Custom Harmonica Tunings
Below is a list of the Hohner hamonicas that are available in custom tuned layouts and setups. The tunings have some physical limitations, but within the range of notes and reed slot sizes and comb sizes, you can come up with any tuning you like. Or, you can try many of the alternate tunings that have been devised by many great musicians for the harmonica.
You can choose to have a whole harmonica ready made, or just buy the reed plates and have them fitted to your own harmonica.
One of the ways you can use custom tunings is to make up a harmonica in a key not usually available on a mass produced scale. For example, you can order a 16-hole, 4-octave chromatic in a key other than C - such as G, A, Bb, B, or D. Or the Chromonica deluxe, which can be modified for left handed players, can be customised with reed plates in the keys of Low A, Bb, B, C D, E, F, G, A, Bb, B, C to high-D.
For the professional musician, sometimes the request is made for a completely new scale of tuning. Jazz musicians like using augmented tuned harmonicas (which gives you a 4 octave scale on a 12-hole instrument); Irish and folk musicians have different requirements to suit the music, keys used and trill patterns needed to make fast runs.
All Hohner diatonic harmonicas can be tuned to Natural-Minor, Harmonic Minor, Country tuning or Paddy Richter tunings, in all 12 keys. Other more elaborate custom tunings are restricted to Marine Band series harmonicas, Golden Melody, Rocket & Special 20s. Contact me with your requests.
See the list below for the harmonicas available.
HOHNER CHROMATIC HARMONICAS
Available In Custom Tunings:
The 'key' of a harmonica can vary, but for simplicity sake, the blow 1 hole will be the lowest note and signify the key and range of the instrument. There are exceptions. This can be verified when ordering and organising your note layout.
Super Chromonica 270/48 (12-hole chromatic)
Super Chromonica 270 Deluxe (12-hole chromatic)
CX-12 Black (12-hole chromatic)
CX-12 Jazz (12-hole chromatic)
Amadeus (12-hole chromatic)
Discovery 48 (12-hole chromatic)
Meisterklasse (14-hole chromatic)
64 Chromonica (16-hole chromatic)
Super 64 (16-hole chromatic)
Super 64X (16-hole chromatic)
Chromonica 260/40 (10-hole chromatic)
The above list of HOHNER Chromatic harmonicas can be tuned to ANY scale you want. The only restriction is the physical size and limits of the reeds and the notes actually working. A high G8 note won't physically work on a free reed instrument anymore. Whether the tuning makes any sense or plays depends on what you wish for!
Custom Tunings can be ordered as REED PLATE Set only; or a whole new harmonica. Please indicate what you want when you contact me. I can also make a tuning from your own harmonica. But its best to start with a new instrument.
All chromatic custom tunings are subject to availability of parts for the build.
HOHNER DIATONIC HARMONICAS
Available In Custom Tunings
Marine Band Classic
Marine Band Deluxe
Marine Band Crossover
The above list of HOHNER harmonicas can be tuned to ANY scale you want. The only restriction is the physical size and limits of the reeds and the notes actually working.
For further information contact me with your questions.
ABOUT CUSTOM TUNINGS:
Custom tuned harmonicas are instruments that you cannot buy off the shelf or online from a shop. They are not made in mass production. Some models are only made in certain keys (chromatic harmonicas are mostly in the key of C); some tunings only come in certain models (Hohner minor key harmonicas are only made in the Marine Band Classic series).
Some modern custom tunings for professional players, which are becoming popular today, may be available in other brands, but are not made in the instrument you like off the shelf. Jazz players like augmented tuned chromatics; nearly anyone can use a Paddy richter tuned harmonica for Jazz, Folk and minor key songs.
And a lot of people like to be unique, curious, artistic and innovative! So they make up their own tunings and scales. You can now choose some different tunings for your Hohner harmonicas in any key you like. Or build your favourite type of harmonica into the one you want to play - a 'Super 64' in the key of D... a 270 Deluxe in G for left handers... or something of your own customisation.
Whatever you choose, you still need to practice a lot, listen a lot and keep on enjoying your music.
TYPES OF CUSTOM TUNINGS
For Chromatic Harmonica
One might ask, if a chromatic harmonica has every note on it, why would you want one in an alternative tuning? The question is a good one. But there are many advantages to having a chromatic harmonica tuned differently to the standard solo C tuning. For one thing, the 'colour' and tone of a piece of music can be altered. Just as a guitarist uses open tunings for different effects; or an orchestral clarinettist will use a Bb, C and A instrument for different scores, the chromatic harmonica can open up music in many new ways - just by approaching the instrument from a new angle. Below are some alternate tunings and their features.
Augmented tuning for chromatic harmonica is favoured by Jazz players as it allows one to have a 4-octave range on a 3-octave instrument. There are no enharmonic notes (i.e. the double C on blow 4 & 5; and 8 & 9). Scales repeat every 3 holes meaning there's a unique note in every position on the harmonica. Furthermore, the intervals are uniform. So no matter in what position the player starts or moves in, the intervals are always equal. This means you only need to learn 4 different patterns to play in all 12 keys. Also, Octaves can be played across just 4 holes instead of 4 and 5 as in a normal solo tuning layout. However, the instrument is not used much for playing chords and is better for single note runs.
There are two types of Augmented tuning layouts for the chromatic harmonica, Sharp and Slippy.
Augmented Sharp tuning means a breath change increases a note by a wholetone; and using the slide increases the note by a semitone.
Augmented Slippy tuning means a breath change increases a note by a semitone; and using the slide increases the note by a wholetone.
