From: Bill Long <;>;
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 15:41:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: tuning a guitar to a harp

>;Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 11:31:54 -0500
>;From: "Andrew D. Gallagher" <;GALLAG~ANMAIL.SHU.EDU>;
>;Subject: harp-l-digest V1 #214 -Reply
>;I have a question regarding to tuning to a guitar. In one of the
>;books I have it tells me to tune each guitar string to the
>;corresponding notes on my C harp. If I do this will this mean that
>;the guitar player is only in tune with my C harp or will all my harps
>;work with their corresponding keys.

The standard guitar tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E. If you use your C harp (or D or
G for that matter) to provide the notes then it shouldn't matter afterwards
if you pick up a different key harp, as long as the guitar player is also
playing the new chords...for instance if you're playing cross-harp on a C,
then the guitarist is playing blues in G (I=G, IV=C, V=D) but if you then
pick up a D harp the guitarist should be playing blues in A (I=A, IV=D, VE). The guitarist shouldn't have to retune his strings, just play the
correct chords.

>;The reason I ask this is because the last time I jamed with a few of
>;my friends the guitarist asked me to give him an E chord, so I blew
>;on the first four holes of my E harp. This was fine when he was
>;playing in E, but when he switched chords my other harps did not
>;match to the guitar.

Did the guitarist use standard tuning? Sometimes guitars are put into what
is called an "open" tuning. This means that the strings are tuned so that
when you strum the strings (without playing a chord pattern on them) they
sound a chord. There are many forms of open tunings, basically limited by
how much you can vary the tension of a string without it buzzing on the
frets (too loose) or breaking the string (too tight). Like an E open
tuning might have the strings tuned to E-B-E-G#-B-E. Although this still
shouldn't preclude the guitarist from playing in different keys it is a
little different than playing in standard tuning.

>;Now I know the way the harps work in regards to a guitar, meaning count up
>;four to play cross harp, I even have a handy little chart that I carry with
>;my harps, just to make sure.

I take this to mean that if the guitar player tells you what key they're in
then you count up four steps to determine the key harp to select for cross-
harp in that key...this is correct.

>;So anyway is this method of tuning each string to its corresponding note on my
>;C harp the right way to tune to a guitar player?

Basically. There's another factor that may be affecting the tuning of the
guitar in question. If you tune the strings to an E major chord perfectly
to the corresponding notes on an E harp and then play say a C major chord
on the guitar the C chord won't sound in tune. This effect is amplified on
cheaper guitars. Part of it is the result of the strings that are being
pressed being raised ever so slightly in pitch by the additional tension
introduced by deflecting the string from a straight path between the nut
and bridge to get it to meet the fretboard. Cheaper guitars usually have
higher "action" (the distance that the strings ride above the fretboard
which determines how much pressure is required to get a clear tone out of a
note being played on that string) and so there is more deflection when the
string is pressed. Another factor is "equal-tempering", a technique which
is used to tune pianos so that they can sound equally well in tune in any
key. First promoted by J.S. Bach in his work "The Well-Tempered Clavier"
it entails tweaking the perfect intervals just a little bit out of tune.
The amount of mistuning is very small but it creates a keyboard that sounds
in tune in any key as opposed to a keyboard that is perfectly in tune in
just one key but out of tune to varying degrees in other keys.

This sort of thing translates into guitar as well. Have your guitar friend
try this: Give him a tone for one of the inner strings, say D from one of
your harps. Then have them tune the G string to the D by pressing the D
string on the 5th fret (sounding a G) and tuning the open G string to that
note. Then they press the G string on the 7th fret (sounding a D) and check
that note against the open D string. Now the higher note may sound a little
sharp compared to the open string. Tune the G string until both these
note pairs sound about equally in tune. Then working out from the D and G
strings tune the other strings by sounding octaves. Play the open D string
and the B string-3rd fret. Play the D string-2nd fret and the open E strings
(both the higher and lower pitched ones). Play the open G string and the
E strings-3rd fret (again both high and low E strings). Play the G string-2nd
fret and the open A string. Whenever an adjustment needs to be made don't
adjust the D or G strings (remember, we already tuned them to each other) but
instead tune the other strings to those. After tuning all these octaves you
should be pretty close and then there's one final step. Play the open A
string and the G string-2nd fret, the A string-2nd fret and the open B string,
and the A string-3rd fret and the B string-1st fret (the notes A, B, and C).
Try to get these three note pairs to sound equally well in tune, again by
adjusting the A and B strings but NOT the G string. After this re-check all
the octave pairs (E,G,A,B,C,D,E,G) again trying to make them all sound equally
well in tune. Now the quitar should be ready to play in any key, sounding
reasonably well in tune in all of them, and as long as you didn't give the
guitarist that original D note from a funky, out-of-tune harp you should be
able to play along with whatever harp necessary and sound in tune. You can
eliminate that possiblilty by using the D note from several different harps
to make sure they all sound in tune with the guitar's D string. The whole
process is simpler than it looks..but if you don't understand it have your
guitar playing friend read this, they'll probably be able to figure it out.

>;P.S. As I have posted earlyer I am still looking for lessons in the
>;N.J. area. If anyone would be interested please E-mail me.

Sorry, I used to live in Mahwah but we moved to upstate NY years ago and
I have pretty much lost contact with most of the folks I knew down there.
However, I do have a sister who lives in NJ now and she is dating a
guitarist in a band...I'll ask her to ask him if he knows someone who could
help you. Might take a while to hear anything back tho...

Hope this helps.
Bill Long >;-- StarGazer --<; N2LAG / *| Laboratory Mechanician / | Arts & Science Machine Shop
( /~~~~ | 017 Hudson Hall
long~nyplava.bitnet /_________|___ SUNY at Plattsburgh, NY

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