Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Tune your guitar using a C diatonic harp
Tune your guitar using a C diatonic harp
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2577 posts
Nov 22, 2018
8:28 AM
It's the pitch pipe you can play the blues on!
2075 posts
Nov 22, 2018
11:18 AM
Now that we have been using digital tuners for so long, I wonder how many of us can still tune to a reference pitch.
701 posts
Nov 22, 2018
2:57 PM
Way back in the 60's if we needed to tune our guitar and needed a reference note, we'd pick up the phone cause the dial tone was A. Once we got the A string in tune it was easy to bring the others in tune.
Wisdom does not always come with old age. Sometimes old age arrives alone.
1858 posts
Nov 22, 2018
8:17 PM
I can still do it...

I learned long ago when jamming with guitar players whose tuning would drift. They would often re-tune using a string as reference, getting the guitar in tune with itself, but making my harp sound bad. Some would tune to a reference pitch from harp or pitch pipe to get it right when I asked, but some struggled and I would just do it for them using a reference pitch and string harmonics.

I LIKE tuners for guitar players! Now more players seem better able to tune properly with the help of this technology, and I don't have to point it out that they are out of tune and/or tune for them.

I play around with guitars, but I am not a guitar player!

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Nov 22, 2018 8:26 PM
2578 posts
Nov 22, 2018
10:22 PM
Several things--
First of all, harps are tuned sharp, so the guitar will be slightly sharp.
And secondly, if you use a compromise tuned harp (or just), the guitar will be more in tune in the key of G (or C, one assumes).
And lastly, all means of checking tuning are a good idea, but always trust your ears.
2753 posts
Nov 22, 2018
10:44 PM
Very early on friends would need a note from a harp to tune.
I also remember tuning forks.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.



2579 posts
Nov 22, 2018
10:52 PM
I can always get a laugh at a gig if I say, "Mind if we tune to my harmonica?"
1859 posts
Nov 23, 2018
6:50 AM

Though I now know that the harp is "tuned sharp" on the tonic, there are some notes deliberately tuned flatter. I didn't pay attention to this at the time I was jamming around 1970, but that may explain why it worked OK.

On the 1970s Marine Bands, Blues harps (and later on Special 20s), the 2 blow E was 14 cents flat of being consistent with the harmonica tuning pitch. It seemed to me that the difference in pitch from my pitch pipe for that note was unnoticeable. When people used tuning forks to tune, the harp and guitar sounded fine. The guitar/harp pitches also seemed to work when tuning to the blow 2 E on a C compromise diatonic. Nobody had a digital pitch reference, so it was the ears of the players that determined "in tune."

Another factor is that when you are playing harp you tend to depress pitches on many notes by air pressure and sometimes pitch is affected by breath condensation. The harp pitches were above and below the center. It was close enough for folk music, rock, and blues back then...

By the way, when you tune your guitar do you tune everything to the electronic tuner and play in true equal intonation tuning, or do you make small adjustments by ear after using the tuner?

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Nov 23, 2018 7:01 AM
The Iceman
3712 posts
Nov 23, 2018
7:38 AM
I'm a bit out of touch....do guitar players now tune ALL their strings to a tuner or 6 separate tones, or do some still do it the old school way - 1 note and then tune the guitar to itself?

I know how to play guitar, but am not a guitar player. I still set the low E to a reference point and then tune the guitar to itself. Some guitars have eccentricities and need to be perfectly imperfectly tuned to make the chords sound warm.
The Iceman
2272 posts
Nov 23, 2018
3:22 PM
They tune all strings to the tuner. In fact, some modern tuners can pick the out-of-tune string out of a strummed open chord.
3279 posts
Nov 23, 2018
3:44 PM
I just use a snark.......I can form 12 major chords and 3 minor chords on a guitar......been blowing harp nearly 40 years......sometimes I think I should just stick to harp
5659 posts
Nov 23, 2018
4:41 PM
Guitarist was just making nostalgic about this topic last night, at the start of band practice in the pre-tuner days everyone trying to get in tune was something of a ritual whereas now it’s just looking at a display and no telling each other to shut up or asking give me an E (that might mean something else now)

Later we were looking for reference songs and again his memories were contrasting the modern world as we just searched you tube for ‘how’d that go’

That probably suppresses accidental creativity. In the old days you’d get a new song by trying to play an old one and recalling imperfectly, and inserting you’re own idea of how you think it goes
2580 posts
Nov 23, 2018
11:29 PM
Hey Doug, and all--
I usually use a digital tuner to tune any stringed instrument upon which I wish to perform. But I am not adverse to trying to fine tune while I am performing.
I sing thru a VoiceLive Touch, that has a guitar tuner built in. The guitar input allows you to harmonize the voice live!
193 posts
Nov 28, 2018
3:35 AM
A lot of blues guitar players tune,e-flat or D. I mostly tune D.I first off tune with a KORG CA,but once i have the tune i self tune with overtones.This gets a right on tune...
2583 posts
Nov 28, 2018
2:49 PM
Always trust the Overtones.

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