Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Tell me if this harmonica is diatonic or chromatic
Tell me if this harmonica is diatonic or chromatic
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83 posts
Mar 04, 2019
7:12 AM
Here is a “One Octave Harmonica” I've done by increasing the weight of the reeds by adding tin to the tip of the reeds with the soldering iron. Now the question is: Is this harmonica diatonic or chromatic harmonica and why?

John M G
292 posts
Mar 04, 2019
6:25 PM
If that harmonica is capable of playing all the 12 notes of a scale, which you demonstrated, it is now a chromatic instrument.
2640 posts
Mar 04, 2019
6:50 PM
Like a Polyphonia . . .
3568 posts
Mar 06, 2019
8:36 AM
Gnarly has it correct. Harps like these were very popular in the heydey of the all harmonica bands and the only thing they were used for were glissandos where you go as shown here chromatically up or down a scale quickly, something harder to achieve like this on either a chromatic or a diatonic.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
84 posts
Mar 06, 2019
9:42 PM
Well John M G, it is possible to play all the 12 notes of a scale also with normal Richter tuned diatonic harmonica by bending and overblowing, but nobody says that it is a chromatic instrument.
My problem is that in all harmonica competitions there are own series for diatonic and chromatic harmonicas and I should know to which one I can participate in with my one octave harmonica, mara

Last Edited by Maraboy on Mar 07, 2019 2:58 AM
John M G
293 posts
Mar 07, 2019
3:58 AM
Hi Mara
"Polyphonia" is a just a Hohner product name, like a CX-12, Marine Band, Chrometta, Melody Maker, Super 64, Crossover etc etc.

Polyphonic means many notes at the same time like just about all of our modern music, so if you play a diatonic or chromatic and you play chords your playing polyphonically.

If you are singing by yourself, you literally can only sing monophonically. Well, unless you've had lessons with Anna-Maria Hefele. Then again singers do sing chromatically, in a monophonic way unless you're Anna!

A Hohner CX-12 is a Chromatic harmonica with every reed tuned to enable fully chromatic octaves to be played.

A 10, 12 or 14 hole diatonic harmonica uses a heptatonic scale that includes five whole steps (whole tones) and two half steps (semitones) in each octave.
So they do not have the reeds chromatically tuned.
Yes you can bend notes and overblow and overdraw these notes. But the instrument is NOT tuned chromatically

I would say you have tuned your previously diatonic Marine Band 364 and converted it to a Chromatically tuned instrument.
So if I was a judge, which I'm not, and you wanted to play your re-tuned 364, I'd put you in with the chromatically tuned button slide chromatic harmonicas.

So, is my Hohner Koch-Harmonica a chromatic (it has a button slide) or a diatonic instrument? It's not chromatic as you certainly cannot play a C scale without having to bend a note. I can only get a G# using the slide where I need the A. I have to draw bend hole 3 button out to get the A. Is it a diatonic? Well the reeds are tuned diatonically. If you leave the button alone, it plays just like a C regular diatonic, though it leaks like a sieve.Push the button in and you've now got a C# diatonic. But is it a diatonic instrument? Hohners part number is 980/40 C CHROM.KOCH

What I can tell you is Little Walter use one once! This is I believe the piece he is thought to be using the Koch:

Here's Anna singing polyphonically,

Last Edited by John M G on Mar 07, 2019 4:02 AM
2642 posts
Mar 07, 2019
9:43 AM
This may be Off Topic, but I am curious as to how many members here have tried enhancing overtones when they sing.
I try it every once in a while, and wonder if mastery of that technique would help with harmonica intonation.
Gotta love what Anna-Marie does, wonder if she does "Bugle Call Rag" LOL
1727 posts
Mar 07, 2019
11:45 AM
Sorry about the off topic too...

I do use overtone control, particularly for more cut an volume. The choice of overtone can make a big difference in how it sounds (picking odd overtones can make it sound strange or dissonant). I usually use it during an extended note that I want to emphasize. Usually at the end of a song if I want it to raise an eyebrow or two.

I have not really tried it to shape harp sounds, and tongue position plays a big role in mouth position for the overtones while singing. Mine is usually slapping and moving around.

I spoke to an opera singer about the formants they use for that unbelievable projection. They, of course, use it on every note. I do think that experienced players have already worked this out in their playing. I remember attending HCH 1, and being quite amazed at the sheer volume that was coming out of the harp being played by Adam and all the other pros. They weren't necessarily playing hard, just huge.

I found that eventually I understood the same thing in my playing, but do remember the humble beginnings. I do think that mount position plays a huge roll, just not the same as overtone singing mouth positions.

2643 posts
Mar 07, 2019
12:45 PM
Thanks Danny!

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