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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > B-thing tuning
B-thing tuning
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19 posts
Feb 28, 2018
7:37 AM
Does anyone use the B-thing tuning beyond Carlos Del Junco example?
I mean, is it a usefull tuning, worth to have one?
I read somewhere that Carlos Del Junco listenned an old Lee Oskar recording and then he recorded an updated version. Does anyone know how to find this Lee Oskar recording.
Thanks in advance.

Luis Lisboa
647 posts
Feb 28, 2018
12:39 PM
I had dinner with Lee several years ago and he mentioned his version of a similar tuning/tune preceded Carlos Del Junco's (phenomenal) B-thing. I'm not aware of a recorded example.
1522 posts
Feb 28, 2018
1:43 PM
Tune Blow 1 down 2 semitones and tune Draw 1 up two semitones.

This allows Draw 1 to bend down 5 semitones, and gives you a minor chord in Draw 1-2-3, with Draw 1 as the root.

For instance, on a C harp the draw chord will be E minor (E-G-B) instead of G major (D-G-B) in the first three holes (but you still get a G major chord (G-B-D) in Draw 2-3-4).

Your blow chord now has a 7th on the bottom. For instance, on a C harp the blow notes will be Bb-E-G-C - a C7 chord with the 7th (Bb) on the bottom.

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Last Edited by WinslowYerxa on Mar 01, 2018 7:49 AM
1416 posts
Mar 01, 2018
5:55 AM
Far from being an expert on this, I still suspect that 7D is also tuned down a half step?
The Iceman
3500 posts
Mar 01, 2018
6:58 AM
Short history on this particular tuning/song.

Back in the early 90's, a lot of us "pioneers" were swapping cassettes with live recordings...one of which was Lee Oskar playing this tuning/song. He didn't call it "B-thing"...I don't know what he called it. I had a copy of this live recording, too, and there was no title given on it.

It is pretty much almost note for note what Carlos has recorded and called "B-thing". Carlos was blown away by Lee's live recording and it was in talking with Lee directly that Carlos was given the "secret" to this tuning - way before it became almost common knowledge today.
The Iceman
21 posts
Mar 01, 2018
8:34 AM
Thanks for all your replies.
Does anybody use this tuning for a particular kind of song?
Since I get a minor chord in the first 3 draw holes, I think it'd be great to play in 5th position, wouldn't? Sorry for my lack theory knowlege, it's hard to figure out without a harmonica in hands.
Todd Parrott
1433 posts
Mar 01, 2018
1:54 PM
I think the 1 draw has to be tuned up 3 semitones to an F, so you get a G7 draw chord. I've made these in several keys, mainly for chugging.
John M G
194 posts
Mar 01, 2018
5:12 PM
Is this the Lee Oskar clip you are looking for?
Can someone put me out of my pain and tell me what key Carlos is using as a base?
It's working in 3rd in A for me but then lose all the higher notes or is he using 2 harps same as the Lee Oskar clip?

Last Edited by John M G on Mar 01, 2018 5:13 PM
Todd Parrott
1434 posts
Mar 01, 2018
7:06 PM
What key is Carlos using? An E that's tuned to the B-thing tuning, so... 1 draw is tuned up 3 semitones (from an F# to an A), and the 1 blow is tuned down 2 semitones (from an E to a D). And it's all done on one harp.

Lee is using a different tuning for his song.
727 posts
Mar 02, 2018
4:38 AM
Winslow and Todd thanks for the explanation. I'm really wanting to try this now.

Martin, I'm with you. My ears hear another reed has been retuned.

