Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Tune your harmonica
Tune your harmonica
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2587 posts
Dec 04, 2018
6:21 PM
I am doing some tuning work for a list member, and really enjoying it.
Thought I would shoot myself in the foot and share how I'm doing it.

First thing is to tune draw 2 and blow 3 to pitch. They should be the same note.
Then, tune draw 1 so it's in tune with draw 2--no beating.
Same thing with blow 4, make it in tune with blow 3.
Now make sure blow 1 is in tune with blow 4--octave.
Now tune draw 4 to draw 1--also an octave.
Time to tune the thirds! Depending on how flat you like them--I am tuning to just, so the chords sound great! Those notes are draw 3 and blow 2, they are the thirds of the two chords.
I go thru and make sure all the thirds ring pleasantly.
And the octaves need to sound right--no beating.
That's pretty much it, it helps to have a good digital tuner.
Of course, not everyone likes just, but you don't have to tune the thirds flat, and you can still follow this method.
1386 posts
Dec 05, 2018
4:19 AM
Gary - what do you tune to - 442? 443?
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
2588 posts
Dec 05, 2018
10:56 AM
Excellent question--the short answer is yes.
It's not a bad idea to tune the harmonica close to where it already lives, unless it is less than 441 or more than 444.
I always tune "to pitch", that is, it's either 442 or 443--unless (sorry) the harmonica tells me to tune in between.
And lately, tuning to Just is really making me happy--unless the client doesn't want that, and of course, chromatics are tuned equal.
I am, as you know, mainly a guitarist, and you don't get the same sonority from chords on guitar that you can achieve from a Just tuned harp. This is particularly true if you use a mike and a harp amp--chords can sound quite awful!
2590 posts
Dec 05, 2018
11:10 AM
This is what I mean about ugly.
5666 posts
Dec 05, 2018
11:34 AM
Good topic. I do a lot of tuning. Usually I begin with the middle octave
2592 posts
Dec 05, 2018
2:58 PM
Everybody should be able to tune their harmonica.
Practice on your old broken ones, hey, they're already messed up.
Jim Rumbaugh
1317 posts
Dec 05, 2018
7:50 PM
So what are your plans for holes 5 through 10?
theharmonicaclub.com (of Huntington, WV)

Last Edited by Jim Rumbaugh on Dec 06, 2018 8:34 AM
2593 posts
Dec 05, 2018
10:14 PM
Octaves--make the notes above 5 match the other notes.
But I use iStrobosoft on the iPhone, makes it a lot easier.
As recommended by Joe Spiers--I told him, "I already have a bunch of tuners on my phone", he said, "Get that one."
I was not in a position to argue with Joe Spiers.
3553 posts
Dec 06, 2018
9:51 AM
The iStrobosoft for the iPhone is a more complete program than the one for Android phones and the one for the computers is even more useful plus you can customize alternate tuning and temperaments as well. An equivalent stand alone virtual strobe tuner that's worth buying which you can hok up with your computer to customize alternate tunings and temperaments is the StroboPLUS HD. which is priced on their website at $139.99.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
222 posts
Dec 06, 2018
11:46 AM
Whoever you're doing that for, hope they arrive soon!
1390 posts
Dec 06, 2018
12:27 PM
Good answer Gary. Tune the harmonica close to where it already lives. I say it a little differently. I tune the harp to where it wants to be. I usually tune to 442, but if a reed plate is already mostly in tune at 443, I will roll with it. The less I have to touch the reeds the better.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
178 posts
Dec 06, 2018
2:23 PM
I'm liking it. Especially as a quick way to periodically check my intonation on all my harps without having to use a tuner on every note. What do you do about the draw 5 though? You don't get an octave to check against until hole 9 and it's probably more likely to be out of tune than hole 5. And then there's the whole issue of whether or not you really want your draw 5 to be 32 cents flat if you're playing in anything other than 1st or 2nd position. How do you guys address that? I've been told just to flatten the thirds a little and leave everything else fairly even. Is that a reasonable approach for someone that doesn't play a lot of melodies but mostly blues in: 1st(5%), 2nd (65%), 3rd (25%) and 5th (5%) positions? Feel free to point me to a thread that discusses this so I don't bog this one down.
2594 posts
Dec 06, 2018
4:45 PM
@BnT I hope they like them!
2595 posts
Dec 06, 2018
4:46 PM
@Bilzharp I truly go by the sound--I try to make draw 5 and 6 in tune!

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