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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Gnarly Bender (was: Hohner Pentabender)
Gnarly Bender (was: Hohner Pentabender)
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3044 posts
Jun 05, 2022
9:46 AM
Greetings . . .

Here is the new tuning I came up with--based on my experience, I am sure someone else has crafted something similar, but here goes.

The concept came from pondering on the "Gimmie Shelter" lick, many of you are familiar with this--it used the large bend on hole three, going down to the floor and up a minor third.

So I'm thinking, what if you had that bend range on every hole?

Here's what I came up with.

G Bb C F G Bb C F G Bb
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The first thing that should jump out at you is that it violates one of the cardinal rules of harmonica layouts--no hole shall have a note higher than its neighbor to the right.

Next thing you want to realize is that there are major third intervals on every hole.

I have lost most of you by this point, the rest of you, stay with me.

This group of notes comprise a bebop scale, there are no enharmonics.

It's fully chromatic, if you are harmonica player enough to manifest the "black keys".

I have dinked around with it, and it's cool enough to continue to explore.

So then I got to thinkin' . . .

What if this arrangement of tones was put onto a Slip Slider, so that the Harp Commandment was kept in place?

Here we go . . .

G Bb C F G Bb C F G Bb
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

So now the rule is kept in place, and, although there is a breath reversal at hole 4 and 8, all y'all are used to that (except those of you who don't go past hole 6, I lost most of those folks in the first few sentences).

Somebody get one of these and let me know how it works out.
3045 posts
Jun 05, 2022
9:47 AM
Meanwhile, I'm still thinkin' . . .

Last Edited by Gnarly on Jun 05, 2022 9:49 AM
1762 posts
Jun 05, 2022
2:43 PM
"Meanwhile, I'm still thinkin' . . ."

Isnt that a line from a Chuck Berry song?

Maybe you could call it the Little Queenie tuning...
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3046 posts
Jun 05, 2022
8:47 PM
Well, I put together the second tuning today, and it is even less intuitive than the first.
I'll call that one the Little Queenie, don't know if it's worth manifesting on the Gnarly with a Slip Slider.
Gonna work some on chops with the GB and make a video--but not right away, I have other people's harps to work on.
3047 posts
Jun 06, 2022
7:36 PM
Here is a notation of three scales, C G and F, using Fletch.
If you don't have that typeface, buy it from Winslow.
It's worth the investment.

3 w e 4 5 r t 7

5 r t 7 6 7 K 9

4 5 r 6 7 y u 8

Note: the F# is pretty gnarly, it's just above the blow F.
1 post
Jun 12, 2022
3:23 PM
Hi Gnarly, I'd love to hear what you play on these. I just spent some two months learning exact bends on holes 2 & 3 and fell in love with the particular brass-instrument-like sound these have on Hohner Special 20 - I noticed on the last one I use (others got replaced by MB de Luxe or Crossover), then sorted other S20s from my abandoned harps box and then - encouraged by your post - I shuffled around reed plates to taste a bit what you speak about. I combined blow reed plate from S20 in in A with blow reed plate from C used as a draw plate, getting A major chord at blow and 3 semitones higher tone at draw.
My first impression from these wider blow-draw intervals is very positive - it is surprisingly easy to play and it really invites more chromatic tunes. It works well at holes 4, 5 and 6 (I guess others could be improved by reeds setup). If you find time to record something with your instrument, I'd really like to hear it.

Last Edited by Vaclavh on Jun 13, 2022 12:04 AM
3048 posts
Jun 13, 2022
6:37 PM
I guess a video would be a good idea.
Gimme a day or two.
3049 posts
Jun 14, 2022
9:29 AM
2328 posts
Jun 15, 2022
9:15 PM
Why not this?

G C F Bb Eb Ab Db F# B E
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
B E A D G C F Bb Eb Ab

Last Edited by timeistight on Jun 15, 2022 9:16 PM
3050 posts
Jun 16, 2022
11:37 AM
Hi Arthur!
Looks interesting—of course, it changes tonal centers.
2 posts
Jun 17, 2022
3:20 PM
Thanks for the video Gnarly. I certainly like these wide bends all over the range. I am not sure which exact configuration of notes I'd like to have but bends are cool. Also, I am yet mostly unable to bend 3 semitones so I'd dare to go with minor thirds, not with major. Would be nice to be able to try without riveting - as you say, Seydel Configurator may be easier - or Brendan's Modular Reeds. Or one might taste wider bends on Pentaharp. (I have none of these at the moment.) You used modified Special 20? Looks like one as far as I can guess.
3051 posts
Jun 17, 2022
10:05 PM
You are welcome!
I am spending a little time getting comfy--it definitely has some useful sounds, and has all the notes of two major scales, not easy to build but as I mentioned, Seydel will gladly put one together for a small fee.
I created a tuning a couple of years back to play the chords for Maiden Voyage, they have minor third intervals on every hole.

C F Bb C Eb F Bb C Eb F

Not designed for single note play, but could be forced into service for same.

The harp I used for the Gnarly Bender was a stock SP20, I am continuing to tweak it for better bends.
3052 posts
Jun 19, 2022
6:25 AM
It IS possible to make sense of this tuning . . .
Every other hole is a perfect fourth or fifth, and each plane (blow or draw) has two adjacent major seconds (and one minor third and one perfect fourth adjacent interval).
Having fun trying to learn to play diatonic melodies without bends.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Jun 19, 2022 6:27 AM
3053 posts
Jun 19, 2022
9:40 AM
So two keys are easy to play, obviously C and G mixolydian.
F is also worthwhile and you could make Bb work for some stuff.
These four keys are the blow notes, so that's where the big draw bends are for the b3. Good b5 in G, that's probably the best key for blues with this tuning.
Pentatonic in G would be blow 5, draw 4, draw 5, draw 6, draw 7, blow 9. That's pretty easy, once you get used to the second degree being on a lower hole than the tonic (it's the "new rule" by virtue of the fact that each hole has a major third--the second is below the tonic). In F and Bb, the second is the next highest blow hole.
But all this is largely talking to myself until someone else tries this.
I will (eventually) make one in D7 and G from a 365, this will be useful since blues on a G can require choosing between high G and regular G--this will be the same tuning in every octave, as with the original unit.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Jun 19, 2022 9:50 AM

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