Not being afraid to being out-of-tune

Is it possible to play a note out of tune, then in tune, almost creating a “bend” inside of a note? By doing so, the note still sounds “in tune”, even though it took a millisecond (or a little less) to get it there. It doesn’t matter if you’re drawing or blowing, doesn’t matter which end of the scale that you’re on, speed is probably the most important factor. You need time to adjust the note before you move on to the next note in your song(riff). Maybe this question is understood by experienced harp players and is, therefore, a silly question. Worse yet, maybe it’s a dumb question. The answer to it might be a simple, “Hell no!” But the listener to our harmonica music is human, as we are, those of us who play it. We don’t fully understand how we create our music (regardless of whether pro or amateur). That’s one of the great mysteries of music. We aren’t sure where it comes from, but it’s magical. Same for the listener, the way they hear us is magical also. Things (techniques) which can’t be explained can still be effective. While 'going by the book" leaves us, both as players and listeners, emotionally empty. This is just a passing thought, but one that I want to think more about and see where it might lead. Why are some songs “good listening”, while most aren’t? It’s a question which may never be answered. But the answer might include, “not being afraid to being out-of-tune once in a while, if even for just a millisecond.”

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No human is perfect in the way a machine can be, and that is what makes music played by us always better than music played by a computer or synthesizer following a fixed, exact formula for timing and pitch.

– Slim

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Hey @MountainRecluse love your thoughts about the mysteries of music. Just wanna make sure I don’t miss something…Was there an actual question here, or just rheotorical?

Rock on my friend.
-Luke

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Mostly, it was just me rambling (thinking out loud), but at least one question in there, I think? Can some songs be slightly out of tune (with the harp only), while the other instruments are still in key, and still not kill the song? The harmonica, as we know, has a unique sound anyway, so, can it be “off” and still convey an emotional link to the overall message of the song which doesn’t turn off the listener. We also know that all listeners don’t hear the same way. Some might like it, many might not. This is a loaded question. One which is hard to answer, or maybe it isn’t? Thank you for your interest in my musings!

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Well, it’s possible, but it’s also possible for the harmonica to “kill the song”! I’ve seen it happen many times. There are several keys that 1 harmonica will sound good in. For example, a C harmonica may sound great on a song in C, a Blues in G, a song in Dm, or a song in Am, even in the hands of fairly inexperienced player.

But a C harmonica WILL NOT sound good on a song in the key of Db.

This is where I think it pays for harmonica players to do their homework, learn about keys, and have the restraint not to play when they don’t have the right tool for the job.

I talk about all of this in Harmonica Keys for Beginners.

Hope that helps!

Aloha,
Luke

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God created ‘music’ with a mathematical ‘formula’. Each note has its own wavelength or pitch. Our ears are sensitive to ‘conflicting pitch’ notes, often referred to as ‘off key’. However if you listen to a good singer, you will notice that they sometimes ‘bend’ into note. Similarly a good harmonica player will ‘bend’ into a tone. Some of the most popular music contains lots of ‘accidentals’ (a note that doesn’t exist in the scale that the song is played in)
among those musical geniuses that wrote tunes in that manner are Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and Bronislaw Kaper. These composers are revered for their ‘unique’ melodies that are considered beautiful even they don’t follow the ‘norms’. A very good example of this is “Invitation”, well done by Beegie Adair. Kaper wrote the music to many, many movies and TV shows, including “A Life of Her Own” which featured “Invitation”. You can find it on the web. I have found that most songs can be played in a transposed key with no problems. This is not always true on a harmonica, which is loved for its "unique sounds’, many of which are due to bending.

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The harmonica, as we know, has a unique sound anyway, so, can it be “off” and still convey an emotional link to the overall message of the song which doesn’t turn off the listener.

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Hey John - welcome to the forum my friend. Yeah, it’s true. I’m working on doing a lesson for Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, and his harmonica is a little bit out of tune. Doesn’t matter because the emotion and the vibrations are timeless.

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