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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > "Easy Third" tuning...
"Easy Third" tuning...
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3116 posts
Dec 19, 2015
2:42 PM
Howdy folks. "Easy Third" tuning is fast becoming my favorite alternative tuning, and I am starting to play it at least as much, if not more, than Richter tuning. I like it so much, I thought I'd make a little "introduction" video all about it, how it's different from Richter, and what one can do with it. The video is aimed at, say, and advanced beginner, so I don't go into too many details about specifics of the tuning or scales, but mainly I want to show folks what the possibilities are in this tuning system. If any of you find this tuning interesting, I'd be happy to make more videos that provide some of these details. Just let me know here or over in the YouTube comments!

I do need to know that there's an interest out there before I would put in the effort to make follow up videos, but I'm more than happy to do so if people would like me to!

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3104 posts
Dec 20, 2015
1:15 AM
I'm interested in what you have to say, Isaac. But I don't know that I'm all that interested in actually using the tuning. I'd like to know more about how it's used though.
One thing that puzzled me is what happened to the note originally in 3 draw. I guess its nominally the 6th as the tuning is designed around the idea of playing the minor draw chord as the tonic? As in, designed for playing 3rd position?
So the you have a harp with 2 iterations of the minor draw chord and the blow chord is a major VII or a major VIIb chord....I'm never quite sure how that works, must look it's up... So I'm not sure how useful that is, just my ignorance, so I'd like to know more about that...I don't really like the idea of carrying bulk harps to cover special timings but then again, it's a legit idea...I've got a few CT harps and I know how useful that can be.
Kudos though, making coherent video is an effort and it's great that you impart some information like this.
3118 posts
Dec 20, 2015
8:59 AM
Hey Bee... Thanks, man! I'm glad you are interested in all this, whether or not you decide to pick one up. Yes, the 3 draw is now the 6th of the first position diatonic scale, and the 7th is totally gone. I imagine you could get the 7th with an overblow (although I've not thought about which one it would be. 3ob? 4?). But to me, that's a non-issue, because I see this layout as a strictly *pentatonic* layout (with some accidentals for flavor). There are TWO major pentatonic scales built right in with no bends. These correspond to the 1st position and 12th position major pentatonics on a richter harmonica. So, on Easy Third over two octaves that would be:

C on a key of C: +1 -1 +2 +3 -3 / +4 -4 +5 +6 -6 / +7


F on a key of C: -2 +3 -3 +4 -4 / -5 +6 -6 +7 -7 / -9

You now then also have the relative minor pentatonics of both of these two scales. One is the classic 3rd position scale (which is relative to the 12th position major pentatonic):

Dm on Key of C: -1 -2 +3 -3 +4 / -4 -5 +6 -6 +7 / -7

and then you also have the the 4th position minor pentatonic (which is relative to the 1st position major pentatonic)

Am on Key of C: -3 +4 -4 +5 +6 / -6 +7 -7 +8 +9 / -10

Of course, you also have the other pentatonic modes of these two scales. My favorite is actually in "4th position" in a mode of the 12nd position scale, which is a sort of minor tonality:

Am on Key of C: -3 +4 -4 -5 +6 / -6 +7 -7 -9 +9 / -10

For me, these are the scales that this harmonica is all about. I will accept the limitations (can't play the full diatonic scale easily) because I can get all these wonderful pentatonic scales with absolutely NO bending*. That lets me concentrate on the tone and dynamics of the piece of music I'm playing or improvising, with out worry about hitting all the bends spot on.

You could certainly say that's the "lazy" approach, and you'd be right, LOL! But, for me, I know that I'm not gonna be able to hit all my bends or overblows with the correct intonation 100% of the time, and I'd rather not play a piece of music than screw it up with crappy intonation. So this is my solution. I pick the tuning system that lets me play the music with the minimum of bends*. It does mean, however, that I carry a lot of harmonicas! :)

This is the kind of thing I'd go into more depth on in a follow-up video...

*Note that I still bend all the time, but I do it as inflections, for legato movement across a scale, or "feel" in music that is microtonal like the Blues. I just want to avoid needing bends for scale notes that need to be perfectly intonated, especially in melodies.

EDIT: fixed position info for a couple of the scales. Thanks SuperBee!! :) :)

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Last Edited by isaacullah on Dec 20, 2015 4:11 PM
1564 posts
Dec 20, 2015
9:21 AM
The closest I could come to this tuning on overblow.com was 11.5
I think I tried this once, so that harp is here somewhere LOL
You mention raising 7 draw a minor third, guess you replace that reed?
3119 posts
Dec 20, 2015
9:45 AM
@Gnarly: actually, I file it very very very very carefully! Lol! It gets very thin, but haven't busted one yet. Takes some time and care, however, so replacing would be a faster option for those so equipped.

