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Online Guide Harmonicas
Harmonica Types

 


Richter Harmonicas - the Blues Harp

Richter harmonica


Richter diatonic harmonica - the blues harp

Not much is known about Herr Richter - not even his first name - though he is thought to have come from what is now known as the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, we owe him a great debt for creating a simple but enormously versatile type of harmonica. Blow notes are set in the upper reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
, draw notes in the lower. Each hole has a blow note and a draw note. The most common Richter diatonics have ten holes. Yet far from being limited to a mere 20 notes, players like Howard Levy have found ways to extract a full 37 different notes from a single Richter harp. And the great bluesmen managed to find notes never heard in Western music, laying the foundations of modern popular music with instruments that often cost no more than 50
CentOne hundredth of a semitone.
cents
.

Beginner and Melody Harmonicas

Typically, these instruments have combs with two rows of holes, with each hole having blow and draw reeds. They have full diatonic scales in each
RegisterA temporary storage location in a computer's CPU for data being processed.
register
. They produce sweet tones and it is easy to play simple tunes - ideal for beginners.


Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
Chromatic
Harmonicas

Chromatic harmonica

A
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatic
harmonica is essentially two Melody-style diatonic harps placed one on top of the other. However, the lower of the two is tuned a semitone higher, allowing you to play full
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatic
scales without having to bend notes. On most
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatics
, the lower channel is blocked by a spring-loaded slider, which you press when you want to play the notes of the higher-tuned harp.


Viennese Harmonicas

Viennese harmonica

Also known as a Thie harmonica - after its creator, Wilhelm Thie - this type of harmonica uses the usual diatonic sequence of notes, but the reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
are constructed differently. Both the upper and lower reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
have blow reeds and draw reeds, separated by the divider in the comb. Each hole therefore only produces one note - blow, or draw. Most Viennese harps have the same notes in the upper and lower holes, so you get a rich double tone.


Half Viennese

Simply, a Viennese harmonica with only one reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plate
.


Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
Tremolo
Harmonicas

Tremolo  harmonica

Often using the Viennese design, these harmonicas add a twist by tuning the lower reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
slightly differently to the upper reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
. This gives a subtle
Harmonic1) Adjective describing the aspects of music associated with harmony (several differently pitched notes sounding together). 2) A clear, pure tone produced on the guitar by lightly placing a finger of the fretting hand directly above a mathematically determined position on the string. The easiest harmonics are found at the twelfth and (approximately) seventh and fifth frets.
harmonic
vibration that adds a sweet
ResonanceA parameter for boosting the frequencies around the cut-off point of a filter. When shaped by an envelope so that it moves in frequency it creates the characteristic 'wow' sound of a subtractive synthesizer.
resonance
to the tones.


Octave Harmonicas

Octave harmonica

A variation on the
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
Tremolo
theme, Octave harmonicas have the
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
tuned an octave apart, again leading to rich
Harmonic1) Adjective describing the aspects of music associated with harmony (several differently pitched notes sounding together). 2) A clear, pure tone produced on the guitar by lightly placing a finger of the fretting hand directly above a mathematically determined position on the string. The easiest harmonics are found at the twelfth and (approximately) seventh and fifth frets.
harmonic
overtones.


Wender and Kreuzwender

Wender harmonicas

On a Wender harmonica, you effectively have a pair of harmonicas back-to-back. Typically, you’ll have a C and a G, a D and an A, or a Bb with an F. The idea is that you can switch the harmonica round to find notes not usually available on a standard diatonic, which is only tuned to one
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
. Kreuzwender Harmonicas go even further by linking several harmonicas in a star-configuration (kreuz = star). The result is an ungainly but highly versatile instrument.


Knittlinger Harmonicas

Knittlinger Harmonicas

Similar to the Viennese Harmonica, the main difference with a Knittlinger is that the blow/draw pairs in each hole are not divided. Thus the holes are rectangular and a slightly more subtle technique is required to ensure smooth playing.

Special Tunings


SBS - the Steve Baker Special

Harp-ace Steve Baker is a consultant to Hohner and developed this extended version of the Marine Band with them. There are three extra holes in the lower octave - giving some rich, fruity bends - and an extra hole at the top. Note also that Steve Baker wrote the bible for harmonica players - The Harp Handbook. It’s essential reading.


Country Tuning

A variation of Richter tuning, the draw on the fifth hole is raised by a semitone. This makes the harp easier to use for musical styles where the blue-note is less appropriate, such as country, folk or latin.


Cross
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
Chromatic
and
BottleneckA glass or metal tube used on the ring or little finger to play slide guitar. In computing, 'bottleneck' describes the slowest part of a system in cases where this limits overall performance.
Slide
Harp

So-called “cross”
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatic
harmonicas use the Richter configuration, which means that true
Chromatic1) Involving the addition of musical colour by the addition of accidentals. 2) Proceeding by semitones.
chromatic
playing - with every note available without bending - is not possible. The
BottleneckA glass or metal tube used on the ring or little finger to play slide guitar. In computing, 'bottleneck' describes the slowest part of a system in cases where this limits overall performance.
slide
harp uses a slightly different layout; instead of opening and closing the lower row of holes, the
BottleneckA glass or metal tube used on the ring or little finger to play slide guitar. In computing, 'bottleneck' describes the slowest part of a system in cases where this limits overall performance.
slide
opens and closes the upper and lower parts of each hole. It’s a design that makes bending a little easier.

Orchestra/Ensemble Models


BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
Bass
Harmonicas

These mighty instruments produce magnificent tones and are the essential foundation of harmonica bands. They are laid out like the
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
keys
of a piano, with the natural scale on the lower reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plates
and the sharps and flats on the upper reed
PlateType of reverb originally associated with pop/rock recording from the 50s to the 70s. A plate reverb comprises a large metal sheet with transmitting and receiving transducers on each side. The complex signal from the receiver is mixed with the dry signal in order to create a reverb effect. Plate reverb emulations are now common to most electronic/software reverbs, where it is thought to be particularly flattering to vocals.
plate
. This leaves some of the upper holes free - there are fewer sharps and flats - so additional F and B notes are added.


Chord Harmonicas

Chord harmonica

As the name suggests, these are harmonicas designed to allow chords to be played easily. Major, minor, seventh, augmented and diminished chords can be played. Instruments such as the Hohner Chord - which measures almost two feet in length and has 384 tones - create huge sounds, though they require considerable skill (and puff) to play.

 

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