ORCHESTRA S-Tutorial with many sound examples

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Dear Harmonica Player!

Thank you for your interest in the SEYDEL ORCHESTRA S - SESSION STEEL Solo. As you can see in the figure below the ORCHESTRA S is a solo-tuned diatonic harmonica with 10 ten holes. The ORCHESTRA S is available in the key of LC and in G (not shown here).



The tonal layout is nearly the same like on a chromatic harmonica. All notes from the major scale are available throughout a two-and-a-half octave range and one half of the lower octave is added to holes 1 and 2. So the root note of the major scale can be found in hole 3 blow - the name of this tuning is "Orchestra Tuning"

The position of the root note is highlighted with a "V" stamped into the upper coverplate which is useful to find the root note more easily at the beginning.



What makes the ORCHESTRA S  a unique instrument?

The diagramms displayed below show the ORCHESTRA S compared to a usual solo-tuned harmonica (SOLIST PRO 12 Solo, refer to fig. below, middle) and the Richter-Tuning (Standard Blues Harmonica, refer to fig. below bottom).

The ORCHESTRA S has no upper register like the SOLIST PRO 12. The pitch of this register is very high generally and only few player use these very high sounding notes in the upper octave.

On a Richter Harmonica the breathing pattern is changed in holes 8 -10 - if one likes to play the major scale and the 7th note of the scale is missing completely (in C-major the B is missing) - these are shortcomings that prevent especially beginners from playing in the upper register. The lower register on a Richter-harmonica offers nicely sounding chords  - in fact this is a main part of the concept of playing chords along with melody on a Richter diatonic - but therefore some important notes of the major scale a lacking, namely the 4th note (F on a C-harmonica) and the 6th note A. This makes playing melodies in the lower register very difficult (or impossible) for many players.

In contrast the ORCHESTRA S offers all notes of the major scale as well in the lower register - so for playing these notes bending skills are not required at all.

This note layout makes the ORCHESTRA S an ideal companion for playing melodies in many musical genres.


small: All notes of the ORCHESTRA S in LC

Comparison: ORCHESTRA S vs. SOLIST PRO Solo C and vs. Richter-tuned Blues harmonicas


The orchestra-solo-tuning and its compact size combined with SEYDEL's durability makes the ORCHESTRA S a great choice for musical education in schools. The note layout is basically the same as that of a chromatic harmonica, making the ORCHESTRA S a great starting harmonica for learning to play a chromatic.


small: 1 Folky melody on the ORCHESTRA S in LC



> Video: Introduction into the ORCHESTRA S in LC


Playing with tabs (tabulature) on the ORCHESTRA S

Many players use the so call-tabulature notation (=Tabs) instead of sheet music to learn to play melodies. All tabs that are made for chromatic harmonica (with no slide-in notes) are suited for using them with the ORCHESTRA S. Please note that the notes in 1 blow or draw (Tabs: 1 resp. -1) on the ORCHESTRA S must be played in hole 3 (blow or draw).

The Tabs for playing a major scale on a solo tuned harmonica looks like this:


e. g. in C-Major: C D E F G A B C >>> 1 -1 2 -2 3 -3 -4 4

On the ORCHESTRA S the first C (=root note of the scale) can be found in hole 3 blow (see the "V"-check mark on the upper coverplate) and the scale ends with the C in 6 blow.

Most tabs are written for the most commmonly use Richter-diatonic - these tabs cannot be used for the ORCHESTRA S because of the different note layouts. However, SEYDEL offers a nice tool for re-arranging tabs the so called "SEYDEL Tab-Tool". This software is the ideal tool for translating tabs for Richter harmonicas into suited tabs for solo-tuned instruments.

The SEYDEL Tab-Tool can be found >here (Download or online-use).


Minor-Blues (or also Irish Folk) on the ORCHESTRA S

For playing minor-blues the so called 3rd position is probably the best choice - or to put it into other terms - if you start on the C in the circle of fifth (corresponding to 1st position) the G (2nd position) can be found next (clockwise) and the D can be found bystepping one position further, which represents the root note of the 3rd position.  

The D can be found in hole 3 draw and 7 draw on the ORCHESTRA S - in between these root notes you can play all notes of the so called Dorian scale, which sounds very similar to a Natural Minor scale.

So if all the notes of the C-major scale are used with the D as the starting note (and last note) it is possible to play the complete Dorian scale without any problems - this scale is often used in minor-sounding Irish Folk tunes and most notes of the Minor-Blues Scale are there, too.

