harmonica - wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Download Harmonica - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Post on 09-Oct-2015




1 download

Embed Size (px)




  • 10/27/14 4:12 PMHarmonica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Page 1 of 19http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica

    A 16-hole chromatic (top) and 10-hole diatonicharmonica

    Other instrumentClassification

    WindFree reedAerophone



    Developed Early 19th centuryPlaying range

    For 64-reeds (16-holes) chromatic harmonica: C belowMiddle C (C) to the D above C5; slightly over 4 octaves

    Related instrumentsmelodeon, melodica, Yu

    More articlesList of harmonicists

    HarmonicaFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The harmonica, also French harp, blues harp, and mouthorgan,[1] is a free reed wind instrument used worldwide inmany musical genres, notably in blues, American folk music,jazz, country, and rock and roll. There are many types ofharmonica, including diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, octave,orchestral, and bass versions. A harmonica is played by usingthe mouth (lips and/or tongue) to direct air into and out ofone or more holes along a mouthpiece. Behind the holes arechambers containing at least one reed. A harmonica reed is aflat elongated spring typically made of brass, stainless steel,or bronze, which is secured at one end over a slot that servesas an airway. When the free end is made to vibrate by theplayer's air, it alternately blocks and unblocks the airway toproduce sound.

    Reeds are pre-tuned to individual pitches. Tuning mayinvolve changing a reed's length, the weight near its free end,or the stiffness near its fixed end. Longer, heavier andspringier reeds produce deeper, lower sounds; shorter, lighterand stiffer reeds make higher-pitched sounds. If, as on mostmodern harmonicas, a reed is affixed above or below its slotrather than in the plane of the slot, it responds more easily toair flowing in the direction that initially would push it into theslot, i.e., as a closing reed. This difference in response to airdirection makes it possible to include both a blow reed and adraw reed in the same air chamber and to play themseparately without relying on flaps of plastic or leather(valves, wind-savers) to block the nonplaying reed.

    An important technique in performance is bending: causing adrop in pitch by making embouchure adjustments.[2] It ispossible to bend isolated reeds, as on chromatic and otherharmonica models with wind-savers, but also to both lower,and raise (overbend, overblow, overdraw) the pitch producedby pairs of reeds in the same chamber, as on a diatonic orother unvalved harmonica. Such two-reed pitch changes actually involve sound production by the normallysilent reed, the opening reed (for instance, the blow reed while the player is drawing).


  • 10/27/14 4:12 PMHarmonica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Page 2 of 19http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica

    1 Parts1.1 Comb1.2 Reed-plate1.3 Cover plates1.4 Windsavers1.5 Mouthpiece1.6 Accessories

    1.6.1 Amplification devices1.6.2 Rack or holder

    2 Harmonica types2.1 Chromatic harmonica2.2 Diatonic harmonicas2.3 Tremolo Tuned Harmonica2.4 Orchestral harmonicas

    2.4.1 Orchestral melody harmonica2.4.2 Chord harmonica

    2.5 ChengGong harmonica2.6 Pitch pipe2.7 Glass diatonic harmonica

    3 Techniques4 History

    4.1 Early instruments4.2 Europe and North America

    4.2.1 Early use4.2.2 1950s blues players4.2.3 1960s and 1970s blues players4.2.4 2000s blues players4.2.5 Other styles and regions

    4.3 East Asia4.3.1 Spread of the Tremolo Tuned Harmonica array of Japanese style4.3.2 Completion of the minor-key harmonica4.3.3 Activity of the harmonica in Hong Kong China.

    5 Medical use6 Competitions

  • 10/27/14 4:12 PMHarmonica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Page 3 of 19http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica

    Comb and two reedplates.

    Reed plate.

    7 Related instruments8 Notation

    8.1 Tabulature8.2 Regular notation

    9 Notable performers10 See also11 References12 External links

    PartsThere are three types of harmonicas: the diatonic, the chromatic, and thetremolo.

    The basic parts of the harmonica are the comb, reed-plates and cover-plates.

    CombThe comb is a term for the main body of the instrument, which contains theair chambers that cover the reeds. The term comb originates from thesimilarities between simple harmonicas and a hair comb. Harmonica combswere traditionally made from wood, but now are usually made from plastic(ABS) or metal (including titanium for very high-end instruments).[3] Somemodern and experimental comb designs are complex in the way that theydirect the air.

