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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > I called it Richter, you call it???
I called it Richter, you call it???
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2040 posts
Dec 02, 2019
9:04 AM
In common usage "Richter tuned" has often been used as one name for the 10 hole harmonica BLOW/DRAW pattern:

C/D E/G G/B // C/D E/F G/A C/B // E/D G/F C/A

SuperBee called me out for misuse of "Richter" in the Cajun Harmonica thread by clarifying his view on what "Richter" means relative to harmonica, and I don't disagree with what he said.

However, Richter's contributions are debatable, as indicated by Pat Missin:


Brendan Power modified the standard tuning to "Paddy Richter", but would Brendan's tuning be better called "Paddy German tuned, Richter construction"?

What should we call the STANDARD note layout that would support clarity and brevity?

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Dec 02, 2019 9:06 AM
6354 posts
Dec 02, 2019
11:27 AM
I personally don’t mind what an individual calls the layout as long as it’s for their own personal use.

What triggered me here was seeing others encouraged to follow that path.

The route to hell is smooth and wide.

It’s a quirk of my nature to twitch at certain things and I sometimes can’t hold it in.
I’d give the syndrome a name but that would probably be disrespectful to people with more profound symptoms. Call it ‘lack of wisdom’ for want of a better term. I don’t think that condition has yet been officially recognised and blessed as an illness but we’re all around.

I call that tuning scheme ‘standard German tuning’ or simply ‘standard tuning’

I believe the people at Hohner called it Standard Tuning when they produced the 260 in both Standard tuned and solo tuned versions

That’s what I believe. I could be wrong.

I see a case for association of the term ‘richter’ with ‘standard’.
Because the standard way to layout the notes in these richter type harps is to do it the way we know.

No doubt the term has currency and as such there’s also a case to say usage wins. If that’s what people say, and they know what it means, they are right. Like ‘ask’ and ‘arks’, when enough people get it wrong it becomes right.

Brendan used richter in ‘Paddy Richter’ and because it’s his idea he gets to name it. Yes, he’s perpetuated the common usage by association and maybe that strengthens the case to contrast his tuning scheme with standard (non-Paddy) ‘richter’. I don’t know exactly why he invoked “Paddy” in his title but I assume he means it’s used for Irish Folk music. The additional tag of ‘richter’ in the name seems unnecessary to me ie it could simply be called ‘paddy tuned’ as by itself the name tells you nothing about note layout. But it’s Brendan’s idea so he gets to name it. Paddy Richter is a thing, but it doesn’t mean Brendan is by default able to bestow the term Richter on everything which is similar to paddy Richter but lacking Paddiness.

Others have managed to name layouts without adding ‘richter’ to the name. Eg, country or jazz tuned harps have only one note difference to a standard tuned harp but they are not known as country richter, jazz richter.

Anyway, as I began, if it’s for your own use and you’re not hurting anyone else, I don’t care what turns you on. As long as you draw the curtains when the lights are on or at least put up a fence or grow a hedge.
The Iceman
3978 posts
Dec 02, 2019
12:41 PM
"I say tomato"
"You say tomato"
I say potato"
"You say potato"
"Let's call the whole thing off"
The Iceman
2041 posts
Dec 02, 2019
1:31 PM

I thought your comment on the Cajun thread was spot on. The only reason I have called the layout "Richter" was years of hearing it called that for want of a better name.

This forum seemed to be a good place to discuss it in an aptly named thread, since most blues players play diatonic 10 hole harmonicas in this note layout most of the time due to blues history.

@The Iceman

You caught the tangential reference in my title!

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Dec 02, 2019 1:31 PM
6355 posts
Dec 02, 2019
1:39 PM
Doug, I think it was Winslow who first got me going on this. I could be misremembering but I recall feeling convinced and I stopped using the term richter to describe the note layout

Like a reformed addict, now I’m susceptible to being ‘triggered’, and then I go through a process of reminding myself why I don’t do that anymore.

Now I might have to go through the next stage of withdrawal and get over myself
1475 posts
Dec 02, 2019
1:49 PM
This is a simple but important question. For some, it is simply a debate on semantics. For those of us who build custom harps, it is critical that our customers understand what we are building for them, or that we understand what they want. I call it Richter Tuning. My guess would be that more than 90% of the 10-hole diatonic harmonica made, regardless of the manufacturer or country of origin, have the notes laid out in the pattern we are all familiar with and is commonly referred to as Richter Tuning. So that’s what I go with. The other 10% would be what I refer to as “Alternate Tunings”. One common source of confusion is when a customer orders a Natural Minor harp. This is due to the fact that Hohner labels NM harps in the 1st Position and Lee Oskar labels them in the 2nd position. I don’t generally stock Natural Minor harps. Instead I re-tune “Richter Tuned” harps. Whenever a customer orders a NM harp, I have to find out which brand they are used to playing so I know how to build it. This is one example where there is no consensus.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
1658 posts
Dec 02, 2019
9:58 PM
While it's true that naming the note layout after Richter has no historical basis (its nucleus can be found in concertinas dating from the 1840s, and pre-1880 American diatonic instruction books show similar, but not identical, note layouts), I've given up pointing all this stuff out most of the time and simply bow to the usage by others while avoiding using it myself to the extent practicable.


