Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Hi all, I’m James, sadly, a newbie to most things harmonica, and all things played Irish. (only dabbled in blues harp)

I’m Considering getting a Chromatic Harmonica as a first main harmonica (I’ve played around a little with diatonic blues, but nothing serious, no real scale memory or anything). I’m trying to get ONE UNIT that will do most of what I want (I know, nearly impossible, but humor me).

***I WANT TO PLAY IRISH/FIDDLE TUNES EXCLUSIVELY. I love the droning ballad type (heard in a concertina), and the jigs and reel of pipes and fiddles.

After reading comments online, articles, seller sites, etc… I’ve come to this —> a Solo Tuned Chrom in 10 or 12 holes, with REVERSE SLIDER is the best offering for a lower price.

So,The big question because I can’t get my head around it is this: Most people say KEY OF G is the MOST COMMONLY PLAYED for this type. Followed by KEY OF D. But the REVERSE SLIDER DOESNT WORK WELL

…….I read on the Session List and elsewhere that a REVERSE SLIDER on a B/C CHROMATIC will give the most Common tunes.


(by most common I mean will play many tunes in the same fashion and key as folund in Fiddle and Concertina Tunes)

Can someone PLEASE Make this like SILLY SIMPLE ?

I got one kick at the can to buy something (sadly, can not buy a few and see the difference.

(sorry for the dazed and confused newbie)


Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

A chrom in the key of G will play most tunes easily in the keys of G major, D major, A dorian, E dorian, as well as some Bm and Em tunes. As you can see by checking the tunes on this site, that will work for the lion’s share of Irish trad tunes. Get one in "Irish" or "Eddie Clarke" or "reverse slide" tuning — they’re all same (i.e., pressing the slide lowers the note a half-step rather than raising it, as happens with a normal chrom harmonica). I haven’t bought one in a couple years, but I believe Seydel sells Irish-tuned chroms in G. Your other options are to retune a stock chrom yourself — not an easy task — exchange plates on a stock G chrom (that is, put an F# plate on the bottom), or have a customiser such as Brendan Power make one up for you.

The C reversed slide (B/C) will play the keys of C major (not too handy for Irish trad), but it does D dorian tunes nicely. Nice to have in your bag, but not nearly as handy as the G. The nice thing about this particular key, however, is that you can simply buy a stock B chrom, and reverse the slide yourself.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

I forgot to mention — the G chrom also plays Dmix easily. It’s definitely the all-purpose key you want to buy. Sure, you’ll have to sit out the D dorian tunes, but so will many of the flute players. When you’re ready to buy another chrom, get the C (C/B), next perhaps an A. But the G will do you handily.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

alec— thanks. i’m getting it..slowly but half-assuredly.

might i puff up my question a little?

if i just do a reverse slide key of G… will that not make my regular BLOW positions all sharps ? only playing actual GA BC etc… on the plunge IN ? I thought the point of reversing was to some how eliminate the sharps ?

or am i still missing it?

the B/C question arose from reading that concertina music was usually laid out on B/C and if you used a B/C reverse Harp it would play the same as the concertina.

again, just what i read, no practical experience with anything im writing….er…

thanks again

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

—-perhaps just a Paddy G Diatonic and save the world a long thread, hahaha..

ok, time for sleep.

thanks for entertaining my post folks,

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Brendan Power has just brought out his Play Irish Music on the Chromatic Harmonica book and cd. Click on the link under Instructional Material. You can have a look and listen to samples.
I have a G chromatic but use my Paddy tuned diatonics in sessions, they are more robust, and have more chords.
I am tempted to get the book/cd though, …. Christmas present?

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

The reason why B/C boxes and concertinas are popular and presumably the same with the harmonica is because they are fully chromatic, albeit they might be a bit more cchallenging. Basically the C row will have all the natural notes - C D E F G A B C - and as the B row is a half step down it will have the rest - B C# D# E F# G# A# B - basically you have every note in the scale and presuming that the harmonica stretches over 2 octaves there are going to be very few tunes you cant play.

