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Playing Chromatically

The CX-10

Price: around 400$ on http://www.brendan-power.com
XB-40

Tested Model: CX-10 in the key of A.

This is a unique instrument, available only from Brendan Power's website. Brendan customizes most Hohner chromatic harps into what he calls Power Chromatics and, believe us, the transformed instruments deserve a new name! One of the most attractive Power Chromatics is the CX-10. No, don't look for this product in the Hohner catalog, it doesn't exist. This is a cut-down Hohner CX12, shortened from 12 holes to 10 holes.

It comes in various tuning, the most popular being the Richter tuning, which is exactly the same tuning as the blues harp but with a slide allowing to raised the notes a semi-tone (it is like having a bluesharp in Bb and another one in A in the same instrument). It is half-valved, meaning you can naturally bend all the same notes as on the diatonic, but also get valved bends on the low pitched notes in each hole (eg. blow notes holes 1-6, draw notes 7-10), providing the player with many enharmonic notes.

Pros:

  • Customized instrument. Very airtight, responsive and easy to bend.
  • Probably the easiest way of playing chromatically: the player only has to push the button to obtain the missing notes and explore new territories. Moreover the CX-10 provides unbent notes for all the notes of the chromatic scale except for the F#, A and A# in the low octave (for an harp in C), plus lots of enharmonic notes.
  • As no overblow is needed, the player can more easily apply vibrato and shape the sound. The half-valving allows a good expression.
  • The sound is very close to the standard bluesharp despite the fact that this is a chromatic harp.

Cons:

  • Big instrument.
  • Big mouthpiece. This can be a major drawback for players coming from the bluesharp. It has to be noted that Brendan also customizes the Hohner 260 and Slide Harp, which have smaller mouthpieces.
  • Valves can be disturbing. They can buzz or pop if the harp is not warmed up.
  • Hard to cup (but an additional feature allows to push the button while cupping).
  • The high notes are not easy to bend. It's still playable for a good player on an A harp but a player who don't fully master the blow bends will have some trouble. Anyway in that case, there is just to use the slide to obtain the missing notes.
  • The harp is expensive as it is based on a chromatic and requires a lot of customization. This is a major drawback for blues players that would need several keys.

Brendan provides a very good and reliable service. For more information, you can consult the issue 3 of Planet Harmonica and Brendan's website.


Remark:

Hohner produces the Koch and Slide harps which have exactly the same features as the CX-10. But these harps are very leaky out of the box. If you're inclined to follow the path of richter-tuned slide harps, we highly recommend the Power option.

How to play it:

Pushing the slide raises any note one half-step. So just push the slide in and draw in the 6th hole, and you'll obtain the minor third in 2nd position. The minor third in 1st position is obtained by pushing the slide in and drawing in the 4th or 1st hole.

So the riff can played the following way:

 

As the CX-10 is half-valved, the blues scale in 1st position can be played in two ways:

  • Either by using the slide to obtain the notes missing on a regular bluesharp,
  • or by using the slide on the 6th hole and playing valved bends on the other holes.

Listen to the sound sample.

As you can notice, the sound of the 4 draw slide in is especially good as this is a regular note on the CX-10.

Conclusion:

Despite its size, the CX-10 is in our opinion the easiest way of playing chromatically. The notes sound well and are easy to obtain. Anyone who can afford it should try one!

Laurent Vigouroux



http://www.brendan-power.com


Planet Harmonica - 2004