Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Question for Chromatic Players: Straight or Cross?
Question for Chromatic Players: Straight or Cross?
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225 posts
Oct 28, 2018
2:40 AM
I'm considering buying a Suzuki Sirius 56. It now comes in both straight and cross tuned. Do you prefer straight or cross tuning? Why? What are the pros and cons of each? Or is it so subtle that it really makes no difference to a beginner or intermediate chromatic player?

Last Edited by AppalachiaBlues on Oct 28, 2018 2:43 AM
2733 posts
Oct 28, 2018
5:10 AM
I've always bought regular tuned chromatics. Early on I had no idea about 3rd position and sort of stumbled along in 2nd. It was not a very pleasing result as I once heard on a recording at a gig.
Eventually I discovered 3rd. From there I have also gone to 1st on a chromatic on certain material, usually more rock than blues.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.



175 posts
Oct 28, 2018
7:26 AM
I think the strait and cross you are speaking of would be the alignment of the slide in and slide out notes and how the slide controls them.

Chromatics have two sets of reeds, one on top of the other, when the slide is pressed in one set of holes gets covered and the other set gets uncovered, with strait all the holes on the top or bottom are covered at the same time.
With cross the hole alternate from top to bottom.
My Seydel Saxony is strait with all the slide out notes at the top, my Suzuki SCX64 is cross with the holes going top, bottom in a zig zag pattern.

I can't really say that one is better than the other, there could be a small difference in speed changing from slide in to slide out but i just can't tell.
226 posts
Oct 28, 2018
7:43 AM
Yes, as Fibl said, it is the layout of the reeds and the pattern of the holes in the slider, and the size/shape of the holes. (Perhaps "tuned" is not really what this hole pattern design should be called - since both are in Solo Tuning).

Anyway, below is Will Galison's view (he is a Suzuki endorser). I would like to hear some other views on this. I guess some people prefer straight tuned, and I guess each has both advantages and disadvantages.

The S56 is a hefty investment. I don't want to later end up wishing I had chosen the other version (S or C).

Last Edited by AppalachiaBlues on Oct 28, 2018 7:50 AM
1079 posts
Oct 28, 2018
7:46 AM
I believe that the design criteria being addressed are 1) length of throw and 2) control of air leakage to adjacent holes. I've only used cross slides myself so can't comment about the difference.

Last Edited by mr_so&so on Oct 28, 2018 7:47 AM
1853 posts
Oct 28, 2018
8:30 AM
The Chrometta is cross and has a pretty long throw, but in general I think the difference in throw of cross vs. straight is small. My Easttop Caberet is cross tuned and plays great with no noticeable throw difference. It is a little more air tight than my 270s and Hering 5148s.

Some claim that cross tuning gives better air flow through the wider openings, but I haven't found significant differences while playing. Some say it affects the strength of the slide, but I haven't broken a slide of any sort.

To me, the slot tolerances, wind savers, and especially slide and plate/comb leakiness is the key factor in playability in a chromatic.

I prefer straight tuned because they are easier to problem solve when you work on them. If the button is out, the problem is on the top plate. If the button is in, the problem is in the bottom plate.

With cross tuned it could be either plate depending on which hole and slide position.

Straight tuned C has C major on the top and C# major on the bottom. Cross tuned C takes the C and C# scales and alternates, spreading them over both plates.

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Oct 28, 2018 1:16 PM
483 posts
Oct 28, 2018
10:05 AM
I use chromatic almost as much as diatonic, and most of mine have been crossed tuned. The prevailing wisdom is that straight tuned is slightly faster slide action. There are so many other factors that go into making a good chromatic, this issue seems less important.
484 posts
Oct 28, 2018
2:44 PM
Also, I’m sure Gnarly will weigh in on the attributes of both versions of the 56. You could migrate over to the Chromatic Harmonica forum, slidemeister, and ask there as well.
Either version of the Suzuki should be good value.
485 posts
Oct 28, 2018
2:47 PM
Even the less expensive SCX 56 will be great value.
2566 posts
Oct 28, 2018
7:15 PM
Will Galison has told me several times that he likes cross tuning since you can move more air. He even has a thing he does to let the slide open more fully, to increase the amount even more.

I don't notice the difference (I am hardly Will Galison).

My main chromatic is a 12 hole Sirius with SCX plates, straight tuned (it's in C but starts on G, so they are G reed plates, retuned to Orchestra Bebop). But when I switch to the other chrom (it's a whole step higher, for sharp keys, but the same tuning), I don't notice any difference--it's an SCX, cross tuned.
107 posts
Oct 29, 2018
8:07 AM
I've played straight and cross tuned chromatics, and while straight tuned is faster(slightly) but My main harp is a cross tuned Easttop brass- combed tenor, and I have no problem with it. I like the increased volume.
77 posts
Nov 07, 2018
7:35 PM
It's weird that the arrangements of holes are referred to as "straight tuning" versus "cross tuning." Tuning usually refers to the pitch of the notes on an instrument.

Last Edited by FastFourier on Nov 08, 2018 5:31 AM
Thievin' Heathen
1077 posts
Nov 10, 2018
8:47 PM
There is so much going on within a Chromatic harp it's difficult for me to imagine taking the subtle differences of straight vs. cross tuned into consideration in regards to playing it, though I hope to get there some day. Now, in regards to working on one, I think I'd prefer to avoid the mash-up of cross tuning.
227 posts
Nov 11, 2018
6:07 AM
Thanks everyone. The three take-aways, it seems, are:
1. Cross-tuned can provide more sensitivity and volume due to larger holes
2. Straight-tuned is easier to trouble-shoot and maintain, due to reed layout
3. Differences in playability (and slide throw) are minor and largely un-noticed

So I guess I will go for the Sirius S56C (cross-tuned), or maybe save a bit of cash and go for the SCX56 (also cross-tuned). I will be buying it on a trip to Tokyo, so the price difference between the two is not so huge (235€ vs. 150€). I think the Sirius covers, mouthpiece, and (presumably) better reed set-up ootb, will be worth the 85€ difference. I will compare them in the shop, and decide then.

Last Edited by AppalachiaBlues on Nov 11, 2018 6:12 AM
Thievin' Heathen
1078 posts
Nov 11, 2018
9:32 AM
If I ever again find myself in Japan, I'll be stocking up on Tombos. Check them out while you're there.

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