Looking around online there is a suggestion that a 16 hole chromatic harmonica has just over 4 octaves which means, if you put the work in you can play any tune ever written! - It will mean lots of work with the slider though.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

I think I have yet to see the first B/C concertina, let alone think of them as popular.

Posted .

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Kilfarboy is right; I think you are talking about a B/C box, not a concertina. The point is, the B/C box and a chromatic harmonica with one row of reeds in C and the other row in B are analagous.

Here’s how it works: The stock chrom in key of C has the notes laid out so that when the slider is pressed in, the notes go up a semi-tones. In chroms like the Hohner 270, the top (exposed) row of reeds would be the C-row, and the bottom row of reeds is the C#-row. This arrangement works well for many musicians like Stevie Wonder and Toots Thielmans, but some Irish trad players found out years ago that they could get more authentic ornaments if the slider made the notes go DOWN a semitone, rather than up. (Just a preference, there are good Irish chrom players who use stock chroms).

One way to get that effect is simply to hold the slider in most of the time, and let it out for ornaments and accidentals. That’s what the late Eddie Clarke of Co Cavan did. He played a stock key of C. That meant that with the slider pressed in, he was playing in sharped keys, mostly Ab and Eb and their relative minors. That meant that fiddlers like Joe Ryan and Maeve Donnelly and Frankie Gavin had to tune up to play with him (although FG in particular favors that anyway). Not a session-friendly arrangement in most places.

Holding the slide in is also tricky, and some players figured out that a second option was to simply unscrew the harp, remove the slider and flip it so the lower row of reeds was exposed. Now you pressed the slide in for ornaments and accidentals. But that didn’t solve the flatted-key if you were dealing a stock harp in C. But there’s an easy fix: Buy a stock harp in key of B, flip the slide upside down, and now you’ve got a C/B.

The C/B (of B/C) chrom plays well in Cmajor, D dorian, Gmix. But that doesn’t cover the most popular ITM keys, and it’s fairly high-pitched for my taste. So I and many others prefer a chrom in key of G. If you simply flipped the slide on a key of G harp, however, you will get an G#/G. Now you’re playing up a half-step. What you want for sessions is a G/F#.

One way to go is buy two harmonicas, a G and and F. Remove the bottom plate from the F (the F# plate) and replace the G# on the G harp bottom. Another way is to laboriously re-tune every note on the bottom plate of the G, down a full step. Not easy, but I do it with solder and filing. A third option is to buy a stock "Irish tuned" harp in G, like from Seydel. A fourth option is to have Brendan Power or other customisers tune one for you.

I should add that flipping slides doesn’t work with the Hohner CX-12 and several other models that have the notes laid out in alternating, zig-zag patterns. There, the only option is to re-tune half the reeds yourself (which is what I do). But I don’t recommend this path if you haven’t much practice in re-tuning reeds.

Clear as mud ?

Try to get Eddie Clarke and Joe Ryan’s "Crossroads" CD, or Randal Bays and Joel Bernstein’s "Pigtown Fling" CD to hear great examples of the fiddle and reversed-slide chrom sound. Mick Kinsella has a track or two of this style on his CD also, and Mark Graham does a bit of this on his CDs with Kevin Burke.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

I play mostly Paddy Richter tuned diatonic harmonicas, but not chroms, though I have considered learning semi-regularly. I often see the advice that a reverse-slide G chrom is the best choice, but have often wondered why not one in D? After all, with D and G (and related modes) being the most common keys in this music, wouldn’t playing a D instrument and being able to easily flatten the C# be the most natural way forward?

There are obviously a few chrom players around here. Can any of you suggest what I am not seeing here, please?