Missing  notes (half-steps) can easily be added by playing bending notes which makes improvising in D-minor very easy (on the LC-variant of ORCHESTRA S).

Circle of fifth


The sound reminds on typical pieces from "Chromatic Blues" - but additionally some notes can be played with bending like on a usual Richter diatonic. Therefore, besides a Natural Minor tuned diatonics, the ORCHESTRA S is the most compact way (compared to a Chromatic harmonica) for bringing soul and color to your blues improvisation.

When playing a minor Blues in 3rd position (D-minor) on the ORCHESTRA S (in LC) players will also appreciate the extended major scale in the lower register. The root note of the dominant chord (A) is available in hole 1-draw (and 5 draw), making it similar to playing in 2nd position on a standard Richter-tuned harmonica.


Minor-Blues-Scale in middle register on a ORCHESTRA S (LC) for improvisation in D-Minor - only one bending note is required, which makes playing the Blues scale very easy!:


... -3 -4 5 -5' -5 6 -7 ...


small: Minor Blues Scale (3rd Pos. - D) on the ORCHESTRA S in LC



If one mastered the overblow-technique, all 12 notes of the chromatic scale can be played on the ORCHESTRA S:


All playable notes on the ORCHESTRA S


small: ORCHESTRA S in LC: Chromatic scale in the upper register (factory reed setup)


The typical fat, chromatic sound is produced by playing octaves or other intervals with the splitting technique. Split notes are played by blocking one, two or three holes in the center, allowing airflow through the holes on either side of the tongue. This produces a full sound and is also well-suited to playing intervals in folk melodies.

The splitting technique allows you to play octaves by covering three holes with the mouth and blocking the three center holes with your tongue, then allowing the air to flow through the single holes to the left and to the right. Other intervals are available by the same technique but by blocking more or less holes in the center with your tongue.


small: Theme taken from "Minnie the Moucher" in D-minor on the ORCHESTRA S in LC


He uses a standard C/C#-tuned chromatic harmonica, with the slider depressed all the time to play the song in Eb-minor.

Chicago blues great Little Walter discovered very early that blues can be played on a chromatic harmonica and many of his recordings demonstrate his amazing ability to play in 3rd position on a Chromatic.

The minor VI chord with the Dorian scale delivers a jazz-like sound (D minor6 chord: D F A B). A solo-tuned harmonica is well-suited for playing swingy, jazz/blues numbers and minor blues pieces. Amplifying that sound through a blues harmonica microphone and an amplifier will deliver the classic punch and tone that elevates the humble harmonica to new levels.


Here are two little playbacks suited for improvising in 3rd position on the ORCHESTRA S in LC:


small: Blues-playalong 3 in D-minor: slow


small: Blues-playalong 4 in D-major: fast


Holding and Playing the ORCHESTA S

Hold the instrument with your left hand (best) - the low notes should be on the left side. Clean melodies depend on clean single notes.

As a first step try to find a relaxed "mouth shape"(embochure) that is similar to whisteling - a good start is whistling a low note and afterwards to play a note on the harmonica using the same kind of breathing. This playing technique is also called "puckering". If you play low notes you should provide them a bigger cavity for making them sound full and loud. The embouchure is then similar to vocalising a deep "U".

Playing high notes on the harmonica requires the same attention to embouchure. Speak the letters “a” and “e” to feel the shape of the mouth cavity and tongue position. In both cases the same is true for both blow notes and draw notes. Most importantly, remember to breathe through the instrument using your diaphragm. Deep, controlled breathing allows you to deliver a deep, full tone.

Your embouchure, the shape of the mouth cavity in combination with the position of your lips, tongue, and teeth, affects the tone of the instrument. You form a functional unity with the harmonica.

Left: Mouth cavity for playing low notes (vowel sound “U”); Middle: Mouth cavity for medium-pitched notes (vowel sound “A”); Right: Mouth cavity shape for playing high-pitched notes (vowel sound “E”)


Tongue blocking is another technique for playing single notes whereby you cover some of the holes with your tongue and allow airflow between the edge of the tongue and the side of our mouth. This allows you to play single notes with accompaniment (chords). The tongue can be lifted and slapped back onto the holes producing a rhythm and percussiveness. It is possible to play with the tongue blocking technique to block two, three, and even four holes.


Getting out single notes - by using pucker technique (A) or tongueblock technique (B)

Puckering and tongue blocking complement each other and it is best to practice both techniques to fully utilize the harmonica and bring a professional sound to your playing.


The ORCHESTRA S is tuned to lend itself well to any musical preference. No matter if you are a beginner or professional, you will find your musical expression, in perfect tuning.




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