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2042 posts
Dec 03, 2019
7:13 AM

I recall that back in the '60s and '70s the positions had various different meanings (as in Tony Glover's book that helped me switch to diatonic) until the use of the circle of fifths standardized the meanings of the numbered positions in a very sensible way. Certainly it all made a lot more sense to me when the positions were explained as the relationship of the key of the instrument to the key of the music being played as counted on the circle of fifths.

It seems to me that having a universally recognized, sensible name for this note layout present on the majority of harmonicas in existence would be a good thing!

So, Winslow... if you were magically made the Pharaoh of all things harmonica, what would YOU suggest as a sensible name for the standard 10 hole diatonic note layout that is sometimes referred to as "Richter tuning", "German tuning", or "Standard tuning"?

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Dec 03, 2019 7:14 AM
The Iceman
3979 posts
Dec 03, 2019
7:34 AM
"So, Winslow... if you were magically made the Pharaoh of all things harmonica"

uh, he IS the Pharaoh of all things harmonica. I've even seen him "Walk Like an Egyptian"!
The Iceman
2729 posts
Dec 03, 2019
3:08 PM
Yeah, Michael D'Eath won't wear the neme . . .
I call some harmonicas by their chords, so I would call standard tuning I/V7.
That's not it exactly, and nobody asked me . . . but that's what I do--the tuning shifts at 7, and it's a V7 on 9 out of 10 draw holes--that sixth hole draw doesn't fit, it's a nine--"Now if six turned out to be nine, I don't mind" LOL
380 posts
Dec 04, 2019
8:02 PM
Sometimes it becomes difficult to "correct" an improper use of a term. So Richter becomes the "generic use" term for standard tuning, much like "Band-Aid" for an adhesive bandage or "Kleenex" for facial tissue. During my early dental career I was going to "educate" my patients to not use the term "Novocaine" for a local anesthetic. (Actually that was kind of important if someone said they were allergic to Novocaine because the brand Novocaine ceased to be in widespread use in the early 1950's! Now I had to figure out what they were really allergic to.) I found that using the word Novocaine to describe a local anesthetic was just going to have to do. Maybe we're stuck with Richter. At least it refers to something we still use.
2046 posts
Dec 08, 2019
9:15 AM
Good point, ME.HarpDoc!

I have recently notice while "window shopping" online that many vendors tend to use the "Richter" description for this note layout. If vendors use this description and customers understand it, then it is probably going to persist as you said, much as the brand name "Kleenex" is commonly used rather than the more accurate "facial tissues" or "Band-Aid" for an adhesive bandage.

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Dec 08, 2019 9:17 AM
Thievin' Heathen
1185 posts
Dec 08, 2019
11:24 AM
I agree. "Richter Tuned" has moved into the category of Kleenex and Band Aid. Moreover, I suspect that at least half the people who use the term are aware of its' historical inaccuracy but opt to use it because it accurately and effectively communicates.
6366 posts
Dec 08, 2019
12:55 PM
I’ve been living in a bubble. There’s only one thing to do when faced with overwhelming odds. Give up and go eat breakfast.
Everywhere I turn I’m seeing ‘richter tuned’ used in references. I even saw ‘standard richter tuned’ used in a document discussing various alternative tuning schemes. They used ‘standard’ to denote the difference to all the variations based on the standard.
That’s when I realized the game was over.
I also saw someone use the term to imply temperament yesterday. As in, the harp wasn’t ET, it was ‘standard richter tuning’ by which it turned out they meant ‘compromised’.
2730 posts
Dec 08, 2019
9:44 PM
This page doesn't mention Major Cross, I just converted a Manji for a customer.
But it does mention the SUB30--and seems to want to use the word "diatonic" as interchangeable with Richter.
I usually refer to 10 hole harps as "short harps", regardless of tuning.
And this page mentions the 14 hole Marine Band harps, do we consider them to be "Richter Tuned"?
6369 posts
Dec 09, 2019
3:57 AM
They’re Richter-style harps, and they’re tuned like the common major diatonic, with a major triad formed by every 3 adjacent blow notes. The draw notes 11-14 are same as 7-10.
Funny enough, when I was repairing one I was investigating the reeds. I was told they use Knittlinger reeds.
At the time I did not know what that meant. I was told they were same as used in MS harps. That’s not so. MS harps do not use the same reeds as a 365.
The 365s are built with reeds which are also used in some of the chromatic harps, which are Knittlinger type harps, so I suppose the description of the reeds as Knittlinger is not entirely wrong in a sense.

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