Ladies and Escorts
here to listen to Windermere, an original instrumental
by Winslow Yerxa recorded with the new Hohner XB-40 diatonic
On a standard 10-hole diatonic, half the notes may be bent
down in pitch. The draw notes in Holes 1 through 6 bend (the
corresponding blow notes do not), and the blow notes in Holes
7 though 7 bend (but not the corresponding draw notes). Each
note bends by a different amount, anywhere from a quarter tone
to three semitones.
The Hohner XB-40, designed by Rick Epping after an idea by
Will Scarlett, is a diatonic harmonica that allows all the notes
in the instrument to bend down in pitch at least two semitones.
This allows both a full chromatic scale and access to expressive
devices not available on a standard diatonic. It also extends
the instrument's range downward slightly. For more on the XB-40
(and another recording featuring the XB-40) at the manufacturer's
This recording was made using an XB-40 in A played in the key
of E. It features Winslow Yerxa playing his own composition
How did the XB-40 make this recording different?
Here are some of the highlights.
0:16 - Note the use of blow bends in a sequence traversing
Holes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 during the opening verse.
0:55 - The high blow bend in Hole 8 during the preceding
lick is matched in the following parallel lick with a high draw
bend also in Hole 8. The very next note is a Draw 7 bend, chewing
on the note a little on the way to Draw 6, which is in turned
followed (0:58) by a blow 6 bent note. The following
downward run includes a 2-semitone bend of Blow 7 (0:59)
for that all-important blue minor third.
1:07 - To match the V chord, Blow 6 is bent down a semitone
at the turning point in a riff that changes directions and heads
downward. Note how tongue-blocked chording is integrated into
the note as the bend is released.
1:19 - Notes that may sound like Draw 4 and 3 are actually
bent blow notes. Instead of following Blow 5 with a distinctly
articulated Draw 4, Blow 5 is bent down for a fluid transition.
The following note could have been played as a draw note, but
for convenience and fluidity the next note is also a blow note
- Blow 4 starts bent, then bends down a little further.
1:24 - As the chord resolves from IV back to I, Blow
4 is bent down to create a note that belongs in the I chord.
This allows the line to continue downwards while still accommodating
the underlying chord. The usual practice would be to jump up
to Draw 3, breaking the flow of the line.
1:36 - The combinations of tongue-blocked chords with
bends in Draw 1 through 4 is highly characteristic of the blues
harmonica tradition. It would be nice to be able to do the same
thing on the blow chord during the IV chord portion of a verse.
Now you can. Listen to how closely bends on Blow 6 are integrated
with tongue-blocked chording during this verse.
1:54 - No harmonica content, just an explanation of
the lyrics. Windermere is a town in the Rocky Mountains of British
Columbia. Its lake has a sandy beach - unusual for the Rockies
- that makes it a popular summer vacation spot. There used to
be a law in those parts that beer parlors must have one entrance
for gentlemen that women could not use. Women could enter only
if escorted by a gentleman, through the door labeled "Ladies
and Escorts." This was intended to discourage prostitution as
much as it was to shield the delicate sensibilities of ladies
from the rough speech and gestures of drinking men.
2:30 - Note the rapid shake of Draw 2 and 4, with Hole
3 blocked by the tongue. A one-hole split like this is difficult
to do on the small, narrowly-spaced holes of a diatonic - Little
Walter did it on a 10-hole chromatic, which has much bigger
and wider-spaced holes. The XB-40 is smaller than a chromatic
but big enough to make a one-hole split much easier than on
a standard diatonic.
Most of the rest of the tune - several of the devices
described above are reiterated in various contexts.
3:37 - Note that Draw 4 is being bent down two full
semitones for a deeper, more expressive version of this often-used
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All page contents including recording
and underlying musical composition © copyright 2004 Winslow