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Q: What is a diatonic harmonica?

A: From “Post #2 General Stuff” 2 Nov 1992 JE, this is an extension of the
previous section:

A diatonic harmonica is a harmonica that only has the notes in an ordinary
diatonic scale directly available. A variation on the diatonic is the
tremolo tuned model, where two reeds that are tuned slightly apart sound at
the same time to produce a tremolo effect. Another variation is the octave
tuned model where two reeds that are tuned exactly an octave apart are
sounded at the same time. This produces more volume and another timbre. A
singularly important type of diatonic is the kind that is used for blues
music. This one usually has 10 holes, with a draw and a blow reed per hole.
Its tuning is a variation on the diatonic scale called the Richter tuning:

DIATONIC HARMONICA LAYOUT KEY of “C”

         1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10
 +---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---+
 BLOW | C || E || G || C || E || G || C || E || G || C |
 draw | d || g || b || d || f || a || b || d || f || a |
 +---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---++---+

— “Post #2 General Stuff” 2 Nov 1992 JE

Please note that Jack Ely also has an excellent primer on playing this kind
of harmonica called “An Introduction to the Diatonic Harmonica” or “Short
Harp Tips (Getting Started on the Diatonic Harmonica)”.


There are also other diatonic tunings other than the major Richter noted
above, namely that of Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, Country or Melody Maker,
Spanish and Steve Baker Special (SBS) — HA

Several new tunings have also been forwarded by Pierre Beauregard and Magic
Dick (Richard Salwitz) of J.Geils fame to which they have been awarded a US
patent #5,166,461 — HA

Finally, there is a variation on the diatonic that approached the chromatic
— two diatonic sets of plates tuned Richter, but one semi-tone away from
each other (i.e. C and C# as in a chromatic), stacked in one harmonica,
accessible by a slide. Some say that these harmonicas leak air terribly —
HA


> From “Little Walter, Oskar Tunings” 10 Jun 94 WY:

LEE OSKAR TUNINGS:

Here’s a regular C harp:

     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10
DR | D | G | B | D | F | A | B | D | F | A |
   |---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---|
BL | C | E | G | C | E | G | C | E | G | C |

Here’s a Melody Maker in G.

     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10
DR | D | G | B | D | F#| A | B | D | F#| A |
   |---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---|
BL | C | E | A | C | E | G | C | E | G | C |

While this is a variation on standard C tuning, it’s labeled in G, as it’s
meant to be played in G Major. All the F’s have been raised to F#, and the
G in Blow 3 has been raised to A, allowing a complete major scale without
bending or overblowing.

Here’s the Natural minor in G

     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10
DR | D | G | Bb| D | F | A | Bb| D | F | A |
   |---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---|
BL | C | Eb| G | C | Eb| G | C | Eb| G | C |

Note how it’s labeled in the cross harp key. G natural minor is the same
scale as Bb major, and if you treat Hole 2 on this harp as Hole 1, you have a Melody
Maker in Bb.

[later in the thread] I WAS WRONG about the Melody Maker part. It’s more
interesting than that (I wrote it about 1 AM). If you take Bb as the
keynote, you get the tonic
chord in the draw all the way up. And instead of getting the fifth degree
of the scale (F in this case) in Hole 2 (which would be Hole 1 on a Bb
Melody Maker), you get the sixth, which will bend down to the fifth (and
beyond). This is a very cool position to play, with its jazzy Major seventh
chord in the draw.
——————————

Here is a Harmonic Minor in C, the “non-diatonic” minor Bart is seeking.

     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10
DR | D | G | B | D | F | Ab| B | D | F | Ab|
   |---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---|
BL | C | Eb| G | C | Eb| G | C | Eb| G | C |

This is yet again a variation on standard C tuning, but this one is not
labeled in cross harp position. it is meant to be played in first position
(C). Both Lee Oskar and Hohner make this tuning.

In C harmonic minor, the third (Eb) and sixth (Ab) are minor, while the
seventh, which in a natural minor scale would be minor (Bb), is left as a
major (B). The distinctive interval formed by a minor sixth and a major
seventh is what gives the harmonic minor its lugubrious, eastern-sounding
character.

If you prefer a cross harp version of this, you could take a Natural minor
in G, and raise the pitch of the F reeds to F# — “Little Walter, Oskar
Tunings” 10 Jun 94 WY

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