Re: New Harp & HIP

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    >Folks -
    > I read in the AHA newsletter the other day about the new Tombo
    >chromatic, which doesn't use a slide. Instead, it stacks one row of holes
    >up and just to the right of the other. Has anyone seen or tried any of
    >these harps?

    I think they are talking about the TOMBO S-50. It isn't really very new,
    Tombo has made it for years but it and other Tombo models were not readily
    available in the USA until Lee Oskar became the distributor. Anyway, the
    S-50 is a fun harmonica to play once you get on to it. An unique feature
    is that it has NO windsavers (valves) - they are not needed due to the way
    it is constructed. I really hate to drop another ASCII drawing on you. Oh,
    what the heck.... (All readers groan in unison) Here's the layout.

                      TOMBO S-50 CHROMATIC (Japan)


    B  D  B  D  B  D   D  B  D  B  D  B  D   D  B  D  B  D  B  D   D  B
  |Db|Eb|Fb|Gb|Ab|Bb||Cb|Db|Eb|Fb|Gb|Ab|Bb||Cb|Db|Eb|Fb|Gb|Ab|Bb||Cb|Db| TOP
  |C#|D#|E#|F#|G#|A#||B#|C#|D#|E#|F#|G#|A#||B#|C#|D#|E#|F#|G#|A#||B#|C#| ROW
 o                     o                     o                     o
|  |  |  |  |  |  ||  |  |  |  |  |  |  ||  |  |  |  |  |  |  ||  |  | BOTTOM
|C |D |E |F |G |A ||B |C |D |E |F |G |A ||B |C |D |E |F |G |A ||B |C | ROW
  B  D  B  D  B  D   D  B  D  B  D  B  D   D  B  D  B  D  B  D   D  B

  B=blow note
  D=draw note


The TOMBO S-50 has two rows of 22 holes. Each hole contains one reed. The
bottom row is tuned to the C scale. The top row is tuned to the C# (Db) scale.
This gives you three chromatic octaves. The holes alternate between BLOW & DRAW
except where noted below on the note A & B. This allows you to play a C scale
using the familiar BLOW DRAW BLOW DRAW BLOW DRAW DRAW BLOW sequence. Move to
the top row and the same sequence plays the C# scale. To play the chromatic
scale or sharps and flats you alternate between the top and bottom row. There
is a tiny dimple on the comb which identifies each C note and separates the
octaves. The range is the same as a 12 hole chromatic (i.e., Hohner 270). The
harmonica has no slide nor does it have (or need) windsavers. The reason it
doesn't need windsavers (valves) is because each reed is in it's own cell -
there's no way for it to leak air. There is a wide space between groups of
holes which took me a while to see the logic in it. Then I realized that this
wide space separates holes where there are adjacent DRAW notes (I.e., between
each A & B note). I thought this was pretty clever design as it helps keep you
from accidentally playing an A & B at the same time. All the other notes have
either draw or blow notes on either side, so if you're a little sloppy you
still only sound the note you intend to. In fact, the proper technique is to
cover two holes at once so you can play a blow or draw without changing

The Tombo S-50 has a plastic comb and a wraparound cover plate. The layout and
playing technique described above sounds cumbersome at first but can be
adjusted to with practice. Yes, you can bend notes. It has a unique sound and
can produce some nice tone and/or vibrato. It's cheap compared to "standard"
chromatic harmonicas - I think around $30.00 - and a fun instrument to play.
Once mastered you can play very fast chromatic passages on it. I recall someone
at the 1991 SPAH convention played "Take Five" on one of these.

>Speaking of seen-tried, does anyone get HIP, the harp magazine? I've thought
>about subscribing but at $5 an issue, it ought to be made out of gold. Is it
>worth the price?

I have seen HIP and am impressed with the quality and content. I plan to
subscribe to HIP (soon as I get the $30.00 in my harp fund). Mississippi
Saxophone is another good one (I think it's $12.00/yr, six issues).

                                                                Jack Ely

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