Why did it take so long to develop? Why doesn’t all these harmonica’s have adjustable strings? Here we go!
A harmonica is often compared to a trumpet, in that the strings adjust the sound with the right tuning. A harmonic at 12:00 is called an octave, meaning its pitch is relative to a fixed octave of pitch.
A harmonica sounds the same no matter what tuning it is tuned to. It doesn’t change its sound over time, only its tuning. The reason its tuning may change is that the pitch of the strings or tuning of its mouthpiece can change the sound it makes, if the sound is too high or low. The sound is what is known as a resonant tone. In the case of traditional musical instruments like the piano and electric guitar, the strings are also a resonator. The strings are tuned to a fixed string pitch and they are tuned to the same octave. When the strings are resonant they can be tuned to a frequency that corresponds with the pitch of the sound. When a piano or guitar string is tuned to the same pitch another note is sounded when the same amount of tension is applied to it. This is called vibrato. The most common vibrato in modern music is the vibrato of a harp.
The only way the harmonica can be tuned to a tune outside of the range of a particular string is when either the mouthpiece or the tuning knob is loosened to the tuning level of another string. Most standard instruments that have vibrato can be tuned to their intended sound without loosening the strings. The vibrato is a different sound entirely and only a few instruments that have a similar sound to the standard harp, can be tuned to a pitch outside that range.
Most instruments are tuned to the frequency of the sound with the smallest change in the tuning and thus the highest sound quality at low notes. A small amount of pressure on a tuning knob will make the instrument vibrato at a very particular frequency and will also produce a different sound than that produced with an open tuning knob.
So what’s going on with a harmonica? Why doesn’t it play like its cousins?
A harmonica can actually have several harmonics. The harmonic notes are always played on the same string. The lowest note of one string is always played at a note or octave higher than the lowest note of the other string, the highest note on a particular string is always played at a note
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