Diatonic Harmonica Tunings

The following are some of the most common types of tuning used by harmonica manufacturers on their 10 hole, diatonic harmonicas.

Richter Tuning

Richter tuning is the most common tuning type seen on diatonic harmonicas. Named after the 19th century harmonica maker, Joseph Richter, who developed the tuning, it provides the tonic and dominant chords in the lower part of the harmonica (C and G Major, in the example of a C Major Richter tuned harp shown below) and the relevant scale (in the example below, C Major) between holes 4 and 7.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |E |G |C |E |G |C |E |G |C |
draw: |D |G |B |D |F |A |B |D |F |A |
       -----------------------------

 Country Tuning

Country tuning is a modification of Richter, with the 5th draw reed raised a semitone (so, in the example below, the 5th draw reed has been raised from F to F#). This provides the major seventh scale when playing cross harp, which makes it particularly suitable for country music.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |E |G |C |E |G |C |E |G |C |
draw: |D |G |B |D |F#|A |B |D |F |A |
       -----------------------------

Natural Minor Tuning

Natural minor tuning has blow reeds 2, 5 and 8 and draw reeds 3 and 7 lowered a semitone compared to a Major Richter tuned harmonica.

Natural minor tuned harmonicas are generally played in second position, so, the example below, which shows a C Natural Minor tuned harp in the first position, would generally be used to play G Minor in the second position. Most natural minor harps are labelled in the second position, with the exception of Hohner, who label them in first position.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |Eb|G |C |Eb|G |C |Eb|G |C |
draw: |D |G |Bb|D |F |A |Bb|D |F |A |
       -----------------------------

Harmonic Minor Tuning

Harmonic minor tuning, compared to a Richter tuned Major harp, has blow reeds 2, 5 and 8 and draw reeds 6 and 10 lowered a semitone.

Harmonic minor tuned harps are generally labelled in the first position and are typically used to play Eastern European and Asian musical styles.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |Eb|G |C |Eb|G |C |Eb|G |C |
draw: |D |G |B |D |F |Ab|B |D |F |Ab|
       -----------------------------

Melody Maker Tuning

Melody Maker tuning is a variation of country tuning that features primarily on Lee Oskar harmonicas. Designed to be played in the second position (and labelled as such), it provides two complete octaves of the relevant major scale from the 2nd hole draw to the 9th hole blow. The example shown below is for a harp labelled as C major (in the 2nd position).

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10
       -----------------------------
blow: |F |A |D |F |A |C |F |A |C |F |
draw: |G |C |E |G |B |D |E |G |B |D |
       -----------------------------

Paddy Richter Tuning

Richter tuning was developed by Brendan Power to enable traditional Irish melodies to be more easily played on the diatonic harmonica. This is achieved by raising the 3rd blow one tone; in the example below, raising the 3rd blow G to an A, when compared with standard Richter tuning.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |E |A |C |E |G |C |E |G |C |
draw: |D |G |B |D |F |A |B |D |F |A |
       -----------------------------

PowerBender Tuning

PowerBender tuning makes some significant changes to the Richter note layout to emphasise draw bending and reduce the need to overblow to achieve the full chromatic range. Developed by Brendan Power.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |E |G |C |D |F |A |C |E |A |
draw: |D |G |B |D |E |G |B |D |G |C |
       -----------------------------

PowerDraw Tuning

PowerDraw tuning has a consistent blow/draw pattern across all 10 holes. Holes 1-6 have the same note layout as a Richter tuned harp, but 7-10 have the same note layout as the PowerBender tuning, facilitating draw note bends in the upper register of the harmonica. Developed by Brendan Power.

      1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
       -----------------------------
blow: |C |E |G |C |E |G |A |C |E |A |
draw: |D |G |B |D |F |A |B |D |G |C |
       -----------------------------

Canned Heat Tuning

As used on the song ‘On the Road Again’, a simple modification of an A harp whereby the 6 draw reed is raised a semitone.

       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
       -----------------------------
blow: |A |C#|E |A |C#|E |A |C#|E |A |
draw: |B |E |G#|B |D |G |G#|B |D |F#|
       -----------------------------