Header Graphic
beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Chromatics
Login  |  Register
Page: 1

6553 posts
Mar 20, 2020
5:02 AM
I’m accumulating stuff despite myself.
I’ve just acquired a pretty nice super 64 from member John_MG. I think this is destined to become my gig chromatic, but I am yet to try it with a mic. I had some acoustic play with it tonight and I think I prefer the sound.

Over the last few years, my chromatic collection has expanded ‘under my nose’ and I just realized it’s kind of absurd. I’ll have to rationalise. Using this post to catalogue:

1 x Hohner (280) Super 64 Chromonica
2 x Pre war (280) super 64, not playable
2 x (270) super Chromonica
2 x (270) super Chromonica, not playable
2 x (260) Chromonica, not playable
3 x CX12 (1 standard, 2 jazz)
1 x Koch 980/48

That’s quite a lot, especially for a person who can hardly play.

I have had one of the 260s up and running but decided to rebuild it with a new body because I made a poor job of mending the original.

I really need to build a clamping jig for these combs.

Anyway, I have a new comb/body for 1 260.
I also have 2 new bodies for 270s.
I could build them with nails but I’m tempted to bolt them together.

Most of those are pre war units. Something about the idea of bringing them back appeals to me.
Some of them were built in England, or at least assembled there.
Almost always they have broken combs. I am aware the comb in a chromatic is not really comb-like so I’m inclined to say ‘body’ instead.
The other thing which often doesn’t show clearly in photos is the wear on the mouthpiece. With 270s you can still buy all the parts so it’s still quite economical even if you need to replace the body and mouthpiece. Oh, and windsavers always need replacement.

The 280s are kind of interesting. I have 2; 1 from US market, 1 from European. The US unit is eminently restorable. Everything is in great shape but the comb is cracked. The European unit is heavily worn. I’ll eventually restore it too, if I’m spared long enough.
These old 280s are considerably different to the current model. In fact, they are considerably different to the 280s from the early-mid-50s.
Hohner haven’t made the 280 like this for almost 70 years, and the most likely parts are not available. This means the wooden combs must be repaired and if slides are worn one can only do what can be done.
So, the problem is wooden comb and straight-tuned. Subsequent models of the 280 are cross-tuned. This mainly has implications for the slide.

The Koch is not with me yet, but I have a new comb for that on hand also.

The Kochs are very similar to the standard tuned 260s, but they do not have windsaver valves. I tried to fit windsavers to a Koch and quickly discovered it’s not really feasible.

Because the Kochs are not valved, they can do double reed bends, just like a standard diatonic. Usually a chromatic will only do single reed bends, because they are fully valved.

You can take the valves off the exposed sides of a standard-tuned (ie not a “solo-tuned”) 260 and then it will give double reed draw bends like a Koch. And it might still be more airtight than a Koch.
The Koch comb (!) has internal fins which separate the blow and draw reeds in an attempt to give more playability, but I believe they are still quite demanding to play, in terms of breath control.
The fins make using valves on the inside impractical as they interfere with the action of the valves.
These Koch harps are featured in 2 famous blues records I know, but quite possibly there are others.
The records I know are Little Walter ‘oh baby!’ (Not ‘aw’h baby’), and sonny boy 2 ‘dissatisfied’.
Both these songs are in Ab, and the Koch is in C, played with the slide pushed in except when deployed for effect. In the 50s there were no Db diatonic so if you wanted to play in Ab, you could take a Koch, which was standard tuned like a diatonic (not solo tuned liked most post war chromatics), hold the button in and play 2nd position as if playing a Db diatonic.
You could even draw bend like a diatonic. Plus, as Sonny Boy demonstrates on Dissatisfied, you can let the slide out and it’s like a half step bend. Listen to the solos in Dissatisfied and hear how he uses this.

Prewar 260s came in both standard tuned and solo tuned versions. I have a standard tuned model and before I stripped it it was half valved so I could do double reed draw bends plus blow bends on the low holes, and play the sonny boy parts for dissatisfied. I’m definitely intending to add that to my repertoire.

My restored 270s have 3D-printed ‘power combs’. They play really well. I’m spoiled really. 1 is a modern unit and the other was made in 1929. I paid $180 for the ‘unwanted gift’ and $30 for the prewar (then spent about $120 restoring it, but the gold mouthpiece was a bit extravagant)
My CX12s are also bargains. Again, $180 for the near new secondhand standard black edition and $125(USD) for each of the Jazz pair.
I play one of the Jazz models almost always. I don’t think they are really the best sounding chromatic but they are super practical and I think without them I’d still be just dithering about chromatic.

