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Harmonica Lessons: Tempered, Just Intonation and Compromise Tunings

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At this point I'd just like to say
something about the harmonicas
that I'm playing.
The, as you can see if you
look over here at this table,
there are a lot of
harmonicas sitting on here.
They're in all different keys
this ones B flat, D flat, F.
There's high Fs and low Fs.
I have different models of harmonicas, and
when you're starting to play
the harmonica, you go into the store and
say, give me a diatonic
harmonica in the key of C.
You might have five or
six different models.
Might be ten different models
of harmonicas in the key of C.
And it's very confusing.
And I just want to show
you one thing here.
I, like I said, I like to play Hohner's.
And when used to,
when I started out playing, I played this,
first I played the Marine Bands, but
then I switched to the Golden Melody.
And the Golden Melody is tuned
in what's called temper tuning.
Just like a piano or any other musical
instrument so that melodies sound in tune.
Until that time when Hohners first put out
the Golden Melody in
the late 1960s early 70s,
all harmonicas were tuned to
what's called just intonation.
And just intonation,
here's a Hering harmonica from Brazil.
And you hear if I play this, the melodies.
It sounds pretty weird,
it's very out of tune.
Some of the notes sound very flat.
If I compare it.
[LAUGH] This one starts to sag, but
when I play chords on this instrument.
It's very pure sounding.
If I play chords on this one.
You hear the waver in it.
The chords don't sound in tune on
the tempered harmonicas, and they do
sound in tune on the just intonation.
So there's a tuning that Hohner came
up with, or someone came up with,
called the compromised tuning,
and the Special 20s, and
most Hohner diatonic harmonicas now
are tuned to this compromised tuning.
The chords sound more in tune than on
the tempered tuning, but
the melodies also sound more in tune.
A little bit out of tune.
not quite as bad as
the pure just intonation.
That really sounds bad to me, so
I just wanted to let you know that
you have a choice of either sounding
totally in tune with chords if you get
a just intonation tuned harmonica,
or pretty in tune if you
get a compromise tuning.
Pretty in tune with chords.
And sort of in tune with melodies,
which is most harmonicas
that you're gonna pick up.
Or if you get a temper
tuned harmonica like
the Golden Melody and
the ones that I have, that I'm playing.
Which are hybrid Marine bands that
are customized by somebody, Joe Filisko.
Then your melodies are gonna sound very
in tune, and some of your chords and
intervals are gonna sound
a little bit funky.
So when I was playing the Ode to Joy,
if I were to play it on
a just intonation harmonica.
It sounds very smooth,
even though some of the notes
are a little out of tune.
If I played it on my own harmonica here.
You can hear the sort of nasty wave beat
sounds that are created, where is
makes the third sound out of tune.
So, the harmonica's not perfect.
I just want to let you know that you have
a choice to make between three basic types
of tunings.
And there are people who've written
lots of books about this kind of stuff,
you can research it.
I just wanted to mention
it briefly to you.