aim of this article
Playing chromatically on Richter based harps is the
current challenge in the harmonica world. New players seek the new
harmonica holy grail: being able to play any note easily, as on a chromatic
harmonica but to keep the diatonic 'blues harp' sound
The harmonica manufacturers and private customizers
have recently offered brand new designs or major improvements of the
existing ones as
Brendan Power explains in an article published in 2001 on Planet Harmonica. There are now many different products and the technique needed
to play them can be very different from one product to another. This, in
addition to the fact that these instruments are more expensive than the
standard bluesharp, make the choice of a new instrument difficult for the
intermediate player seeking chromaticity.
So we've thought of gathering the information and
proposing an at-a-glance view of the different products in order to help
the harmonica players in their search for the "ideal" instrument.
These new designs can be divided into two categories,
as explained by Winslow Yerxa: "There's the physical reed isolation
category, represented by the overblow harp, the Suzuki Overdrive and the
Discrete Comb. Each gives some means to physically isolate a reed so that
overbending techniques may be applied.
Within this category, the Bahnson harp was designed
specifically to facilitate overbends on a limited selection of reeds: those
that would supply the notes missing from the chromatic scale. The Overdrive
and Discrete Comb differ from the Overblow in that they have no moving
parts aside from the reeds, and permit any of the 20 reeds to be isolated
for not only isolated-reed overbending, but for single-reed closing bends
as well. So that you could bend Blow 1 down for instance, or bend Draw 4
down more than a semitone. This makes the Overdrive and the Discrete Comb
the only models that allow for all possible bending reed behaviors to be
accessed - isolated opeing, isolated closing and dual-reed combination.
The XB-40 and the CX-10 fall into the added-reed
category though for very different reasons. The CX-10, like its predecessor
the Koch 980, is simply a Richter-tuned slide harp, accessing additional
notes through dedicated reeds or by standard dual-reed bending. The XB-40
is unique in using dedicated enabler reeds, placed entirely at the service
of making it possible for all primary reeds to bend as the closing reed of
a blow-draw pair."
We hope this article will help you to find your way
through the different products. Something important to remember though is
that the technique is worthless if it does not serve the music. There is a
really danger to focus on the technique to the detriment of the music. This
is typically the case of young overblowers wanting to play too many
overblown notes just because they're proud of being able to play them.