From the beginning, design predetermined the diatonic harmonica’s creative boundaries. Although, techniques like bending, over-blowing and position playing have expanded the instrument’s flexibility, its overall versatility is in a stall. The invention of a new method for playing, Coupling, has come to the rescue.
NOTE: This illustration has some errors in the third octave. The arrows starting at hole seven on the top (B flat) harmonica should begin thus: Seven blow, eight draw, eight blow, nine draw, nine blow, Drop down to the “C” harp and blow nine, draw ten, move back up to the (B flat) harp and blow ten. These illustrations were redrawn and colorized. The mistake happened somewhere in this process, but thanks to my good friend Ted Nation it was brought to my attention. Thanks Ted!
The Coupling Method features harmoniously tuned diatonics joined together. Coupling, in harmonious key arrangements, not only fills out the diatonic scales, but simultaneously enables complementary chord options to the musician. This creates unique possibilities for chord accompaniment while playing melodies. Even the best professionals are restricted. Outside of a few familiar genres, the diatonic harmonica was mostly played as embellishment. Within the diatonic’s specific tuning, most chord maneuvers inevitably result in mere musical accents. Coupling will redefine the instrument’s capability through new harmony options. Until now, harmony was attained primarily on the diatonic by playing in the cross position. Now, there’s an unexplored world of versatility for the diatonic harmonica due to Coupling.
The standard 12 hole chromatic harmonica has two separate key tunings, yet it makes little use of chords. The chromatic combines its two separate tunings in a successive key order, C, C#, etc., virtually nullifying chord operation for harmony effect. The chromatic harmonica introduces new notes and chords by actuating the slide, but its draw chords are of little value to the musician. It’s like pressing two white keys, exactly next to each other on a piano keyboard; an inharmonious tone is emitted; now skip a key on that keyboard and listen… This is the musical principal from which Coupling works…
A flat….B flat D flat…..E flat
B flat….C E flat……F
B………..D flat E………….F sharp
Why is the Coupling Method superior? Answer: Because it enables the diatonic musician to play what was previously impossible, embellish it with new notes, incorporate harmonies, play additional chords, have a more full sound and finally, not merely compete with, but in some very notable cases out-perform instruments that have full chromatic scales. For instance, the above video (Come all Ye Faithful), “Adeste Fideles” features a uniquely nimble position for the diatonic musician in all octaves and supports it with new chords. Neither diatonic or a chromatic harmonic could duplicate such rendition of this Christmas classic!
To illustrate the magnitude of what coupling does, envision a car that can change direction without slowing down, maneuver like a motorcycle. There isn’t any diatonic harmonica musician, past or present, that can come close to the level of versatility that can be achieved through the Coupling Method. Nobody! No one! Zip!
A common misconception: speed= ability I can’t help but cringe when somebody is acclaimed simply based on the number of notes they manage to jam inside a measure of music. As I peruse some diatonic demo’s on u-tube there appears to be an inordinate number exercising various speed rifts in order to convey their “ability” . Speed does have its place, but it can get old rather fast… The Harmonica Doctor