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Using a D chrom seems natural, but in my opinion there are several minuses. First, the D is the lowest-pitched of all the chroms (besides the low C), and reed response is pretty sluggish for playing ITM at speed, especially reels. Secondly, the ease of playing in Dmajor with a D harmonica — that is, not having to use the button — is often a disadvantage. Playing D on D often means that you are playing a string of consecutive blow notes, which can sound mushy. Playing D on a G harmonica makes for a more crisply articulated sound, since you are required to alternate blows with draws, and use the button for the C#. Joel Bernstein, a really great ITM chrom player, pointed this out to me years ago. I remember that he pointed out how much better "Rambling Pitchfork" sounded when played on a G harp, rather than a D. Joel hardly ever plays a D harp, and although I own one, I never take it to sessions.

The G plays easily in all the main ITM keys, has a quick reed response, and is pitched very nicely to blend with fiddles. You may say: But doesn’t playing in G on a G sound mushy? Well, it can on certain tunes, and then I play the concertina on those tunes.; or I might use a C harp. But it’s nice to use a single harmonica all night at a session, never having to switch them in the middle of a set, and the G works nicely for that.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help


So, if you replace the bottom plate of a G Chrom with an F#, then the slider does not need to be reversed - if I’m getting this right. right?

that was something that confused me… reversing the slider means to play the main melody (without the thrills and frills) you’d have to remain plunged in, yes?

I am sold on the G though (it’s progress)

(i do have my guitar playing brother trying to help beat this into my head too… …)


Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

That’s right, with the G plate on top, F# plate on bottom, the slide wants to stay just as you get it from the factory, exposing the top row of reeds. The only stock harps that really benefit from actually flipping the slide upside down in ITM would be the B (producing a C/B harp) and the E (producing an F/E). Anything else, and you end up with sharped keys, which might be useful in special situations, but not in most sessions. I use an F harp rarely — for a couple D dorian tunes like Porthole of the Kelp, and for G dorian tunes like Splendid Isolation. Not very useful, but it’s in the bag.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Right, and there’s not a lot of music out there for a C/B Harp, right.

And I finally get the reversed G/F#… i was only seeing it as playing a SHARP as your Slide Out key…. but F# is pretty much the same thing as a G Flat, so you are playing flats…

wow…. progress just as the sun is setting.

thanks all !


Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Alec, many thanks for explaining the preference for G over D, that makes sense. That sounds like the sort of thing that you are unlikely to work out without experimenting.

Actually, the thing I have been really considering is something like a Paddy Richter (or possibly Melody Maker) note layout in a chrom with reverse slide action. I’ll have to think through how runs of notes are likely to go before ordering anything like that. You’ve given me something to think about there.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Yep - sorry, you caught me talking out of my a*se!

I thought it was odd to talk about B/C concertinas but as it was mentioned above me I assumed it must be correct terminology. Either way I know next to nothing about harmonicas and concertinas and precious little about button boxes. I do know that lots of box playing friends of mine either do or have used B/C boxes and do so for the reasons I mentioned. I understand the theory behind that and I assume that it is a theory that could also apply to harmonicas - it doesn’t mean it is the option you should go for though.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

This thread overlaps somewhat with that other one up the list, which is why I missed this one till now. I mentioned the Brendan Power course there, and I’ve actually just reviewed it for Harmonica World. It doesn’t deal with reversing the slide, though his next tutor will (It may be available now, I haven’t checked).

Anyone who fancies playing everything on a B/C (slide in/out) harp is a better and braver man than I am. I could suggest that you may have some difficulty with getting the right ornamentation there if you play in session keys (G plus related modes and D plus related modes). It’s a personal view only, and I’m assuming you want to play with other musicians in the regular keys, but if it were me I’d have two harps, one in F#/G (slide in/out) and one in C#/D (slide in/out). It’s up to you. I see no advantage in deliberately giving yourself a ton of unnecessary gymnastics to do, but all power to your elbow and all that.

