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Ask Hohner’s Harmonica Tech ANNELISSE “SISSI” JONES With the variety of harmonica models the question often arises: “How is each one tuned? Is it ‘Just’ or ‘Equal’ temperament?” A tuning is defined as the note layout on the instrument. A temperament is the fine adjustment of the tuning. With harmonicas it is usually “Equal,” “Just” or “Modified Just.” This makes these models suitable for all styles of music Blues, Folk, Rock and Country and for playing in “Straight Harp” or “Cross Harp” positions. DIATONICS The Golden Melody, first produced in the mid 1970s, is the exception in the group of 10-hole single reed models. It is tuned to “Equal Temperament.” All notes match the notes on a piano. According to its name, it was designed for melody playing. Diatonic harmonicas have reeds tuned to the natural notes of the scale on a given harmonica. Hohner uses these three types of Temperament for 10-hole diatonic models to offer the player a

variety of tonal selections to suit any style of music. CHROMATICS 10-HOLE DIATONIC, KEY OF C MAJOR This applies to double reed models such as Tremolo and Octave tuned as well as to single reed models such as the Marine Band type. These harmonicas were originally designed to play melody notes along with chord accompaniment. This is called “Richter Tuning,” attributed to Mr Richter who established this type of note layout. In this layout, there is a central melody scale and lower notes tuned to the major chord on blow and draw. Such harmonicas were tuned to “Just Intonation” for a more pleasing, pure chord, where notes are more harmonically in tune with each other and the chords sound clean. The application of single reed diatonics such as the Marine Band type has changed over time, from the “melody and chord” playing style in the Old Country to Blues and Rock in America, out of which many other musical styles have evolved. The versatility of the harmonica is appreciated

in just about every genre of music. Hohner uses three different types of Temperament for 10-hole single reed models. The Marine Band and Special 20 employ a tuning which is close to “Just Temperament.” Blow notes in holes 2, 5 and 8 are tuned slightly flat and raised in holes 3, 6, 9. Draw notes 3, 5, 7, and 9 are flat and 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 are sharp to varying degrees. This tuning is great for the traditional blues style using both chords and melody. Since the 1980s it has become slightly modified from the original “Just Temperament” to blend better with instruments of “Equal Temperament” tunings used in most modern settings. MS Models such as the Blues Harp are tuned even closer to “Equal Temperament.” The one difference is the tuning of holes 5 and 9 draw. These are flatted on the Marine Band but are sharp on the MS Models to bring the melody closer to “Equal” and to improve the intervals between 5 and 6 draw and 9 and 10 draw. Chromatics are basically two

diatonic harmonicas tuned half a step apart and put together as one. With the assistance of a slide they produce all the notes of the scale, natural as well as sharps or flats. They are Solo tuned, meaning one complete octave to every 4 holes. To allow for the same breath exchange in every octave, the tonic notes are repeated in holes 4 and 5 and 8 and 9 blow. 12-HOLE CHROMATIC, KEY OF C BLOW = LARGE LETTERS / DRAW = SMALL LETTERS These instruments were designed for solo melody playing and are tuned to “Equal Temperament.” “Equal Temperament” is the fine tuning system most commonly used by other instruments. This allows for the harmonica to be in tune no matter which key it is played in. Even though the Chromatic is tuned to “Equal Temperament” one can play chords where they are possible and sound nice. Exceptions in the chromatic category are the Koch #980 model and the Slide Harp. These models are “Just Temperament” like the Marine Band. Just some interesting facts

about harmonicas to ponder’till next time. Harmonically Yours, Sissi Jones To submit questions for future articles, please contact Sissi Jones at ajones@HohnerUSA.com