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I just bought a harmonica. It turn out to be tremolo. It has 24 holes on both sides.

I want to know:

  1. Can I play diatonic harmonica tab using tremolo harmonica?
  2. If I can, do I need to convert diatonic tab into tremolo tab?

Please help!

  • Could you let us know the make and model of your new harmonica? Looking online, there are several tunings for tremolo harmonicas. – Bob Broadley Nov 9 '14 at 13:47
  • @BobBroadley bee harmonica 24 holes both sides C & G – stormrage Nov 9 '14 at 13:59
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My understanding is that tremolo harmonicas are more chorus sounding as they have 2 reeds for each note. So the fact it is tremolo is not relevant to your issue.

For the diatonic harmonica you need to match the key of your harmonica to the key of the tab. I swear I've seen a nirvana video where he looks through all his pockets trying to find one in the right key.

You can also get chromatic harmonicas that have a button on the side to change the notes (or extra holes). If you get the right one you can play all scales. HOWEVER, this is quite tricky because if you learnt on a diatonic, the standard pattern would only apply twice (once for not pressed, once for pressed) the rest you need to re-learn where to play. Personally I would stick to a harmonica for each key.

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A tremolo harmonica merely doubles the holes and reeds for each note. Typically they simply double the identical note for a wavering sound quality, although sometimes the additional holes might be up an octave, fifth, or even a third interval instead. It is meant to be played using the two holes instead of one.

Aside from that, what you have is probably a typical vintage diatonic harmonica from the 20's through 60's. With holes on both sides, it is likely C major on one side, and G major on the other, which makes it partially useful for I-IV-V chord progressions, if you can flip it over quickly. Being of such vintage, it probably only has blow holes, no draw notes at all, which will severely limit what diatonic tablature is available to you in the first place, in spite of it still being diatonic.

Unfortunately harmonicas of that vintage require a lot of breath and aren't too tight for bending. If you can carefully remove the reed plates (if it has bolts (safest) or screws instead of rivets), the reed plate will probably benefit from soaking overnight in some lemon juice to remove corrosion.

Sometimes harmonicas of that vintage are neither chromatic or diatonic, but some other scale that lends itself well to old gypsy tunes or Christmas carols. Also sometimes they simply wear out to become some other scale.

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Pretty sure your harp is laid out like a chromatic without the chromatic key, which is a different layout from a typical 10-hole diatonic harp. So that would mean you can't use diatonic harp tab. I haven't found anything really quickly on converting tabs except for doing it the hard way (conver to notes and then back to the right tab).

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Yes, you can use diatonic tab on the tremolo. I have five 21 note tremolo harps and four 24 note tremolo harps and I use diatonic tab. You will have to adapt it but it is easy. On a 21 note tremolo in C the blow notes are CEGCEGCEG. On a 10 hole diatonic in C the blow notes are CEGCEGCEG. So the blow notes are easy. 1 or +1 for the diatonic would be blow note 1. 2 would be blow note 2, etc. The 21 note harp starts on a draw note and alternates draw, blow, draw, blow, draw, etc. A 24 note tremolo has 2 more notes on the high end and one more on the low end. It starts on a blow note. The blow notes on a 24 in C are GCEGCEGCEGC. If you call the first blow note zero (0) then the rest are the same as the 21 which is the same as the 10 hole diatonic. So blow note 4 on the 21 will be a C and blow note 4 on the 24 will be a C if we call the first blow note 0 and blow note 4 on the 10 hole diatonic is a C. Using this system and starting at blow note 3, the draw note to the right of each blow note will be the same as the draw note associated with each blow note on the diatonic. For instance +4 on the diatonic is C and -4 is D. On the tremolo +4 is C and the draw note to the right of that note is D. +5 is E and -5 on the diatonic is F and the draw note to the right of +5 is F on the tremolo. This will work all the way up to +10 and -10. However, the draw notes on the low end of the tremolo are different unless you have an old wood comb tremolo that was made in Germany (Echo Harp). The Japanese and Chinese tremolo harps are arranged different to provide a complete major scale. -1 on the diatonic will be the draw note to the left of +1 on the tremolo. The next 2 draw notes on the tremolo are not on the diatonic unless you bend notes. Bent draw 2 on the diatonic will be the same as the second draw note on the tremolo. Bent draw 3 on the diatonic will be the same as the third draw note on the tremolo. The unbent draw 2 on the 10 hole diatonic is the same as the blow 3 on the diatonic which is the same as blow 3 on the tremolo.

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