Country Harmonica!

Hello Harmonica Lovers!

This post is going to be on country harmonica, which is a whole different tuning than standard Richter tuning.  The 5th draw hole is raised a 1/2 step to create a country sound on the harmonica.

The standard Richter 10 hole harmonica tuning was devised in the early 19th century and is still used by most. Intended for “first position” chord/melody playing, it has been widely adapted to “second position” blues. That is, a harmonica in C for songs in G. As harmonica players know.

Despite the ubiquity of Richter tuning, the common second position style lacks an important note. Hence Country Tuning, the topic for this article.

First, a word on tuning reeds. Unscrew the cover plates from an instrument. An old one if you’ve not done it before. Look closely at the reeds. You’ll see small diagonal scratches on some, where they’ve been tuned in the factory. Tuning reeds, or changing their pitch is commonly done. Scraping the top of the reed with a small file removes metal, the pitch rises. The same at the bottom of a reed lowers the pitch.

The scratches you see on the reeds of your instrument provide fine tuning. However it is generally possible to raise (or lower) the pitch of a reed by a tone or more with this technique.

Country tuning is the same as Richter tuning except that the 5 draw reed is raised a semitone.

If you’re not  confident, and haven’t tuned your harmonicas this way.

Country tuned harmonicas, are available from Hohner, the special 20 is the only one they  offer currently. Ok you’ve got a country tuned harmonica, in the key of C, and a standard Richter tuned one in the key of C.

First, take the standard harmonica and play “The First Note”, in 2nd position. The opening notes are:

D, for draw!, and B, for  blow!

3D 3D” 2D 3D” 3D 4B 4D 5B 5D 6B

Assuming you can do the big 3D” bend, which means that you can bend, a draw note 3 times down on your harmonica.  The second to last note, the 5th Draw In second position, this note is the flat seventh. Great for blues, often not so for melodies.

Now try with the country tuned harmonica.

Hear the difference?

The tune sounds right the raised 5th Draw is a major 7th.

This note occurs rarely in blues solos, so you probably haven’t missed it so far.

However the major 7th, occurs everywhere in other music types, particularly pop, and folk melodies.

Ok, now try the entire major scale, first take a standard G harmonica, and  play the first position major scale. That is:

4B 4D 5B 5D 6B 6D 7D 7B

Now repeat this G Major scale on the country tuned C harmonica. Sound Different huh?

2D 3D” 3D 4B 4D 5B 5D 6B

Try the scale up, and down a few times. Now extend to the low notes, namely:

2D 2D’ 2B 1D 1B

Notice how the 2D’ is the same note as the 5D, just an octave lower. If you’re fumbling these scales, stick at them until they are smooth.

Now try some second position folk melodies.

However, gaining the major 7th (by tuning up the 5D) means losing the flat 7th, the original note.

Bend the 5D down, the original flat 7th returns. Try this exercise:

With the standard Richter tuned C harmonica, play 2D 3D 4D 5D

Now with the country tuned C harmonica, play 2D 3D 4D 5D’

The last note of each phrase should match. Of course the bent note doesn’t sound as smooth as the 5D on the Richter tuned harmonica.

For this reason standard Richter tuned harmonicas are generally better for blues.

Except perhaps for this riff. Take the country tuned harmonica, play the following 12 bar:

2D 3D 4D 5B 6B 5B 4D 3D
2D 3D 4D 5B 6B 5B 4D 3D
4B 5B 6B 6D 7B 6D 6B 5B
2D 3D 4D 5B 6B 5B 4D 3D
4D 5D 6D 7D 8D 7D 6D 5D
2D 3D 4D 5B 6B 5B 4D 3D

Sound familiar? It’s the essence of many blues, and rockabilly guitar backing lines.

Sounds good on the harmonica, the country tuned raised 5th Draw makes it possible.

Here’s a video so you can hear some Country Licks!

Have you ever heard of Country harmonica?

Have you ever used country tuning?

Do you own any country tuned harmonicas?

Do you have the need for country harmonica?

I would love to get your feedback on this, please leave any comments, or questions below,  and I will reply as soon as possible.

Thank you for visiting my website, please come back in the future, as i’m always adding new, and exciting content!

larry@allaboutharmonicas.com

Have a blessed day!

Larry

2 thoughts on “Country Harmonica!

  1. After reading this article, I just realised how much I am clueless about harmonicas. I do have a harmonica by Hohner, just to play for fun. But I never knew there was one that is specially designed for country music.

    If my harmonica is not country tuned, will it still be possible to try some of those country licks? I wish you could do a more detailed guide (with photos) on tuning the harmonica.

    Thanks for the information!

    1. Hi Farhan, Thank you for your helpful comments, I will add what you suggested about photos ,and tuning the harmonica. Yes you can practice those licks with a hohner, Golden melody, Special 20, a hohner crossover. and the pocket pal harmonica those harmonicas are set up to play Country. It shows that chart on the back of the harmonica package that the harmonicas come in. The Country tuned harmonicas make it sound better more sharp than flat because of the raised 5th draw note. Hope that helps you out.

      Have a blessed night!

      Larry

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