I have been learning some straight-harp to go with my guitar playing (“Heart of Gold,” for example) so I have a few same-key harps for that purpose.
I know that to play blues, you have to play cross-harp — an A harp for a blues tune in the key of E, for example. I have not yet spent much time learning how to play cross-harp, but I plan to. I understand that you use more draw notes than blow notes, and start at a different hole.
However, I was wondering what role the Pentaharp plays in the straight-harp/cross-harp universe. Is the Pentaharp intended for use as a blues harp? If so, which key do you use — same key or a fourth away (as in cross-harp)? Does the Pentaharp make blues playing any easier than cross-harp on a regular diatonic harp?
Also, does the Lee Oskar natural minor harp fall somewhere into this mix?
I guess I’m wondering if the Pentaharp (or the Lee Oskar or some other variation) offers another way to play blues riffs besides the diatonic cross-harp approach.
The Pentaharp is its own beast with its own logic.
It produces the six-note minor blues scale in first position - that is, you'd use an A minor PentaHarp to play blues in A, whether major or minor. Blow 1 (or 4, or 7 or 10) would be your home note - and your home note may or may not be your starting note for any given riff, lick, or melody.
At least, that's what it was designed for. In fact, it's more flexible if you use Draw 1 (or 4 or 7 or 10) as your home note, which technically is 10th position.
Here's a recording I made using a Pentaharp in first position:
I use altered tunings all the time. I don’t get the Penta Harp! But I’m glad some find it useful I would recommend checking out Country tuning, or Melody Maker, this gives you a major scale in cross tuning. It’s not for blues, but it is modern.
I am not much up on the technical side of this instrument, but I am able to play it fluently in a blues and jazz blues mode, and I delight at the occasional hot jazz tonality it gives me when I bend the highest notes. Real clarinet stuff! I used the Cminor on this Texas blues shuffle in Eb and found it mighty exciting playing my stuff with new unexpected turns and nuance. ---------- www.ted-burke.com
Ted is one of the folks I was thinking of, he took to it straight away. I like to try new tunings, but this one didn't work for me. I just checked out a Rick Epping tuning, lower 2 draw a whole step and 3 and 7 draw a half step. Make first position Mixolydian. Meh--I will remove the solder and go back to normal, it's a Hammond ProMaster and overblows pretty well, it will be more desirable in standard tuning.