    Comb material was assumed to have an effect on the tone of the harp.While the comb material does have a slight influence over the sound of theharmonica, the main advantage of a particular comb material over anotherone is its durability.[4] In particular, a wooden comb can absorb moisturefrom the player's breath and contact with the tongue. This causes the combto expand slightly, making the instrument uncomfortable to play. Varioustypes of wood and treatments have been devised to reduce the degree of this problem.[3]

    An even more serious problem with wood combs, especially in chromatic harmonicas (with their thin dividersbetween chambers) is that the combs shrink over time. Comb shrinkage can lead to cracks in the combs due tothe combs being held immobile by nails, resulting in disabling leakage. Much effort is devoted by seriousplayers to restoring wood combs and sealing leaks. Some players used to soak wooden-combed harmonicas(diatonics, without windsavers) in water to cause a slight expansion, which they intended to make the seal

  • 10/27/14 4:12 PMHarmonica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Page 4 of 19http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica

    Reedplate mounted on the combof a diatonic harmonica.

    between the comb, reed plates and covers more airtight. Modern wooden-combed harmonicas are less prone to swelling and contracting. Players stilldip harmonicas in water for the way it affects tone and ease of bendingnotes.

    Reed-plateReed-plate is the term for a grouping of several reeds in a single housing.The reeds are usually made of brass, but steel, aluminium and plastic areoccasionally used. Individual reeds are usually riveted to the reed-plate, butthey may also be welded or screwed in place. Reeds fixed on the inside(within the comb's air chamber) of the reed-plate respond to blowing, while those on the outside respond tosuction.

    Most harmonicas are constructed with the reed-plates screwed or bolted to the comb or each other. A fewbrands still use the traditional method of nailing the reed-plates to the comb. Some experimental and rareharmonicas also have had the reed-plates held in place by tension, such as the WWII era all-American models.If the plates are bolted to the comb, the reed plates can be replaced individually. This is useful because the reedseventually go out of tune through normal use, and certain notes of the scale can fail more quickly than others.

    A notable exception to the traditional reed-plate design is the all-plastic harmonicas designed by Finn Magnusin the 1950s, where the reed and reed-plate were molded out of a single piece of plastic. The Magnus design hadthe reeds, reed-plates and comb made of plastic and either molded or permanently glued together.

    Cover platesCover plates cover the reed-plates and are usually made of metal, though wood and plastic have also been used.The choice of these is personalbecause they project sound, they determine the tonal quality of the harmonica.There are two types of cover plates: traditional open designs of stamped metal or plastic, which are simply thereto be heldand enclosed designs (such as the Hohner Meisterklasse and Super 64, Suzuki Promaster and SCX),which offer a louder tonal quality. From these two basic types, a few modern designs have been created, such asthe Hohner CBH-2016 chromatic and the Suzuki Overdrive diatonic, which have complex covers that allow forspecific functions not usually available in the traditional design. It was not unusual in the late 19th and early20th centuries to see harmonicas with special features on the covers, such as bells, which could be rung bypushing a button.

    WindsaversWindsavers are one-way valves made from thin strips of plastic, knit paper, leather or teflon glued onto thereed-plate. They are typically found in chromatic harmonicas, chord harmonicas and many octave-tunedharmonicas. Windsavers are used when two reeds share a cell and leakage through the non-playing reed wouldbe significant. For example, when a draw note is played, the valve on the blow reed-slot is sucked shut,preventing air from leaking through the inactive blow reed. An exception to this is the recent Hohner XB-40where valves are placed not to isolate single reeds but rather to isolate entire chambers from being active.

  • 10/27/14 4:12 PMHarmonica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Page 5 of 19http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica

    Mark Wenner cupshis hands around a"bullet mic" as heplays amplifiedharmonica.

    MouthpieceThe mouthpiece is placed between the air chambers of the instrument and the player's mouth. This can beintegral with the comb (the diatonic harmonicas, the Hohner Chrometta), part of the cover (as in Hohner's CX-12), or may be a separate unit entirely, secured by screws, which is typical of chromatics. In many harmonicas,the mouthpiece is purely an ergonomic aid designed to make playing more comfortable. However, in thetraditional slider-based chromatic harmonica it is essential to the functioning of the instrument because itprovides a groove for the slide.


    Amplification devices

    Since the 1950s, many blues harmonica players have amplified their instrument withmicrophones and tube amplifiers. One