EDIT: Also not that you don't *have* to change the 7 draw. The scale note will also be available in the 8 draw. I find that changing the 7 makes playing more fluid, however, and avoids a potential clash while chording. It also makes the tongue split octaves more fluid too.
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Last Edited by isaacullah on Dec 20, 2015 9:56 AM
3120 posts
Dec 20, 2015
9:50 AM
Here's how it lays out on a C harp:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Here are the changes in semitones from Richter:
0  0  0 0 0 0  0 0 0 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 -2 -2 0 0 0 +3 0 0 0

EDIT: Sheesh! Had to fix the spacing, etc. It should display correctly now!
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Last Edited by isaacullah on Dec 20, 2015 9:55 AM
491 posts
Dec 20, 2015
11:07 AM
---Great Post Isaac: I like this idea because I started playing with a guy who loves minor, but he is also the kind of guitar player that puts 9 chords in a 3 chord song. this makes you need to play the harp melodically in 3rd. First: I would like to see your vid on tuning the reeds. Second: because I suck at filing and tuning, I did not catch the name of the company that builds the different tunings you talked about in the video. Keep em coming! Better yet, why don't you move to central Ohio, so we can practice one on one. 2nd best, make sure and come to April's Harmonicollege in WVA, so we can jam!-------
And I Thank You !!
3105 posts
Dec 20, 2015
1:00 PM
Thanks Isaac. That is very interesting. I may have to make one and play around abit. Those possibilities do seem to have a lot of potential for getting one's arse out of a jam, for one thing. I do like the easy splits on this.
One thing though...A on a C harp is 4th position. 11th is Bb
I do appreciate the info you have provided above. I agree with much you say there re compromise. The harmonica is an instrument of compromise...also what you say about alt tuning making for a large kit...but i think maybe if i had 2 of these it might be ohkay...

Last Edited by SuperBee on Dec 20, 2015 1:27 PM
1 post
Dec 20, 2015
2:09 PM
Thanks Isaac. I like your alternative stuff - valves and alternative tunings. I am a fan of 3rd pos and love those deep bends in holes 2 & 3 that you need for it. I guess easy 3rd will give more precise sound in the lower octave and I will convert an old harp to easy 3rd. OT > I am learning spiral/circular/zircular with half valving. I think its the best way to do jazz on the diatonic.
I think your note layout diagram is a bit wrong? I think 7 draw should be a B
8841 posts
Dec 20, 2015
3:35 PM
KC69, Seydel does the configuration. Here is a link-


Of course, several of the customizers will do it too.

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Last Edited by nacoran on Dec 20, 2015 3:38 PM
ted burke
420 posts
Dec 20, 2015
3:47 PM
Great video, very informative!
Ted Burke

3121 posts
Dec 20, 2015
4:23 PM
Thanks everyone! KC, yeah, nacoran gave the link. Note that in the Seydel configurator menu there is 'Easy 3rd", but it won't have the raised 7 draw, and it will have the standard richter upper octave (holes 8-10). If you are gonna pay Seydel to make the harp for you, I suggest the following:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
That's 100% repetitive note layout in all three octaves!! :) And I'll certainly make the video on tuning. I use the BluTak method of lowering pitch, and I've got it down so that I can do a reed really fast! We shoulda met up a when I was living in Pittsburgh the year before last! Now I'm back in the west, it looks like for good this time! But if I ever make it back the midwest again, I'd love to jam!

@SuperBee: Whoops! Thanks for the spot, and I've now fixed it. Yeah, all this alternative tuning stuff sometimes makes it hard to keep track of the right "position" relative to a richter. But yeah, 11th would be the 3draw half-step bend, which doesn't exist on an Easy Third. Instead, as you say, it's the equivalent of the 3draw full step, which would be fourth! :)

@skid55: Yes, this tuning is for very precise melody notes without the need to bend. Low octave 3rd position on a normal richter is a different beast, and does offer some cool possibilities with all those bends. Which is why I still have a full set of richters too, lol! I did try spiral once, and I really liked it. Unfortunately I accidentally left the harp at a gig once, and haven't yet bought another. It was really intuitive too. BTW, no, the 7draw note in my diagram is correct for the way I make Easy 3rd. If you leave it a B, then you do get the 7th, but you then loose the consistency of the tongue split octaves up the harp (it's back to a three-hole split there, as opposed to the two-hole splits elsewhere), and also it allows for riffs to be translated hole for hole between the middle and low octave. Yes, you now have two D's next to each other, but that's one of the trade offs I think is worth it. IMO, it's no less of a trade off than having a G in 2 draw and 3 blow as you do in Richter. Again, it's not a necessity, but I think it's a good thing to do! :)

@Ted, thanks!

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