The Most Underrated Harmonica? The Golden Melody - Equal Temperament vs Just Intonation

Hey @Slim - the Lee Oskar was the most in tune of all the harps I tried on the Bend It Better. I think it’s just because Golden Melody is using 444Hz for some reason, whereas Lee Oskar is using 440 Hz.

Also @HarpinBobbyMcB I heard back from my friend with perfect pitch (I forgot she also has chromasthesia. She told me once that it’s very disconcerting for her to go to a concert where there’s a light show that produces different colors from those she sees naturally with each pitch.) Anywhay, here’s here response:

With my chromasthesia, where I “see” colors in the mind’s eye related to musical notes, 432 seems kind of “murky” to me (although not necessarily unpleasant). I wish I had more accurate words to describe this.

My sense of pitch isn’t absolutely perfect, in the sense that I probably wouldn’t notice 438 or 442 - that would just cause slight differences in the color shades to me.

I’ve been used to 440 my whole life, so that’s what sounds correct to me. My understanding is that in the early days, on the harpsichord the sharps were actually different than the flats - there were separate keys for each. I think I’d find this very distressing to listen to!

Anyway, that’s my two cents!

Best to everyone,


Though I saw this post several days ago, I wanted to come back after reading the excellent essay you highlight above :point_up_2:on Jocelyn’s chromasthesia. I’d never heard of it, but after reading the article I can now better understand how it works. Her comments are very interesting, thanks so much to her for taking time to explain how colors and music effect those with Chromastesia.

As to the tuning on my Golden Melody, I did another test on an app I have on my phone called Bending Trainer (I like your Bending Tool for when I am on computer because I like how its set up visually, but use this one on my mobile device). The application allows to set different tunings and different Hertz, so I set it to Equal Temperament and 444 hertz.

The results were great!

I found a part of the application I hadn’t seen before which allows you to tell how many cents off you are on the tuning, and in which direction. On my Golden Melody in C, I’m within 10 to 20 cents across the board with easy blows and draws, and with a little effort, I can modify the aperture of my throat and hit the sweet spot with virtually all the notes.

I gotta tell you this was a lot of fun as I went through each of the notes and it reminds me @Luke of a post you made about LONG NOTES (holding the notes as long as possible and listening to all the subtleties in the tone of each).

It was exciting to see how I can increase the cents a bit by opening my throat on the notes that are just a bit flat, and restrict it a bit on those that are sharp to bring the tuning in line.

This whole experience has helped me to realize a couple of things:

First, and most important, I am glad to know my bad ass looking retro Golden Melody isn’t defective, it’s me that’s a bit off lol :laughing:

Secondly, it helps me to understand that while 10 or 20 cents of tuning many not seem like much, there is a difference!! I am amazed at how subtle movements in our mouth can cause the tuning to go up and down. Of course, this is the whole concept of bending, but now I can now see how subtle those differences can be.

I’ve always wondered about the relationship to whistling and the harmonica, and I believe I’m coming to understand at least part of it. When we whistle, we involuntarily change the shape of our lips, tongue and throat to come up with different tones. We don’t know what notes we are playing, or what key we are in. All we know is that when it sounds right it can be beautiful, and when it’s doesn’t, it can sound REALLY BAD.

Seems to me something similar happens with the harmonica. Most of what I play, comes from the way I hear it in my head. If you ask me what hole I’m playing, or if I am blowing or drawing, I really don’t know. I just know that when it comes together in the right sequence, it’s so COOL to be able to MAKE MUSIC.

Not everyone can sing or whistle, but for anyone who takes some time to play single notes, as our fearless leader @Luke is so apt at teaching, it’s amazing at what we can do with this simple instrument.

Thanks for helping me realize my Golden Melody isn’t a lemon, and is instead the bad ass lady that I know she can be!

:sunglasses: :notes:


Hey Bobby - that’s awesome my friend. Yeah, Golden Melodies are no joke! I personally prefer them over Special 20’s.

One thing I want to highlight here is that the BIB tool and Tuner’s are cool for beginners to be able to see and confirm if you are bending, etc. But now the you know you CAN bend, you want to train your EARS, not your EYES!

On the Bend It Better tool, you can press whatever note you are wanting to bend to, and it will play that note. In the top left corner you can choose a harmonica sound which is the notes icon or a sine wave which is…the sine wave icon.

I recommend choosing the sine wave because it’s a very pure tone. Then close your eyes and work on the bend you are trying to achieve, by LISTENING to the sound of the sine wave and the sound you are producing on the harmonica.

You can also do this with a simple piano app on your phone. So while the BIB is awesome tool to get you started, in the final analysis music is HEARD, not seen, so train those ears! :ear:t3::notes::sunglasses:

Rock on brah,


Exactly, Luke @Luke ! I tend to prefer the piano app. But whatever is used, our Guru has said clearly: train your ears!! That is another reason that I prefer the piano app: your ears “tell you” when you have hit the tone accurately.

– Slim :sunglasses:


Amen and amen.


I play Golden Melodies and they are fantastic harps. I love how expressive they can be despite the equal temp tuning. A few other pro players that @Luke hadn’t mentioned are Paul DeLay, Todd Parrott (he used customized GMs but my point still stands), and Terry McMillan. All three of these players are worth checking out.


You are so right in all respects, @KeroroRinChou !

And BTW, Todd Parrott even has a modification that many people refer to as the “Todd Parrott” harp: it is a relatively simple modification where the draw 7 (-7) reed is filed (tuned) down a half step. So on a C Richter harp the -7, which is normally a B, then becomes a Bb. I have done this with several of my own harps and find it to be a very useful tuning (I must also say that I am not able to play overblows, so this modification is especially useful for me).

– Slim :sunglasses:


I actually have a Parrott tuned Golden Bird harp that Todd gave me. It’s pretty decent, the only issue I have with it is that it doesn’t do vibrato very well. I use a throat vibrato and it makes a high pitched hissing sound whenever I do it. The tuning itself is amazing and it sorta ignited a special interest of harmonica tunings for me.


Oh wow @slim that’s the tuning we were JUST talking about! That’s gonna be my first attempt and altering the tuning of a harp!

Thanks for the post @KeroroRinChou! I’ll have to go listen to Paul DeLay and Tod Parott! I’m a huge Terry McMillan fan as you may know.



You can find a lot of clips of DeLay’s playing on Youtube. There’s just too many to list from the top of my head. Same goes for Todd (we refer to each other on a first name basis). There’s also his Youtube channel that has clips of him playing and talking about harmonica topics like different tunings (there’s an old video of his that talks about his own tuning and the inspiration behind it) and custom harps. He also has clips of one of his favorite modern harp players, Buddy Greene, and has preformed with him on several occasions.