bagpipe tunes on harmonica

bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Can anyone tell me how to play tunes written for the bagpipes on a harmonica. The hohner highlander is no more, is there a diatonic harp that will do the job. with minor surgery perhaps?

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I play a lot of highland pipe tunes on a one row melodeon which is the same idea. If you want the tunes to come out in A mix (A scale with a G natural) then a D harmonica would work and have all the notes available on the chanter.
I am not positive but I think what the Highlander offered was the seventh flattened but the other notes were the same as a normal diatonic, so yes you could retune the G sharps to naturals on an A harmonica.
I say all this not being much of a harmonica player….but the principals seem the same as one row.

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Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

What bagpipe are you refering to? There are a lot of them with different tunings.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Here is an explanation of the Hohner Highlander:
http://www.patmissin.com/reviews/highlander.html

Apparently if offers a D diatonic and A mix tuning in the same tremolo harmonica on opposite sides. Makes playing chords nicer than just using a d to play in A mix on the A mix side.
I would ask here if anyone has a used Highlander? Or maybe a free reed forum?
I’m sure there are folk that would retune an A of your choice to A mix as well.
Since the OP is asking about the Highlander I would they are interested in Scottish tunes in mixolydian mode?

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Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I am referring to the GHB . I gave up trying to learn celtic tunes on the diatonic harmonica many years ago because there was always a note or two not there. I recently stumbled on some tunes composed by a Dr Bruce Thomson whose biography stated that he "wrote some 450 tunes for the bagpipes which is not bad for an instrument that only has nine notes"
Eureka! says I, there should be one note to spare.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

As an ocarina player limited range is something I always have to deal with. Don’t be dismayed as there is a LOT of limited range traditional music, just not so much within the irish tradition. As you’ve found bagpipe music, not just scottish, is generally witin a more limited range.

There is Jack Campins 9 note tunebook: http://www.campin.me.uk/Music/Chalumeau.abc

Quite a lot of the music on Jacks site fits limited ranges, not all of it is scottish.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I think you are confused about how diatonic free reeds work McDowall. You get two notes from each hole so twenty notes not ten: "Eureka says I there should be one note spare."
Diatonic harmonicas have plenty of range for most tunes. Yes they can play in a limited number of keys and modes. One of my melodeons has only 7 buttons (14 notes) and I can play just about any tune in D, the related minors, Amix highland tunes, and many tunes in G that have no c nat, and many other g tunes through adaptation.

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Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Well, I use some solo-tuned tremolo harmonicas such as Tombo Bands, which are very good. Solo- tuned means they have all the notes of the diatonic scale throughout the range of the harp. Tunes in A Mixolydian are no problem on these harps. The only issue that arises is with tunes that contain accidentals. You can play an Amix tune on a D harmonica. With blues harps, yes there are missing notes, crucially the sixth note of the scale in the lowest octave. The commonest solution for this to tune up the 3-blow reed by a whole tone. The 3-blow note that you lose by doing this is duplicated anyway at 2-draw. The Highlander harmonica is basically a double-sided Hohner Echo in D/A. You need to know that the low ends of Echos are tuned like blues harps, so the harp is not solo-tuned and there are missing notes (unless you retune as above, which I always do). The D side of the Highlander is the same as any Echo D harp. The A side has had its G# notes tuned down to G natural, so you’re playing the flattened 7th instead of the regular 7th when you play in the key of A - in effect, you’re playing in A mix, but, because you’re playing in first position, you can play slightly more appropriate chording for those pipe tunes (if chording is your thing on the harmonica) than if you were playing in Amix on a D harp.

Like all Hohner Echos, the Highlander is hard to work on. It has a delicate maple wood comb that is highly prone to swelling, paint-peeling and chipping at the mouthpiece end. The whole shebang is nailed, not screwed, together which means you have to be very careful when dismantling and reassembling. If you’re hell-bent on getting a Highlander but can’t find one, you could get an Echo double-sided harp in D/A and tune those G#s down yourself: it’s two notes, which means four reeds to retune (because tremolos are double-reeded). If you know what you’re doing it’s a 20-minute job, but it’s a minefield if you’ve never worked on a double-sided Echo before. If it were me, I’d buy Tombo Bands in D and A and practise harp-switching! The Echo/Highlander harps don’t take kindly to very hard playing and, eventually, some maintenance will inevitably be needed. Speaking, I assure you, from mucho experience!

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I’d just add that I never play Amix tunes on an A harp, always on a D harp. If you’re rich you can retune an A blues harp to play in Amix by tuning down the G#s, but you’ll probably be the only harmonica player in the world who’s bothered to do it and you’ll possess an A harp that won’t be much use for anything else bar your handful of pipe tunes. Use a D in second position. Groovy!