Also really dig that saxophone-like note doubling at around 1:16-1:17. It sounds like he's going from that re-tuned 1 draw to something on 2 and getting the same note... kind of like going between 2 draw and 3 blow on a Richter tuned harmonica, but with greater effect before diving into that deep diving bend. Wow!
Ridge's YouTube
1417 posts
Mar 02, 2018
5:21 AM
@John MG: If your question is, What key is Carlos playing in? it´s B.
(Not with any stronger emphasis on the major element of the chords, but still more major than minor, as I hear it.)
Todd Parrott
1435 posts
Mar 02, 2018
8:48 AM
To clarify the B-thing tuning, yes, the 7 draw is also tuned down a half-step. (I didn't think to mention this because I've tuned the 7 down on all of my harps for so many years that it's become the norm for me.)

So the total B-thing tuning is:

1 draw - tuned up 3 semitones
1 blow - tuned down 2 semitones
7 draw - tuned down 1 semitone

Ridge, you are correct - what you're hearing at 1:16 is Carlos going back and forth between the 2 draw whole step bend, and the 1 draw, which is now the same note as the 2 draw whole step bend. He then bends the 1 draw down before landing on 1 blow, and arpeggiating the E7 chord.

If anyone is planning to experiment with this tuning, also try it on some of the lower keys. It sounds cool!
1418 posts
Mar 02, 2018
9:08 AM
@Todd Parrott: Have you had success even in re-tuning lower keyed harps to the B-thing, like C?
I´m terribly clumsy, but I have a swarm of cheapo C harps where I perhaps could sacrifice on or two.
Todd Parrott
1436 posts
Mar 02, 2018
10:29 AM
Yes, I've done even lower keys than C. It's quite easy to do, just take your time. I use one of those micro engravers from Harbor Freight. The 1 draw reed is a weighted reed, so you have lots of metal there to work with. I suppose on the 1 blow you could also use solder or blu-tack to lower the pitch, though I've always just used the engraver.
1421 posts
Mar 02, 2018
6:03 PM
Thanks Todd. Yes I use a micro engraver as well, which has relieved me of some stress. (Those endless filing session were tortuous.) Blu-tack was tried recently but was way to delicate for me, so I´ll stick to the engraver.
Many people underestimate what lack of dexterity implies in matters such as these -- I even have a bit of a problem with unscrewing the coverplates.
2322 posts
Aug 28, 2022
9:47 AM
EDIT: this post is about the engraver mentioned above, not the B-thing tuning.


I was recently at Harbor Freight for other reasons, but I saw the engraving tool and remembered this thread. I bought one and have since found that it works really well in adjusting reed pitches!

I find that the engraver is more simple to use than my files, draw scraper, or rotary tool and less likely to damage reeds. It is especially good for tuning blow reeds without removing the reed plates as it is far gentler than the draw scraper.

So far I have just used it on diatonics, but I previously had read that tuning chromatic blow reeds without removing the plates was a useful skill. I have tuned that way with my draw scraper a few times, but it was a challenge to not damage the reed. I will certainly use the engraver to adjust tuning the next time I flatten a Hering chromatic reed.

When tuning with the engraver I gently lift the blow reed in the slot with a paper clip or reed lifter, support the tip with a small square of printer paper, tilt the harp so metal shavings fall away from the slot, and adjust pitch with the engraver in small increments approaching my pitch goal. With the reed plates still mounted on the comb it is a faster process to check and recheck pitch as I tune.

Thank you for this idea!

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Aug 28, 2022 9:50 AM
103 posts
Sep 13, 2022
11:42 PM
Had several lessons with Carlos and he said unless you are good at soldering you won't get it
3684 posts
Sep 14, 2022
8:24 AM
@dougharps -- Whenever you use a tool like this, you will definitely need an extremely light touch or risk removing way too much metal in a hurry. I have a rotary tool that was given to me that F&R Farrell used to sell that when the on/off switch was in the off position, you could squeeze the switch so that it turns on momentarily and found that came in handy frequently. Does this tool have that feature?
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
2329 posts
Sep 22, 2022
2:58 PM
Yep, I messed up the second time by underestimating the tool and removing too much metal. I had to lower pitch removing metal at the reed base. Slow, patient, and frequently checking pitch is the best course.
The tool does have a momentary button, and I will try that approach.

Doug S.

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