JOKER "superchromatic"

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!
Philippe
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JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by Philippe » Sun Apr 24, 2022 1:47 pm

Hi everyone

I am a newcomer to the harmonica world but was always fascinated by the sound of this instrument.

Inspired by Gregoire Maret playing on Deedee Bridgewater's interpretation of "La Belle Vie" I had a go on a chromatic harmonica - and failed splendidly!
This led me to build my own "superchromatic" harp which I call JOKER for reasons explained in my presentation on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJI3VHqyz8s

Thank you for watching and for sharing your thoughts.

Kind regards from Switzerland

Philippe
www.saxophonist.ch

EdvinW
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by EdvinW » Sun Apr 24, 2022 7:16 pm

Hello Philippe, and welcome to the forum!

Your recordings sound great :D

If I understand your tuning correctly, each blow note is one full step above the note to the blow note to the right, and draw notes are one half step above the draw in the same hole. Is that correct?

If so, it's an interesting tuning that several people have experimented with. The last time (I think) when it was discussed here on this forum was in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=771

(It references another thread on SlideMeister. The link doesn't work, but the discussion was merged into the following thread: https://forums.slidemeister.com/index.p ... #msg241750)

It's totally regular which greatly facilitates improvisation and transposition, at the cost of some long jumps and loss of range.

There are some tunings for button harmonicas which are just as regular but fit 4 octaves in the same range (Diminished tuning) or (in theory) even 5 octaves (Augmented tuning). The button makes the patterns more complicated than yours though, which means more effort required to learn to play smoothly. If you've only played the harmonica for three months that's a great point in favour for your tuning!

There are also button-less versions of the tunings just mentioned, sharing the same names, which instead rely on note bending. These are also, to some extent, disadvantaged by a higher level of complexity.

Have you tried any regular tunings for button harmonica or any requiring bends? Do you have any comments on you choice of the button-less configuration? It's clearly working well for you :)
Edvin Wedin

Philippe
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by Philippe » Sun Apr 24, 2022 11:59 pm

Hi Edvin

Thank you for your kind reception and the informations on the topic.

As I gather the tuning is identical to Crazy Bob's 27 hole harmonica.
The JOKER differs in a smaller range due to only 16 holes resulting in a very compact design.

Apparently Hugh Stephenson held a patented for this particular tuning as per 1950.
It would have come as a surprise to me if I were the first to come up with this idea.

Personally I prefer the simplicity of the JOKER over button hamonicas but I find the augmented tuning for the latter also very interesting.

Kind regards

Philippe

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triona
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by triona » Wed Apr 27, 2022 8:35 am

Philippe wrote:
Sun Apr 24, 2022 11:59 pm
Apparently Hugh Stephenson held a patented for this particular tuning as per 1950.
It would have come as a surprise to me if I were the first to come up with this idea.
But to find out something what one has not yet known by oneself is very satisfying anyway. :D Novelty is in the eye of the beholder. And the learning effect is much bigger than with just copying something.

Btw: Could you show the layout of notes of your tunung here. This would help me to understand it better. Is it some kind of "chromatic circular tuning"?
Maybe like this:

Image

This could start with any other note as well.


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

Philippe
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by Philippe » Wed Apr 27, 2022 11:18 am

Hi triona

Thank you for your kind thoughts on novelties.
As for the layout of notes: your sketch is spot on - respect!
The Joker starts on G#3 thus having the same range as my Bb-Saxophone.
Kindest regards

Philippe

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Brendan
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by Brendan » Wed Apr 27, 2022 2:36 pm

Thanks for showing and demonstrating The Joker, Philippe! Here are a few queries, thoughts:

It's an interesting looking instrument. Is is a commercial model you retuned, or did you get it specially made?

Does it have a single reedplate with blow and draw reeds, or does it have blow reeds on one reedplate and draw reeds on the other?

As to the scale layout, you say it's only one pattern for all 12 keys, but I guess it's actually two patterns: one starting on a blow note, the other starting on a draw? Still, that's way simpler than virtually all other harmonica tunings!

However, it has disadvantages in my opinion:

1. Big jumps for wider intervals: 4-5 holes for a fifth, 6 holes for an octave... This makes fast playing of most tunes much more difficult to do smoothly and accurately, as you'd have to be jumping around the instrument a lot.

2. The semitone interval in every hole gives no ability to bend notes - one of the most pleasing and characteristic sounds of the harmonica.

Of course it's only a personal opinion but, to me, these are both big negative aspects of this and similar tunings.

You could mitigate the interval issue quite easily, by using a slider version of your tuning. It would have two reedplates with the same scale, but offset from each other by a fifth. Thus the C/C# notes with slider out would be in the same hole as F#/G or G#/A with slider in. That way you can stay on the same hole and jump a fifth just by pushing the slide in. It would make all other intervals closer as well: an octave would only be two holes away, instead of six.

