom regularly. This likely means I'm biased, so a fresh pair of eyes (and ears) would be helpful :)
Edvin Wedin

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triona
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by triona » Mon Jun 07, 2021 11:41 am

My ears say "YES". :D
Now I can try to play this with a common chromatic or with a slide diatonic.
For to think about a new chrom in Wedin style or maybe even retune any other to this - if possible - a layout of the notes would be helpful.


dear greetings
triona
Aw, Thou beloved, do hearken to the Banshee's lonely croon!
sinn féin - ça ira !
Cad é sin do'n té sin nach mbaineann sin dó


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1yI3H ... 9ktgzTR2qg

Gerhard62
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by Gerhard62 » Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:24 pm

For my ears it seens very interesting, too. Do you think it is also good for some eastern or klezmer style melodies in harmonic minor or hitzas e.g. I play this balkan tunes now mostly with my diminished tuned chromatic which lowers the tones if you use the slider. But ornamentation is not so easy with the dimi, which I let build for me because I so can use my diminished diatonic with the same breathing chart.

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Brendan
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by Brendan » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:28 am

Your musical examples are very persuasive, Edvin!

Looking forward to your later post on the technicalities :-)

EdvinW
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by EdvinW » Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:44 pm

Nice to hear you like it! Thanks for the encouragement :D

The tuning looks as follows:
chart-red-blue.png
chart-red-blue.png (51.63 KiB) Viewed 291 times
Some properties are immediately apparent:
  • A 12 hole instrument spans 3 octaves.
  • It's fully chromatic. (ignoring two notes at the very ends)
  • The slide alters most notes (7/8) by one half step.
  • No slide movements are required for the home key of Bb. In fact, two keys could be played with the slide out. (Similar to Bebop tuning, for instance)
  • There are nothing remotely resembling chords. Anywhere. This is a melody instrument! (Tongue splits work though!)
There are many chromatic tunings which are basically a diatonic tuning with added accidentals. There are also some regular tunings, like Diminished and Augmented, where all keys are the same and can be played with a small set of breathing patterns. In a way, my tuning constitutes a compromise between regular tunings and "key-specific tunings" like Solo or Power Chromatic.

I originally started developing what would become the Wedin Chromatic in search for an alternative to key-specific slide diatonics. I wanted something capable of producing complex folk melodies with diatonic ornaments like trills, while allowing for tunes with many accidentals outside the diatonic scale or which otherwise don't conform to the church modes. Examine the chart, and you will find that the slide can often be used for half-step decorations, while full-step decorations can be produced with a jaw flick.

8 of the 12 major pentatonic scales can be played with a stationary slide using 2 breathing patterns (you could try to find them or just trust me for now). 6 of these can be extended, in a fairly regular way, to full diatonic scales which flow nicely without choppy use of the slide. (In fact, 4 of them can be played without moving the slide at all.) I call these the 6 good keys. The remaining 6 non-good keys are a bit more awkward to play, but in my opinion not more so than the hard keys on a Solo tuned chromatic. With my tuning, diatonic trills are available on every note in the 6 good keys, and their related modes, using the slide or a jaw flick.

The good major keys of my main instrument charted above are Bb, F, C, G, D and A. The latter three are useful for fiddle music, and the first three have relative minors that are.¹ I've chosen to label some notes as sharp and some as flat, according to what function they fill in these keys. For instance, none of the keys contain Db notes, but two of them contain a C#, and thus I name the note accordingly.

In a situation where regularity is what's the most important, of course something like Augmented or Diminished tuning are to prefer. In many ways though, my tuning is sort of regular. This, I think, is best illustrated by the following procedure:
  1. Choose one of the home keys and let's say you want to climb up the scale.
  2. Start at any note of your chosen scale.
  3. If the next note is one full step up, move to the right with the same breath and slide-state.
  4. If the next note is one half step up, either release the button, change from draw to blow, or change from blow to draw and move one step to the left, depending on how you produce the current note.
  5. Repeat from step 3.
That's it! As long as you are playing in one of the good keys, the only note where this isn't foolproof is the blow E!² This means you can even start playing along to a tune without knowing which key you are playing, unless you find one of the discontinuities. (If you are playing a slide out blow note and worry you might be on the blow E, you can always push the slide and draw in the same hole. This works even if you turn out to be on the blow D or C!)