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Assuming all your GHB tunes are in Amix only (no G#, no C natural), a D harmonica does the job. It does the job for any tin whistle/flute/uileann pipe player out there, and even a single-row melodeon in D enables you to play in Amix. In other words - D major really IS Amix.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Except for the flattened 7th. Yes, Same notes, but different tonic note. I agree with you, but the point, I think, of the Highlander for Amix tunes is that, if you like to play vamping chords, they work better on the retuned A side than they do on the D side. Pat Missin, see link above, explains this well. I don’t play vamping chords so I’m hunkydory with a D harp for Amix tunes.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Oops, duplicate. Sorry.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Thank you for all the big words and concepts everyone, I will purchase a D harmonica and give it a go.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

If you’re going for a tremolo harp, fine (I recommend Tombo Bands for their quality and solo tuning). If you’re going for a blues harp, I could recommend a low D, which will keep your tune playing at fiddle pitch.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Have a Look to Seydel Harmonikas , especially in Paddy Richter Tuning. they will also realise every tuning You want.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Thank you, we’re getting warmer. Is there any difference between paddy richter tuning and low D (and D flat) ?
I am having trouble finding an Australian supplier and there are some VERY expensive harmonicas out there.
Are you thinking of a tombo bands 20 holer Steve??, not too sure about the tremolo sound,, a bit anaemic?
The seydels look good too, what a saga just to get a mouth organ.
Once again thanks for the technical assistance.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I’ve had poor experiences with Seydel Session Steel low D harps and I’m not alone. You may get luckier. Lamentably, Hohner stopped making Special 20 low Ds and XB40 low Ds. There’s one called the Hohner Thunderbird that I haven’t tried; it’s quite pricey. Paddy Richter tuning is one note different to the standard blues harp tuning: the 3-blow reed is tuned up a whole tone to put back the missing sixth note in the bottom octave. If a harp says it’s in "low" tuning, it’s tuned the same as a standard harp but an octave lower.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Heheh. I can’t remember how many holes my Tombo Bands have without looking and I can’t look right now! The model number is Tombo Band 3121.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Thanks for the help.
These are in stock with a fairly local mail order supplier (mandoharp.com) I have sort of ordered and am close to paying for the pretty brass one, so this is the final call!
Any thoughts before the hammer drops??

Diatonic models currently in stock in Lo-D are:
Hohner 565/20 Cross Harp MS $95.40
Hohner 590/20 Big River Harp MS $41.75
Seydel 10201 Blues Session $43.00
Seydel 10201_antique Blues Session with Antique Brass Coverset $49.00
Seydel 10301 Session Steel $70.00
Seydel 10330 Orchestra S (not Richter tuning) $70.00
Seydel 16301 1847 Silver $102.00
Seydel 16501 1847 Noble $102.00
All the models and keys we have in stock along with current pricing are shown on our web site Harmonica Index Here:

http://www.mandoharp.com/Harmonicas/index.html

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Any Hohner harp with MS (modular system) stamped on its cover has parts that are completely interchangeable with any other MS harp. I have a few in different keys. They work fine but there’s something a bit unlovable about them. The Big Rivers are quite "fat" in the mouth but they’re quite popular. You can buy replacement reedplates for MS harps but they are not cheap. My experiences with the low keys are out of date by about 15 years. I wasn’t happy then, which explains the long gap. They may have improved. After my negative experiences with Session Steels I now avoid Seydel, perhaps unjustly. I’m still relying on my old SP20 low Ds which Tony Dannecker made for me. To misquote The Who, I hope I die ‘fore they get old!

By the way, you’d get on quite well with low D harps without the Paddy Richter retune, as most Irish D/related mode tunes don’t go below that bottom D (the flutes and whistles would hate it if they did).

Finally, my Tombo Bands have 21 holes, 42 reeds. That does not mean twice as many tones as a blues harp. Tremolos have two reeds for each note.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Wondering what problems you ran into with Seydel low-tuned harps Steve? Always interested to hear about problems that people are finding with Seydel harps and so are Lars and the team at Seydel. They do their best to address all reports of difficulties.

My company (MandoHarp Australia, mentioned above thanks mcdowall) is the only Seydel Sales and Service Partner for Australasia. We are also authorised Hohner and Suzuki sales and service partners. I play mostly celtic with my partners in musical crimes in a band named ‘Headland’. I play low-tuned Paddy Richter harps every day and like my Seydels very much. Also play Suzuki Promasters retuned to Paddy, Seydel Orchestra Ss (orchestra tuning) and (solo-tuned) SCX-48s in D and G.

Best Wishes,

Dane

PS. I also have a Highlander (it was the last one left in Oz so I decided to keep it for me rather than sell it) and enjoy playing it very much. I find Thunderbirds are very good too, though pretty expensive. :(

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

"By the way, you’d get on quite well with low D harps without the Paddy Richter retune, as most Irish D/related mode tunes don’t go below that bottom D (the flutes and whistles would hate it if they did). "

Thoroughly agree. However, I prefer Low Ds in Paddy to those in standard Richter as then can play Bm 4th pos and have root note in bottom octave. Luckily Mark (our whistle player and flautist) has no problem with me playing an octave lower than he is at times (and very occasionally an octave higher). Can certainly attest to it being a problem in some proscriptive sessions though. They can sometimes get their noses right of joint if one is not in unison.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

Oh, and I just noticed that the price I quoted on the 1847 Noble in the email that mcdowall quoted from above was incorrect. We are offering the Noble at $134 AUD, not $102. It had been a long and trying day that day!