This is just an arbitrary example; you could use any variation on the same displaced-scales idea. You could even have the two reedplates displaced by an octave.

This still doesn't address the note bending issue. As Edvin says, Augmented and Diminished tunings are good logical ones which reduce the scale patterns for 12 keys a lot, but still give draw bends in every hole.

You're probably happy with your tuning as-is after a couple of months practising, but it could be worth getting the slider version with displaced scale if you want to try playing Bebop on it...

Philippe
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by Philippe » Wed Apr 27, 2022 7:13 pm

Hi Brendan

Thank you for your much appreciated considerations.

I used two custom tuned bluesharps from Seydel and cut them to fit the 16 hole layout.
So the prototype uses two upper plates with 8 blowreeds each and two lower plates with 8 drawreeds each.

By stating that there is only one breathing pattern I might have been a bit generous for one is simply the inversion of the other.
For larger intervals you do need to jump quiet a bit which needs practising for accuracy.

The tuning allows me to draw bend for almost a semitone on unvalved reeds. On valved reeds I manage to blow and draw bend around three halftones. Overblows are still beyond my capabilities no matter what harp and so is Bebop on any instrument for that matter...

Alternative tunings for slider harps as suggested by you and Edvin remain a very interesting field even at cost of mechanical simplicity.
Best regards

Philippe

EdvinW
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by EdvinW » Wed Apr 27, 2022 9:26 pm

The following is, just like Brendan's post, strictly personal opinions. I've not spent months getting practical experience with this sort of tuning, so you could well say it's to some degree conjecture on my part :)

First of all, I'd like to reiterate my point from above that the fact that you can learn to navigate the instrument that well in such a short time is a strong point in favour of the tuning, and proves that, if nothing else, it has value as a means of letting musicians quickly access a new instrument.

That said, Brendan has some good points which possibly limits its range of uses. Some of the issues he raises can, however, be addressed without adding mechanical complexity. To take full advantage of my modification would require some extra complexity in terms of playing technique though.

One way of reducing the jumps somewhat, which I also mention in the other thread, is to simply shift the draw notes one step to the left. With the loose reedplates you describe this should not be too hard to try out.

A segment of the result would look as follows.

Code: Select all

Bb C  D  E  F# G# Bb C  D  E  F# G# 
C# D# F  G  A  B  C# D# F  G  A  B  
This immediately addresses Brendan's Disadvantage 2, by adding full step bends to each draw note. One could even play this tuning with all draws and drawbends, for a very harmonica-sounding sound :)

As for Disadvantage 1, note that the note one half step above each blow note is still available as a draw bend in the same hole. If you're not too strict you could even say that this variation is thus identical to your version, if you bend all draw notes! This means that, if you include bending, no jumps are larger in my variation while some are shortened by one hole.

If you would learn overblows, jumps are reduced even further! Just to give example, arpeggios can always be played in consecutive holes! If the first note is a blow note, like a C, you play the blow C, the half-step-bend E and the blow G. If the first note is a draw note, like a G, you play the full-bend G down from an A, the draw B in the next hole and the overblow. This extends to cover all three-note arpeggios!

In general, each blow note is available in three places: as a blow note, as a half-step bend and as an overblow. Each draw note is available as a draw or a drawbend. This gives a lot of options! Octaves between blow notes are shortened from 6 to 4 holes, and between draw notes from 6 to 5 holes.


But again, these are mainly considerations from my head. Any comments would be very welcome :)
Edvin Wedin

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Brendan
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by Brendan » Wed Apr 27, 2022 10:23 pm

Some nice things about your version Edvin - especially the bends and bend enharmonics. In part of the scale it also reduces jumps. However, they are bigger in other parts. Considering the C scale, look at the big gap between the G and the next C above: 5 holes

The obvious solution is to have your tuning in a half-valved slider version, with the scales displaced by a fifth. You might need a super computer to calculate all the note options though! 🙂

EdvinW
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Re: JOKER "superchromatic"

Post by EdvinW » Wed Apr 27, 2022 10:42 pm

Brendan wrote:
Wed Apr 27, 2022 10:23 pm
Some nice things about your version Edvin especially the bends and bend enharmonics. In part of the scale it also reduces jumps. However, they are bigger in other part. Considering the C scale, look at the big gap between the G and the next C above: 5 holes
If you play the G as a bend down from a draw A you save one hole, and if you play the C as a bend down from a C# you save another. If you play the C as an overblow above a draw B, which I think would be easier to keep in tune than the half-step bend, you save yet another hole. Not so far any more :D
Last edited by EdvinW on Fri Apr 29, 2022 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
Edvin Wedin

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