There are further regularities. Everywhere but at the blow G, going from blow to draw and moving one step to the right will take you up a fifth. Everywhere but the draw Eb, changing from draw to blow and moving two steps to the right will take you up a fourth (an Eb only shows up in the key of Bb, and that key doesn't have a note one fourth above the Eb anyway!) The patterns for these intervals are familiar from the spiral pattern found in most conventional tunings, and they even show up in some places of Richter

Changes are often additive, i.e. in many places going from a blow to a draw will take you up one minor third, and so on.

Of course there's much more to say, but I think I've covered at least the main selling points :) I'd be happy to answer any further questions!


Gerhard62: I have little experience with klezmer music, so I can't give a definitive answer. Melodic minor is likely the flavour of minor that benefits the least from my tuning, in that the one-and-a-half-step interval between the sixth and the seventh isn't as smooth as the half- or full- step between notes in other scales. That said, it's not a bad fit either. Melodic G, D or minor work well, if you don't need to move back and forth a lot between the low sixth and the high seventh. In melodic E minor, the sixth and the seventh are located in the same hole and have the same slide state, and the half step between D# (Eb in the chart) and and E can be smooth even if proper trills would take some practice. Also, I just tried to move around in various Hijaz scales, and it's rather nice. It's easy to get a little spoiled with having ornaments at every note, and forget that even in the non-good scales there's often ornaments at MOST notes :)

I guess my answer is that it's probably better than many other fully chromatic tunings, at least if you want to play with scale-conforming ornaments in a set of closely related keys. But I also suppose it depends a bit on what properties you need. Having now read the above description, what do you think?

¹) Though I talk about good keys, this is sort of a simplification. Strictly, it would be more accurate to refer to them as "good key signatures")
²) Almost foolproof. Changing from blow to draw and moving one step to the left to go up one half step will also fail at a blow B, so the the assertion assumes releasing the slide to go up one step has priority.
Last edited by EdvinW on Sat Jun 12, 2021 11:26 am, edited 5 times in total.
Edvin Wedin

EdvinW
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by EdvinW » Sat Jun 12, 2021 8:58 am

Many players would probably prefer a variation of my tuning, achieved by simply turning the slide upside down. Which one you choose is really a matter of taste, and all my analysis in the previous post still applies!
note-chart-red-blue-sharp-slide.png
note-chart-red-blue-sharp-slide.png (33.19 KiB) Viewed 262 times
Most notably, pushing the slide in this variation will raise the note one half step instead of lowering it by the same amount, which probably feels more normal to most players.

This variation probably also makes more sense for Irish music, for several reasons. In both Irish and Swedish traditional music the most common major keys are G, D and A. These are some of the nicest keys to play on the fiddle, arguably the most central instrument in both traditions. Look at the chart, and you will now find that D and A major can be played without using the slide, though you can of course still use it for ornamentation and to facilitate some passages.

The two traditions differ, however, in how they treat minor keys. In Swedish music the most common minor keys are Gm, Dm and Am. The fiddlers simply play them as they do the major keys but lower the thirds, and possibly also the sixths and sevenths depending on the tune. In Irish music the keys Em and Bm are more common. In these keys, you simply use the same notes as in the G and D major scales, which is very handy if the fiddler plays together with say a whistler or a harmonica player or some other instrument with a preferred set of notes.

With the sharp slide variation you can play the common Irish keys D, Bm and A, as well as the pentatonic G and Em scales, without using the slide!

The reason I use the flat slide described in my first post is simply that I developed the tuning mainly to play Swedish tunes in minor keys.

