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What is a Paddy Richter Harmonica? | Intro, Demo & Prize Giveaway

What is Paddy Richter tuning? What makes it distinctive and what is it useful for? Let's find out!

Standard Richter tuning

First let's start with standard tuning. The diatonic harmonica is usually tuned to what's called Richter tuning. This is great for simple songs and works very well for blues due to its note layout. Here is a diagram showing normal Richter tuning:

The blow notes are on the top, the draw notes on the bottom. This note layout is useful and versatile but it does have its limitations. Notice that the bottom register is missing the F and A notes of the C scale. This can be a problem for playing melodies that have to dip down to get one of those notes, especially if you are playing quickly. It's possible to bend the existing notes to get the missing ones, but that's not always practical or ideal. So how could you get around this problem?

Paddy Richter tuning

One simple fix is to raise the pitch of the 3 blow note by a whole tone. This was an idea first proposed by Brendan Power, who cheekily called it 'Paddy Richter' because he found it made Irish songs easier to play. On a C harp, this would mean the G note becomes an A. Here's the tuning chart of a Paddy Richter harmonica in the key of C:

If you looked closely at the standard Richter note layout, you will have noticed that the 2 draw and the 3 blow were the same note (on a C harp, they're both G notes). This is useful for playing chords, but it's not so useful for playing fast melodic lines. So by getting rid of one of those repeated notes, we haven't lost anything in terms of melodic abilities.

Tabs for Paddy Richter harmonica

Reading tabs for Paddy Richter is really easy - in fact, you can read them just as you would a standard tab. The only thing you have to remember is that it might sound different from what you expect!

Here's a tab for the spiritual song 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' in Paddy Richter format:

-3 -2 -3 -2 -2 2 -1

Swing low, sweet cha-ri-o-ot

-2 -2 -2 -2 -3 -3 -4 -4

Coming for to carry me home

5 -4 -3 -4 -2 -2 2 -1

Swi-ing low, sweet cha-ri-o-ot

-2 -2 -2 -2 -3 -3 3 -2

Coming for to carry me home

-3 -4 -2 2 -2 -2 2 -2 -2 -2 2 -1

I looked over Jordan and what did I see-ee

-2 -2 -2 -2 -3 -3 -4 -4

Coming for to carry me home

-4 5 -4 -3 3 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 2 -1

A band of a-an-gels coming after me-ee

-2 -2 -2 -2 -3 -3 3 -2

Coming for to carry me home

Win a Paddy Richter Seydel Blues Session Steel!

Want to get your hands on a free Seydel Blues Session Steel harmonica in Paddy Richter tuning? Enter my harmonica giveaway today! (Competition deadline: Mon 8th May 2023)

I hope this has helped you to understand what a Paddy Richter harmonica is. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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