Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > question for chromatic players
question for chromatic players
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63 posts
Mar 30, 2009
2:25 PM
I've been playing for a couple of decades now but I've never owned a chromatic harmonica. I do have a 12-hole soloist harp that has the same note layout as a 12 hole chromatic with the slide button out. Since it has three complete diatonic octaves with no missing notes, my bends are all half-steps. I know you can bend notes using a regular chromatic but my question is relative: How easy is it for the average player to bend notes on a chromatic? Does it take a lot of practice? Do you have to have the lungs of a Boston marathon runner to do it? It sounds like Little Walter and a few others sometime played this way when they played chromatic (bending to get the half-steps rather than using the button).
633 posts
Mar 30, 2009
6:31 PM
I don't play the chro at all--but it is my understanding that, because of the valves in a chro--there ain't no bending as we know it. Maybe somebody who really knows will chime in??

Last Edited by on Mar 30, 2009 6:31 PM
65 posts
Mar 30, 2009
6:58 PM
I thought the same thing for years but since I've been on the "information superhighway" (aka the web), I have read peoples claims that you can bend notes on a chromatic. It must be much more difficult than on a diatonic because of it's windsaver valves and the design of the chromatic itself. I meant to ask ask how difficult it is rather than how easy it is.

Last Edited by on Mar 30, 2009 7:01 PM
39 posts
Mar 30, 2009
8:34 PM
the point of the slide is to give the half notes that you get by bending on a diatonic. contrary to usual opinion, i know for a fact a chromatic CAN be bent at least on some notes, but for me it has been a sure way to end up replacing reed plate/comb assy's or shopping for a new chromatic.

i admit i have used the slide on my chromatics not at all, preferring to just play third position, usually blues, a little basic jazz and folk. the guys who inspired me to get a chro were carey bell, little walter, james cotton, william clarke,and john weston. any one of them know/knew more about music and harp than i do, but my stubborn nature has driven me to learn enough to sound fairly decent on a chromatic in the right circumstances. being an incorrigible improviser has helped.
227 posts
Mar 30, 2009
8:52 PM
DanP : I have a couple of Chroms but have never been much good at conquering them. They are also fiddly because of the windsavers.

Because they are chromatic it isn't necessary to bend notes ie all the notes are in there. They are also very leaky compared to diatonics because of the more complex mouthpiece and slide mechanism. Also bending the notes on a chrom would shorten its life and they are not cheap.

Chroms are used by some Bluesmen but they are more the tool for Jazz and Classical players.

You should pose your question on a site devoted to Chroms ie http:www.slidemeister.com/

I think the folks at Slidemeister would point you to the correct path.
7 posts
Apr 21, 2009
11:09 AM
I have played the Chromatic for Well I'm not sure anymore, but anyway yes you can bend notes both blow and draw on the chrom. I think they only go a simi-tone, but I can bend very well on the chrom. I would say bending the 5 and 6 draw are esiest holes. The three draw sounds cool, but alittle harder. The seven draw is like learning to overdraw the 7 hole on a "C" harp. I've gotten much better at that chrom bend due to overdrawing practice!
A cool bend/lick I do is press the button in and play the seven blow bent, release the bend, release the button, push the back in and release it again! Play that fast and go 6 draw, 5 draw, 4 blow, 3 draw, 3 blow with button, 3 blow button out, 2 draw and one draw. Theres a million different ways to work your way down to the one draw. Just like playing a diatonic just different!
1 post
Jan 02, 2018
1:24 PM
I use an Epiphone Century reissue amp for harp, Shure 545 mic, Weber 12A125-0 speaker, which is working out for me. I've read articles about changing the coupling capacitors, such as .1uf like a Fender Bassman for a fatter tone. I can change them myself, but I don't know which capacitors are the coupling caps. I have a pic of the inside of the amp, how can I send it to you ? What caps would you recommend for this amp for harp (type, brand, value) Does it have a bright cap and where is it on this amp. I'm not good at reading schematics, so I would need to go by a picture. Any help would be much appreciated, thanks, Greg M.
342 posts
Jan 02, 2018
2:24 PM
gregm, you should start a new thread. this thread is about bends on chromatic.

to the OP, yes you can and should bend notes on the chrom. generally quarter tone bends are available rather than semi-tones, although I think some with some notes, semi-tone bends are possible.

Bends on the chrom sound cool, especially bending up to pitch (a dip) and I think bends are an important part of the blues chromatic lexicon that every chrom player must master. They are not really much different though in terms of technique from diatonic bends, just a bit more subtle.

Winslow will probably chime in and add some more info for you hopefully.

4' 4+ 3' 2~~~
-Mike Ziemba
Harmonica is Life!

Last Edited by slaphappy on Jan 02, 2018 2:26 PM
1666 posts
Jan 02, 2018
2:50 PM
I agree with slaphappy that the amp mod question needs a new thread.

Regarding bending on a chromatic, yes, you can bend, and yes, they can sound good. Here is a link to a thread on MBH about this topic in which Winslow Yerxa contributed great info:

Stevie Wonder's bends

Doug S.
370 posts
Jan 02, 2018
4:11 PM
Since I asked that question nearly 9 years ago, I have owned a couple of chromatics and now know more than I did then on the theory behind them. It is impossible to bend one a half step without serious modifications or trying to do so will damage an expensive instrument. Little Walter was bending no more than a quarter tone even though he sometimes sounded like he was bending more on the chrom. I consider the bends to be closer to articulations than true bends. All the notes are available and you don't get a missing note by bending on one which requires at least a half step bend. But "bending" on a chromatic on the bluesier songs can make one sound better.
1667 posts
Jan 02, 2018
4:43 PM
If you check out the link above that I posted to the "Stevie Wonder bends" thread you will see info from Winslow and hear examples of playing that demonstrates that you can bend far more than a half step.

Those bends are single reed bends as opposed to two reed interactive bends. For me, I use a different attack, but Winslow knows far more than I on this topic.

Doug S.
371 posts
Jan 02, 2018
5:33 PM
I was not aware of half-step or more single reed bends on a conventional chromatic. Thank you dougharps for the link. I'm always learning something new on this forum. Stevie Wonder never ceases to amaze me.
Thievin' Heathen
944 posts
Jan 06, 2018
10:54 PM
Someone far more knowledgeable than I will hopefully be along shortly, but my understanding of "BENT" notes is that they are an averaging of the blow and draw reeds working together. The best visual for me was the bent notes filling in (on the keyboard), between the 2 notes offered, the notes left absent by the Richter tuning. On solo tuning/Chromatics, the only note missing is the 1/2 step between the 2 notes offered in that hole. Yes, you can bend chromatics, and should. The inflections give them life and dynamics.

Last Edited by Thievin' Heathen on Jan 06, 2018 10:56 PM

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