Help Understanding Diatonic Tuning

Hello everyone. I have newbie questions. I read about different models of harp having different tunings or characteristics, yet they are all key of C. Some are Richter, some are better for single notes, some better for chords, some are compromised. Huh?, Ok fine. That is great, but does any of that matter if you are thinking about pulling the trigger on a $200 Beginner To Boss course? In the world of a beginner, would not a Lee Oscar or Special 20 simply be Ford vs. Chevy or Coke vs. pepsi? If one is learning to change the oil, rotate the tires, and change your tranny fluid…it would not matter if you used Mac, Matco, or Snap On tools. All are quality products. Is that basically true for the harmonica beginner as well?

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basically yes

As far as tunings go, in Rickter tuning there are three basic tunings:

Just is the original tuning from years ago. I don’t know about about it.

Compromise Is a half way house between just tuning and equal, hence the name compromise tuning.

Equal is a tuning suited to single notes and playing melodies.

After saying this Lee Oskar who uses equal tuning has created some custom tunings for his harmonicas. Others have done this as well, Will Wilde has a tuning suited for playing blues rock.

For the Beginner to Boss course any C harp in standard Richter tuning will do (equal, or compromise) if you want to play it safe your fenders will be fine.


Fantastical. I just signed up for Beginner To Boss. After doing a lot of looking at various online courses, the B2B course seems to be well rounded for the newbie. For me, jumping around via various Youtube videos and teachers is not fun. I prefer structure.


When you get more experience and confidence you can work on your harps to gap the reeds and make them play better. Here is a video of Tim Douthit who did some reed work on a set of Fenders (yours).

I bought a case of Fender Blues Deluxe harps from Sweetwater - $70 with case, so about $10/harp (free shipping and a bag of CANDY!). Flat-sanded the draw reedplate, gapped all the reeds as best I could. Now I have overblows, to the degree I can overblow, which, uh, is still a work in progress, on 4, 5 and 6 on the G, A, Bb, C and D harps (though I UN-gapped the 4’s on the G, A and Bb 'cause those were locking up on REGULAR blows), and 4 and 5 on the E and F harps - could NOT get the 6 OB to work on those two. Also - the E harp SHOULD be an Eb harp - c’mon, Fender, nobody uses E harps! ANYway, bottom line - with about 15 - 45 minutes of work, per harp, I turned these $10 harps into, oh, $14 harps, easy. This is now my travel set - I can definitely do jams with these, and at this price point, it’s not gonna kill me if they fall out of the canoe.

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Yes, @BlindFarmer,

do it like this and you will do it right! Before completing the BTB course, I also wandered through YouTube in leaps and bounds or tried to work with books. Learned little until luckily found @Luke’s course.
I learned a lot after finishing the course.
Today I am able to play different genres, change keys, improvise and find tones in songs myself. My bending is getting better and safer. I only have a few problems with very fast songs, which will also improve over time.

In case you are interested, I started with the harp and the course around September 2021 and sometimes I learn with longer forced breaks.
I don’t put myself under pressure or stress, it’s an important hobby for me, which is a lot of fun and also offers health benefits for learning: good relaxation, breathing, muscles, motor skills and concentration.

I have never regretted spending on the course, also because you can manage the time and pace yourself!

I wish you patience, good relaxation and lots of fun!

Best Regards from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Thank you very much my friend. I am interested in this for fun, hobby, therapy, as a way to express emotion. I had a sick family member on a ventilator during covid. It was amazing the comfort provided by the acoustic guitar abd ukulele during that time. I am not as interested in gigging, just play for fun.


@BlindFarmer you are 100% correct! People make a big deal about harp brands. It’s not a big deal at all.

It’s like guitar players all getting caught up on string brands. I know someone who worked in a music store and sold a set of strings to Jimi Hendrix.
Jimi: “I need a set of guitar strings.”
Friend: “What brand do you want?”
Jimi: “Whatever.”
Friend: “OK what gauge do you want?”

Learn technique and use it to express emotion. Boom.

I’m so excited (and honored) that you’ve decided to do BTB! Cheeee hoooooo.

@AstridHandbikebee63 reading your post touches my heart. I’m so grateful that you are in my life and part of this awesome community.:notes: