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Melody Maker Harmonicas

Exploring the Lee Oskar1 Melody MakerTM Harmonica

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Melody Maker is a trademark name for an alteration to the standard Richter tuning of a ten hole diatonic harmonica made by TOMBO for Lee Oskar. There are a number of altered tunings2, this article specifically explores the Lee Oskar Melody MakerTM. This tuning incorporates the Paddy Richter alteration which raises the 3 blow two semitones, and the country tuning modification which raises the 5 draw one semitone (the 9 draw is also raised one semitone). This tuning shines for 2nd position Ionian Major music as it has two full octaves without a requirement for bent notes, and it gives a major I-IV-V triad. Since it is a modified Richter tuning, there is also quite a bit more that can be done with this tuning. That is what this article will explore.

Mapping the Melody MakerTM Harmonica

Example Layout - C Harp (bends shown) mouseover notes for chords
                  Eb
              Ab   E
F A D F A C F A C F
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
G C E G B D E G B D
F# B Eb F# Bb C#        
  Bb                

It comes in five keys, labeled in cross harp; C, G, D, A, and E, which are made from altered Low F, C, G, D, and A harps. Just as with the standard Richter tuned blues harp, you play the same holes when you change harps to play in a different key.

Strange Marking, and Positions

Label 2nd Position C G D A E
Label 1st Position (actually 4th) Dm(d) Am(d) Em(d) Bm(d) F#m(d)
Original Harp Low F C G D A

If that looks weird to you, you are not alone. One would expect 1st position to be the key of the harp before alteration, or the 1 blow, if they are thinking of hole numbers. That would make 1st position Lydian. The modes3 of a Richter tuned harp are all still there, they are just in a different location. My guess is that they labeled the two keys that they labeled because they are the only keys with two complete octaves without bends, and it points out how you can play minor music. The others have one complete octave, with some portions of octaves above and below, some requiring bent notes.

Mode
(no bends)
Position
(Richter)
Position
(MM)
Key of C Key of G Key of D Key of A Key of E Pent
(C&W)
Pent
(Blues)
Pent
(Chinese)
Lydian 12th 1st F C G D A Y    
Ionian 1st 2nd C G D A E Y with bends Y
Mixolydian 2nd 3rd G D A E B Y   Y
Dorian 3rd 1st (4th) D A E B F#   Y Y
Aeolian 4th 5th A E B F# Db   Y  
Phrygian 5th 6th E B F# Db Ab   Y  
Locrian 6th 12th B F# Db Ab Eb      

What Bent Notes Do For This Tuning

While it's true that the purpose of this tuning is to give two easy to play Major octaves in the five most popular keys for bluegrass, old-time, fiddle tunes, and folk music, most harp players can and do bend notes. This makes some new and useful things possible with this harp.
Mixolydian in cross harp position (labeled key)
The double bend 2 draw gives the Mixolydian flat 7 in the available half octave below the first full octave, and the bent 5 draw gives the flat 7 in the first full octave. This is enough to play many Mixolydian tunes.
Aeolian natural minor in the labeled 1st position key
The same double bent 2 draw and bent 5 draw do the trick for lowering the Dorian minor's raised 6 to the Aeolian flat 6.
Dorian minor in cross harp position (labeled key)
The bent 3, and 5 draw provide an octave of Dorian minor. With the double bend on the 2 draw you can extend the scale down to the 4th degree below the tonic.
Blues scale4 in cross harp position (labeled key)
The bent 3, 4, and 5 draw provides an octave of the blues scale. With the bent 1 draw and double bend on the 2 draw you can extend the blues scale down to the 4th degree below the tonic.
Miscellaneous others
By playing from the various unmarked mode positions there are a number of possibilities. For example, the flat 5th of the blues scale can be produced with a bend in the blues minor scales available at the Aeolian and Phrygian mode positions. The ones that seem most useful are the ones listed above however.

Not Recommended For Playing The Blues, But...

It says on the Lee Oskar web page1 that this harp is not recommended for blues. The fact that a blues scale is available doesn't change that. This harp will never replace the Richter tuned diatonic harp for blues, but there is enough there to produce some blues licks that could be used as fills should the appropriate occasion arise.

Conclusion

This is a useful tuning that can add to what you can do while playing bluegrass, old-time, fiddle tunes, and folk music. It provides Major I-IV-V chords, two octaves that can be played quickly without a need for bent notes, and for the player who can bend notes, some popular modal tunes, and even blues fills can be accomplished. It's worth a look.

This tuning cries out to be played by ear like no other. That's a good thing since I haven't seen much tab for it, but if tab you must, there are some links below5 to web sights that have some tab for this tuning.

Footnotes & References

1. Lee Oskar is a noted harmonica player who also markets a line of good quality harmonica that bear his name. They include several altered tunings. The Melody MakerTM is one of them. You can read about Lee Oskar and his harmonicas at www.leeoskar.com.

2. Altered tunings: An excellent source of information about many altered tunings can be found at Pat Missin's web page - www.patmissin.com.

3. Modes: Diatonic instruments change modes as you play them in different keys. Some harp players insist that they are not modal because they can play out of those modes with bent notes and/or overblows and underdraws. But that's talking about what they can do with their set of playing skills, rather than what the harp provides without skilled technique.

4. The Blues scale is made by adding the flat 5 note to the blues minor pentatonic scale. It is made up of the following scale degrees: 1-3b-4-5b-5-7b (example key of C is C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb).

5. The Tablature for this tuning can be found at www.ezfolk.com.

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