If I may just wax slightly philosophical for a minute. The whole thing about reversing the slide and, indeed, using chroms in Irish at all, is to do the ornamentation better. This is a laudable aim, but a harmonica is a harmonica, and with the best will in the world you will not ever sound like a decent fiddle player, for example, when it comes to ornamentation. You could argue that it’s perfectly valid to get things as right as you can and give the harmonica its own unique voice in ornamentation matters, and I wouldn’t disagree with you, but there is another point of view. Tremolo harps have been used for many decades in ITM to great effect and there are wonderful players such as Noel Battle who use nothing else. They can’t bend, they are completely diatonic, and the only ornaments they can employ are the diddley-dee tonguing and the jaw-flick ones. They still sound bloody good to me! I’m not saying for one minute that recent progress with blues harps and chroms hasn’t been a thoroughly good thing, but what I am saying is that it’s way too easy for harmonica players to get a bit carried away with ornamentation and end up letting the decorative tail wag the melodic dog. Whilst all this is a matter of taste, I urge you to listen to some modern harmonica recordings and take me on if you disagree with me that the ornaments are often too loud, too mechanical, too unsubtle and too predictable. There are many glorious exceptions and I’m n ot going to name names at all. I just think that really good ITM can be played on the simple little blues harp, with nifty articulation, great rhythm, clean expression and just a little judicious use of the limited range of ornaments available - blow-bends are great, as are jaw-flicks and tongued diddleys. You can even emulate a sort of roll that sounds great to me though a few purists might demur. First and foremost, ITM is about the tunes. Ornamentation is de rigeur too, of course, but every other instrument accepts its limitations and, well, that’s my approach too. I’m just telling you what my way is, not that anyone else’s way is right or wrong. Nice, clean, full-toned well-articulated playing with good, solid rhythm and spare but effective use of ornamentation is my goal. 🙂

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Hi all-

I really appreciate all the personal views and technical jargon this (and my newer post) has generated.

Very honestly, I know terribly little about music, about harp layout, scales and the like. The little I’ve played has been a smidge of practice blues. Hate blues and didn’t realize irish solo was possible on the harp.

further didnt know you could play fiddle and box music on the harmonica. I was overjoyed you might say.

then my severe lack of music knowledge kicked in….

…and add to this an equally severe monetary shortage (grin)…

—- basically I’ve been out to find what will provide the widest range of Irish Harmonica expression (that is play as much irish, fiddle, box like tunes possible) on ONE, maybe 2 harps.

I’m not trying to put myself down or shoot myself before I start, I was just saying, without having the beginning knowledge firmly in place to make a technical decision of what choice is best (the monetary consideration firing up here), it’s hard to make a more "personal choice" or creative choice.

So, I threw it to you all, figuring I’d be able to sift through personal opinion and technical considerations in a concentrated thread.

And thanks, it’s been VERY helpful. Not decided yet, but definitely ruled some things out.

And I admit, thankfully got some misconceptions and wrong instrument names fixed up,

This thread was started when I assumed the Chromatic was "THE" answer to what best incorporates all elements (basically I was under the impression the Chrom Irish tuned was the "Advancement" everyone was moving towards.)

I’m basically down to (as my other thread might suggest) either :
1. a Paddy Tuned Diatonic G (and maybe a D)
2. a Chrom Irish G (here it seems seydel is the only way, but I REALLY want to avoid wood combs.)
3. Playing with the idea of a 10 Hole Chrome G, diatonically tuned to Paddy with reverse slide for ornaments. (craft, but if you can dream…)

Thanks again !
It’s an interesting and I’m sure will become an enjoyable ride.

(ps- to my delight I’ve realized Cajun and Irish are tantamount to the same thing !! I am n east-coaster afterall)

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

Just to reiterate - in my opinion low D diatonics are better for Irish than standard D. SP20 low Ds are the same price as standard Ds. I hardly ever use a standard D blues harp. Most of the time, with those, you’re an octave above the fiddle. You’re aiming to blend in, not stick out like a sore thumb.

Re: Irish Harp -> Can’t Understand the Reversed Slider talk, please help

unless i can find a diatonic tuned 10 hole Chromatic G that I can swap the bottom out for F#……

im gonna go Diatonics,

thanks for all the help