It was a chance encounter with Sxip Shirey which really led to me thinking more about chromatic. Sxip was in town and needed his super 64 repaired. The rigger on his show used to play drums in a couple bands with me, and called me to see if I could help. I did not know who Sxip was when I agreed to take a look.
That was my first professional repair on a chromatic and gave me confidence to say yes to the next job, and of course that led to this accumulation I now have. When people learn you mend things, you start receiving broken things.
This happened to my father also.

And that rigger, he is also instrumental in me fronting a band in the first place. I was gonna let it drop but he committed to putting a band in place. I never thought of that before now.

Anyway, that’s my chromatic story. I’ve professionally repaired a few now, I dunno, maybe 10 or 12, in addition to my own mucking about. I need to do some more mucking about in my own behalf now I think.
6556 posts
Mar 25, 2020
3:39 PM
My Koch arrived today.
“Excellent Pre-Loved Condition”
That’s a way of saying ‘looks quite good’.
It’s a way of saying ‘I’m using “pre-loved” as a way of saying that it might have something wrong with it as a result of having been, ahem, “loved” sometime already’.

Specifically in this case it seems to have been a way of saying the slide is totally jammed and in the joins there is some kind of paste residue presumably from efforts used to make the thing look ‘excellent’.

I’ve had worse. I thought about telling the seller about the shortcomings of the description, but I bought it fully expecting to be stripping it and restoring it, so practically this is neither here nor there. It’s a bonus that the comb is intact, frankly. I do roll my eyes at these idiotic meaningless descriptions though.

I’ll get a working harp from this, no problem. I have no idea how old it is. The inventory label doesn’t look very old but there’s no barcode. I think I’ve seen labels like this on stuff going back as far as the 60s, but I doubt it’s that old. They made this model as recently as 2013 I think. The comb looks really good but I have only played blow notes on it so far.

I’m working from home now, so maybe I’ll do some harp work in my break.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Mar 27, 2020 12:51 AM
17 posts
Jul 01, 2020
7:53 PM
When you’re restoring used harps, what do you do to sterilize them in the days of COVID? A used Hohner CX or 270 would be a good 2nd harp, but I’d want to refurbished it correctly and safely.
6729 posts
Jul 01, 2020
8:13 PM
i don't know COVID-specific. i think its like any virus and just becomes inactive after a while if its not in a suitable environment but think about how we are sanitising our hands; either alcohol or good old soap and water.

that is generally how i clean harps; soap and water. ive used other things in the past but unless i was 'in the field' without access to facilities where i could disassemble the harp and wash and dry, now i dont think i'd go there.

Hydrogen peroxide is good for those other situations but im not talking covid.

hydrogen peroxide is probably the best thing for sanitising. usually when im restoring i am doing more than sanitising. i am primarily 'cleaning' and that takes care of sanitation as well.

wooden combs/bodies are a different matter. i dont really have a good suggestion. i use a lot of new ones, or reused from my own harps, and also aftermarket.

i think the risk of infection from harmonicas is conflated with a lot of emotional thinking in some people's minds. its really not like using someone elses toothbrush. its more like using cutlery in a restaurant, or glassware in a hotel.

the most dangerous thing i think is probably mould spores, and inhaling particles, and you are at risk there even with your own harps. pay attention to storage, good airflow, moisture, humidity, etc.

windsavers are moisture traps, and ive seen mould growth between windsavers and reeds, and on the back of reeds facing inwards. again, the point is with this that its not about cross-contamination. this is a potential hazard with any harp.

if i'm restoring a chromatic for my own use, i use new windsavers and clean everything with soap and scrubbing. everything that gets wet is thoroughly dry before assembly
18 posts
Jul 02, 2020
2:24 AM
Thanks for the quick reply. I’ve found that my SCX64 and I get along really well, so I think a used chromatic would be a great way to get into servicing them. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of mould. I agree that my own use is an issue that needs to addressed. In my diatonics, I’ve been good about cleaning them as early on I would foul the reeds often. I also think you’re right about COVID not being any different from other bugs. I mostly use harps with ABS combs like Rockets, so a CX might be a good way to go for a second chromatic.

Post a Message

(8192 Characters Left)





blues harmonica riffs - harmonica tabs - learn harmonica - play harmonica

play harmonica easily - harp tabs for beginners - blues harmonica lessons


ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS