For those who enjoy playing "Celtic" Reed Harps

Starting in 1820 when that 16 year old, Herr Bushmann put some pitch-pipes together to make the first "mundaeoline," harmonicas have been playing all sorts of music styles ever since. Playing "Celtic" music with harmonicas is a challenge (at least for me) ... and really fun, once your mouth figures out how to play the piper-like nature of the Irish/Celtic music style. I mostly prefer using the "diatonic," ten-hole types that were created by another 16-year old, Herr Hohner, around the 1860s. They're inexpensive, but with a little customizing and sanding to make the tone holes tight, they become very professional sounding.  Tony said I could use the blog to help us reed harp players talk about the ways these wonderful little instruments are used to play music that is in the traditions of Celtic music found throughout the world.

For starters, I have some of my tunes posted on YouTube that I hope will help get this discussion going. When I go out in group playing, I use a little battery-operated, Roland Cube to get that small (very small) bit of amp needed to play with very resonant instruments like the fiddle, dulcimer, etc..     

I know there's a LOT of reed harp folk far better than I am, and it'd be good to hear from you. -- That KelticDead guy. 

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Comment by Patrick O-Shaun Young on July 5, 2012 at 12:34

Not at Cathal. I agree. Richter tuning is not ideal for Celtic tunes.

I've got a lot friends who use the Paddy Richter tune harmonicas, and I don't mind having alternatives in the stores, if they'll do that. I see by your site that you do a lot of customizing of harmonicas, and I support your "mission" to get those new types of harmonicas out there. I'm just not equipped to make changes to the current instruments as you are. 

For now, it's fun for me to find ways to help reed harp musicians play Celtic tunes with the Richter tuned, diatonic harmonicas. And ... I find it adds a new dimension to playing all those traditional tunes that I grew up playing on my recorders and penny whistles. That's the fun part about "Celtic Folk" music. There are as many ways to play the tunes as there are musicians and instruments to play them. That keeps this kind of music new and fresh for every generation.

Once I learned how to blow and suck air out of these little cantankerous instruments, I realized that harmonicas are the best investment for us "wandering minstrels" types, even with the Richter tuning. Thanks for becoming my friend, Cathal. 

Comment by Cathal Johnson on July 5, 2012 at 2:13

A bit like melodeon players, although they are not tunes to Richter… Richter tuning is not ideal, Paddy Richter alter just one note. This alone give you  a note that you would other wise have to bend. Which is hard to do accurately when playing fast. I do not like the idea of the Richter tuning being the dominate tuning for harmonicas. I prefer other alternative tunings to be the norm rather than it. It is to conventional and I do not like that idea so much. Give me alternatives always. People have got to get away from ‘out of the box’ harmonicas from their local stores. Its a throw away thing that does not resonate with me any more. Also there is so much more fun, creativity and exploration involved in moving away from the norm. 

I will look into your sites, I am sure they are great! I am not a purist by any means. So please don’t get me wrong. 

Comment by Patrick O-Shaun Young on July 4, 2012 at 20:50

Hi Cathal.  

Actually, ... no. I don't. Part of my "mission" in having fun playing Celtic tunes with the diatonic harmonicas is to find ways to play the tunes with only the Richter tuning. That means, that most folk can get those "out-of-the-box," ten-hole harmonicas from local music stores to play the tunes.

Of course, this means I occasionally have to move a note or two around from the original, "traditional" tunes. For example, in the tune "Southwind," or "Poor Folk," I use the "G" diatonic harmonica and move the normal "E" note to "F." The tune still sounds good. With "Rights of Man" I change the whole attack with "Rights of Man" to jump the notes down to the lowest note on the reed harp, since it'd be reeeealllly hard to fuzz with all the notes in the traditional order that's done (primarily for fiddle play). My tongue turns into a pretzel. = ^ )

That's part of the fun of what I call "song catching" traditional tunes for play with diatonic harmonicas. I offer the arrangements that I do from my website at KelticDead_Music , and I've recently started a companion site as a "reader" (FolkArtNews) that goes in line with my KelticDead Broadside information (that's part of the fun too). I've found that the regular Richter tuned reed harps can play (or fake) most traditional Celtic tunes. ... It's all fun.

... O.K. , O.K., ... so I don't get out much! - - KelticDead

Comment by Cathal Johnson on July 4, 2012 at 19:30

Hello Patrick, nice to see some harmonica players here. Do you use Paddy Richter tuning for Irish music? 

Comment by Tradconnect Reviews on July 4, 2012 at 14:59

Patrick. Thanks for this. In fact I am trying to encourage members to use the blogs more. We don't mind a bit of self promotion, especially if it provides some useful insights or information. Artists in particular should use the blogs to promote albums they are making, tours etc. Provide some info that is informative to members and an image and we feature it.

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