The BeBop tuning for chromatic harmonica replaces a C note with a Bb to give you an extra note in the scale without having to use the slide. With the button pushed in, the C# is retuned to a B note as well. It's a relatively simple modification that a number of jazz and blues players like to use because it can speed up certain runs and riffs. You can play the same blow-draw pattern all the way up and down the harmonica. And the added Bb and B notes give you 7th blow chords as well.
Boogie Tuning for chromatic harmonica goes back to the 1950s and was used by some harmonica trios and orchestral players at that time. The tuning is designed for chordal playing on 1940s style swing, jump and boogie-woogie blues in the key of C (C-Major; C-Minor; G7; and F7). You can also play boogie-woogie lines and riffs easily in single note runs.
TYPES OF ALTERNATE TUNINGS
For Diatonic Harmonica
Natural Minor Tuning:
Natural Minor Tuning for the 10-hole diatonic harmonica is available in all 12 keys. Hohner produce them in the Marine Band 1896 Classic model. However, if you prefer another type of harmonica in this tuning, the reed plates can be made up for it. The tuning allows you to play both minor blow and draw chords. Playing in 2nd position, or cross harp, is as easy as playing a standard tuned harmonica.
Harmonic Minor Tuning:
The Harmonic Minor tuned harmonica differs to the Natural minor scale by raising the seventh note of the scale a semi-tone. It's great for Eastern European folk music, Klezmar music and Tango. Available in all 12 keys.
Country tuning is designed for playing music in 2nd position on the harmonica in the Major scale. It does this by raising the Draw 5 note a semi-tone. This gives you a Major 7th draw chord. If you need the flat 7th note, you can still bend it down on the draw note. So you gain an additional note. As its name implies, it's great for Country music. But it can also be useful in other styles as well.
Paddy Richter Tuning:
This tuning was first used to play Irish Folk music on the harmonica by its inventor, Brendan Power. It is, however, just as good playing all types of great music - from European folk music (East & West), American civil war songs, minor key popular songs (Summertime) to Jazz, Blues and so much more. The reason so many types of music can be played on this tuning for harmonica is that you can play in different keys on the one instrument, depending on the mode or scale used for the song. The third hole draw note (which doubles up in the blow 2 reed) is tuned a whole tone up. This one extra note just opens up the instrument to an enormous amount of new possibilities.
The Paddy Richter tuning allows you to play in:
1st postion in the Major scale (Ionian Mode)
2nd position in the Major scale with a flatted 7th note (Mixolydian Mode)
3rd position in the Minor scale with flatted 3rd & 7th (Dorian Mode)
4th position in the Minor scale with flatted 3rd, 6th & 7th (Aeolian Mode)
5th position in the Minor I to Major flatted 2nd chord (Phrygian Mode)
Double Harmonic Minor
(Magyar Richter) Tuning:
This Double Harmonic Minor Tuning for diatonic harmonica is a new tuning I devised in 2015. It's use of augmented notes and the scale itself, still lends itself to some experimentation in terms of tuning and temperaments. Technically, note intervals are closer to quarter tones in places, rather than semi and whole tone intervals. But my early experiments with this new tuning are very exciting. It works!!
It is based on the Hungarian Minor scale (also known as the Gypsy Minor; Arabic or Byzantine scales). This scale is similar to the Harmonic Minor scale, except that it has a raised fourth scale degree. The Hungarian Minor scale, in the key of C, uses a raised 4th and 7th note, which would be C D Eb F# G Ab B. This is particularly suited to Hungarian and Romani music from Eastern Europe. The sound to typical western ears is an exotic one. This scale also has links to Indian Classical music, whilst the C Hungarian minor scale is equivalent to the G Arabic scale.
What is unique to the Hungarian Minor scale, is that it contains two augmented seconds, one in each tetrachord. (The Harmonic Minor contains only 1 augmented second interval, located between the 6th and 7th degrees.) Theoretically, this means that the Hungarian Minor scale "is the only irreducibly periodic seven-note subset, of the equally tempered chromatic scale, that is perfectly balanced". There is an augmented step between the 2nd and 3rd degrees, as well as the 6th and 7th.
In practical terms, this scale was used as the basis for Henri Mancini's the Pink Panther Theme in 1963. The song, in E Minor, noted for its quirky and unusual use of chromaticism, uses the same raised 4th and 7th notes of the Hungarian Minor scale. Other musicians to use this scale in Western music are guitarist Joe Satriani and film composer Danny Elfman, among others.
Prices: Contact me for a Quote
If you are interested in having a harmonica custom tuned, or a set of Hohner custom tuned reed plates made for you, contact me and we can work out what you want and how much it will cost.
As time goes on I will have some custom made and tuned harmonicas for sale on this website. You will see the prices for sale there. But otherwise, prices will be determined by fluctuating exchange rates at the time, and the cost of materials and labour for the job required. There are too many tunings and harmonica models to list a price for all of them.
As a guide, some points to remember:
Reed plates are cheaper than buying a whole new harmonica
The retail cost of the instrument will guide the range of price for the custom tuning. A Super 64X will cost more than a Chrometta 8; and a Marine Band Classic less than a Thunderbird or Crossover harp.
A custom tuned harmonica is a special made-to-order product, so expect it to be more than the normal cost of a standard model harmonica.
An alternate tuning might consist of only 1 or 2 reeds being changed (Country Tuned, Natural minor, Paddy Richter etc.), which will not be too expensive; as opposed to having to change nearly every note on an instrument.
Before going ahead with any order I will confirm the tuning requested and all other details of the harmonica required. Enquiries welcome.
- Tony Peri