(video) Harmonica repair mistakes #8 - Temperament Tantrum
Here's a way to fix tuning problems that goes straight to the heart of the problem. Don't worry about temperament. Forget about the numbers. Use your ears to figure out what's wrong.
The goal here is to only tune the worst one or two reeds on the reed plate.
The trouble with "hunt-and-peck" tuning is that you can make things worse if you tune reeds at random. If two reeds are out-of-tune with one another, which one do you adjust? Do you focus on chords or on single notes?
Use this opportunity to decide what sounds good to your ears. If you have trouble deciding if something sounds good, an out-of-tune harp will make it easy for you to hear what sounds bad!. This will help you identify what is in tune and replicate it to the rest of the reed plate.
- Divide the blow plate into three octaves. Play 456 as a chord. How does it sound to your ears? Do the same with 123 and compare. Which one sounds most in tune? If you are in the habit of playing chords on the top octave, try the 789 and 10 hole chord.
- If one octave's chord is much better than the others use it as a reference. If all the chords are bad, break down the 456 chord by intervals (tonic octave - 1-4 blow, thirds - 4-5 blow, and fifths - 4-6 blow). Consider what reed in the 456 you need to change to make it sound nice. Use a piece of paper to write down your plan.
- Play a melody in the middle octave and try to notice if any notes sound off. If you can accompany yourself using a jam track, do so.
If you are in the habit of playing in positions other than First, Second or Third, play a melody in that position and listen to what notes sound out of tune. Compare the same melody in another octave (use the same position.)
- Decide which problem is worse: Do I need to fix chords? or Do I need to fix individual notes?
- Play all the octaves on the blow plate and find the ones that are our of tune.
You have already determined what reed(s) are the culprit in the earlier steps. Example, if the 1-4 octave sounds bad, but you like all the notes of the 456 chord, then tune the 1 reed to agree with the 4.
- Pick the one or two worst reeds on the plate and fix them. Don't aim for perfection, just make things sound good.
Remember: "Better" is the enemy of "Good". If the tuning is "good", move on and forget about making it "better".
- The process is almost the same for the draw plate. Focus on the 234 draw chord; do not consider any other chords on the draw plate. Play the chord and play a melody. Identify whether the chord or the individual notes are out-of-tune. Adjust individual reeds by using the following octaves:
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