I want to point out though, that as I've gained more experience with my tuning I find that I increasingly play a lot of slide-in notes in "slide-out keys" and vice versa, to facilitate tricky passages, reduce jumps and play ornaments.

Finally, with many harmonica models, turning the slide upside down is very easy. It thus doesn't matter much which version you make or order, but you can easily try both anyway. And of course you can play tunes in major fiddle keys with my original flat-slide version as well. You just need to keep that button pushed :)
Edvin Wedin

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triona
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by triona » Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:55 am

Thank you for sharing the charts and the large amount of informations. This is quite a lot. And it needs careful reading and thinking before any opinion is possible. Btw, it has been a good idea to share the sound samples first. They rise the motivation to try to dig this heavy stuff. :D


dear greetings
triona
Aw, Thou beloved, do hearken to the Banshee's lonely croon!
sinn féin - ça ira !
Cad é sin do'n té sin nach mbaineann sin dó


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1yI3H ... 9ktgzTR2qg

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Brendan
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by Brendan » Sat Jun 12, 2021 4:47 pm

Thanks Edvin! Your Wedin Chromatic is a really well thought-through tuning: based on logic, backed up by playing experience, and illustrated with good demo clips. I also like the fact it's truly original, not just an alteration of an existing scale (as most are).

That's because it's using a different concept of how to play the scales. Instead of a repeating blow/draw pattern with appropriate slider notes rising from left to right, it moves laterally along the instrument with same breath sequences of three or four notes before switching breath or using the slide, sometimes backing down a hole to continue the scale.

I've been looking at your scale diagram and doing phrase maps in my head, but if you felt like posting some it would give great visual reinforcement to your description.

Gerhard62
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by Gerhard62 » Sat Jun 12, 2021 8:23 pm

EdvinW wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:44 pm
Gerhard62: I have little experience with klezmer music, so I can't give a definitive answer. Melodic minor is likely the flavour of minor that benefits the least from my tuning, in that the one-and-a-half-step interval between the sixth and the seventh isn't as smooth as the half- or full- step between notes in other scales. That said, it's not a bad fit either. Melodic G, D or minor work well, if you don't need to move back and forth a lot between the low sixth and the high seventh. In melodic E minor, the sixth and the seventh are located in the same hole and have the same slide state, and the half step between D# (Eb in the chart) and and E can be smooth even if proper trills would take some practice. Also, I just tried to move around in various Hijaz scales, and it's rather nice. It's easy to get a little spoiled with having ornaments at every note, and forget that even in the non-good scales there's often ornaments at MOST notes :)

I guess my answer is that it's probably better than many other fully chromatic tunings, at least if you want to play with scale-conforming ornaments in a set of closely related keys. But I also suppose it depends a bit on what properties you need. Having now read the above description, what do you think?

¹) Though I talk about good keys, this is sort of a simplification. Strictly, it would be more accurate to refer to them as "good key signatures")
²) Almost foolproof. Changing from blow to draw and moving one step to the left to go up one half step will also fail at a blow B, so the the assertion assumes releasing the slide to go up one step has priority.
Thanks for your great work :-) It is very interesting, but I must longer think about it. And perhaps I must try an harmonica to see, if I can master this tuning. But I'm afraid it seems for me in this tuning not so good, because a scale I often use is D Eb F# G A Bb C D. And this is, if I have recognised it, for the ornamentation just in this tuning not easy. Perhaps it is possible to make a modification, so that the key of Eb (?) is also among the "good keys" and the key of A not. But now I'm not able to change your tuning in the circle of keys. So I play my diminished chrome with the downward use of the slider, but I must meditate about it ;) Thanks again for your work.

Gerhard62
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Re: Introducing the Wedin Chromatic – folk music ornaments in many keys

Post by Gerhard62 » Sat Jun 12, 2021 10:03 pm

Sorry, I wanted to write Eb not Ab so D is also a good key :)

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