Reply To: Questions about tuning and stability


Hi All and Ben,

Long time no post!

Welcome Ben.

I have been checking in, but have been preoccupied with some non-keyboard-harmonica projects. So lately, I have not been active on Melodica World. I have, however, continued to experiment and I am back to focusing on the keyboard harmonica. The keyboard harmonica is my favorite instrument, enabling me to play more expressively than with my other instruments for some crazy reason.

Ben, in reference to your tuning question, here is an answer at the opposite end of the scale of where most people are. I offer this just to provide an alternative viewpoint and to add some contrast to the world.

Because of the music and keyboard harmonicas I play, I decided to give up on tuning.

First, the keyboard harmonicas I play (inexpensive, out-of-production {but still plentiful} Hohner Piano 26s, 27s, and 32s) are never in tune, even when they arrive in near mint condition. Ninety percent of them as found on the used market sound 5 to 15 cents flat. Relative tuning among keys and octaves can be very good, but often the whole instrument can sound 5 to 10 cents flat. Many of mine come from Europe, so I wonder if they were tuned to a different expectation for that market.

In any case, as soon as I blow into these Hohners with any sort of pressure, individual notes can drop another 5 to 25 cents or more depending upon how hard I blow. That is a lot of variability and flatness! After I play one for a few weeks, the relative tuning starts to go away, further increasing variability. Admittedly, I blow hard and am tough on the reeds from several perspectives.

The above variation is further amplified depending upon the keyboard harmonica’s temperature and the dryness or wetness of the reeds (they get soaking wet pretty quickly).

Given the above, my keyboard harmonicas sound anything but uniform. They sound a bit trashy, with beating, dissonant intervals and octaves. They sound flat. Sometimes they sound downright “way out of tune.”

But guess what? I like it! The flat, detuned sound fits perfectly with the music I play and my endeavor to create my own recognizable sound. I mostly play blues and some roots rock.

So why should I spend hours and hours trying to chase tuning?

I could not find a good answer to that question. LOL



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