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Playing Chromatically

The XB-40

US Price: $79.95 (on - European price: 79€ (on

Tested model: XB-40 in the key of G and C.

This brand new harmonica was designed by Rick Epping (who is a Hohner USA employee) and is produced by Hohner. Thanks to an additional set of reeds, all the natural harmonica notes can be bent a whole tone (one and a half tone for the 3rd hole as on a standard Richter diatonic) with the common bending technique (no overblow). Some valve chambers are also added which ensure that the auxiliary reeds come into play only during note bending.

As there are 4 reeds and 2 valves per hole, the XB-40 is quite big, more or less the size of 10 holes chromatic. The sound of the XB-40 is between the diatonic and the chromatic.


  • It is very airtight, responsive and easy to bend.
  • The additional notes being easy to obtain (regular bends), the 1rst position can be played with a sound similar to the 2nd position one.
  • Thanks to its high degree of bend ability, the XB-40 allows an extraordinary expressiveness, probably the best ever seen.
  • Not too expensive.


  • It is probable that lots of players (expecially blues players) are not going to like its semi-chromatic sound.
  • The drawback of the high degree of bending ability is that the player really has to adjust the pitch when playing any note.
  • The diatonic players used to the standard Richter tuning will be disturbed by the additional draw bends on 1rst, 4th, 5th and 6th holes. They will naturally play the deepest bend available, one half-step below the note they were expecting to obtain.
  • In keys of C and above, the high register bends can be tricky or near to impossible to obtain. The problem is similar to the problem encountered with Richter harp above D. Click here to read Rick Epping's explanations. We highly recommend the low keys (G and A for example).

How to play it:

On this harp, the minor third in 1rst position (4th hole overblow) can be played by bending the 5th and 2nd blow one half step, the flat fifth in first position (5th hole overblow) can be played by bending the 6th blow one half-step and the minor third in 2nd position (6th hole overblow) can be played by bending the 7th blow one full step.

The riff:

The 1rst position blues scale:

Listen to the sound sample.

Listen to Winslow Yerxa's song Windermere demonstrating the possibilities of the XB-40.

For sure, the XB-40 is the biggest innovation of the last decade in the harp industry. Hats off to Rick Epping and Hohner! It is probably the most versatile harmonica ever seen and as such is in our opinion an instrument reserved to rather good players.

We're impatient to hear the music innovative players are going to create with this instrument.

Laurent Vigouroux