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I’m always a bit reluctant to diss harmonicas solely as a result of my personal unfortunate experiences, but, since you ask, this is what’s happened. And, before I start, I’m quite experienced, I know how to look after my harps and how to play them in a manner that best enhances their longevity. I bought two Session Steels in low D. Out of the box, neither harp survived their first session night, less than a couple of hours’ playing time, before the 7-blow reed went south. In many years of playing, I’ve never experienced anything like that before with any harp, let alone harps that cost so much money. I complained on the harp-l forum when the first one failed. A Seydel European rep, Ben Bouman, invited me to send the harp to him, and he kindly replaced the reed. Unfortunately, that harp subsequently suffered, rather promptly, a number of reeds going out of tune. I gave the thing up as a bad job as utterly unreliable in the session setting. When the second one failed, I just gave up on them. I have a good harmonica-playing friend who also bought a couple of these, and, guess what, he had exactly the same problem as I did with both his harps. Caveat emptor. Your kilometrage may vary, etc.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

I’ve been following your posts on The Session for several years Steve and thus I respect your knowledge and experience.

I’ve run into similar problems with the stainless steel-reeded models myself occasionally (i.e. reeds suddenly going flat after only brief, soft playing, retune but go flat again and eventually break) and Seydel have always been good enough to send me replacement plates. Also have had customers report similar problems at a rate of around 2%. If (on inspection and discussion with customer) I believe the fault is due to the instrument rather than the player and the harmonica is less than a year or so old we will always replace the plates under warranty and Seydel have never refused any of my warranty requests for replacement parts. From my perspective this is certainly not an ideal situation but at least Seydel have always been prepared to do whatever it takes to fix and that is stark contrast to similar experiences with Hohner and Suzuki, where we’ve found it usually difficult (and sometimes impossible) to get them to acknowledge that the problems may be due to instrument failure rather than player abuse. In that situation we replace under our MandoHarp warranty and wear the cost ourselves if necessary.

The first time this happened to me I was similarly amazed as, like you, I’d never had it happen to me before on any harp in over fifty years of playing. The same problem was even more pronounced on the brass-reeded models about three years ago. At its worst peak our return rate on those models was running at a concerning 5%. In the last couple of years I’ve not had the problem rear its ugly head for me on my Session Steels or 1847s and our return rate on these models at MandoHarp has dropped significantly (currently at around 1%). With the brass-reeded models (Blues Sessions, Blues Favorites, Solist Pros) our return rate has reduced even more significantly (to around 1.5%), particularly in the last six months or so. I’m hoping the problems were due to poor batches of reed material but I have no evidence to support this other than our dropping return rates.

I discussed the problem with Lars several times three and four years ago. I was disappointed that he did not really acknowledge it as a serious issue for them because (aside from our experiences at MandoHarp) I’d seen plenty of people on discussion groups around the world reporting and discussing the same experience.

I’m really not sure what to make of all this. I wonder if Seydel were adopting a ‘head in the sand’ approach to a known issue, or whether they really weren’t seeing the same return rates we were experiencing. Since the situation has markedly improved for us recently I’m thinking I may never find the answer to this conundrum. :(

If you are still interested in getting your Low D Session Steels fixed you are welcome to send just the plates (to save on shipping costs) to me here in Oz and I will arrange replacements for you as well as raising the issue with Lars again. You can contact me on dane @mandoharp.com. I wish I had a better answer for you but hopefully this may be a little help.

Re: bagpipe tunes on harmonica

That’s a kind offer which I’ll consider (if I can remember where my harp graveyard is!). I’m not entirely sure that return rates are a true reflection of harmonica failure rate. I’ve bought dozens of 10-hole harps over the last 30-plus years, and, until I sent that Session Steel back to Ben Bouman, I had never returned a harp. In my early days when I had poor technique I blew my harps out after two or three months at best (with the honourable exception of my Lee Oskars, sadly not my favourite harps). From talking to other harmonica players I knew it was me, and I eventually got my technique right so that harps blowing out became a very uncommon event. I’ve had poor quality harps from Huang, whose quality control I regarded as a bit below par, and there was a time when Hohner Special 20s went through a bad patch with poor gapping and uneven reed response, happily now fixed. But I’m an inveterate tweaker and can often fix problems, but once tweaked a harp can’t be returned, no matter how poor its quality. I suspect that there’s many a harp lying in a drawer somewhere with only a month or two’s playing time under its belt, with one busted reed, that was never returned.

Thanks for the offer. Luckily, I’ve never had the covers off those two harps, so I do consider myself blameless!