XB-40, first impressions
- Subject: XB-40, first impressions
- From: "M. Erickson" <erickm@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 23 Sep 2003 23:40:11 -0600
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I received an XB-40 in the key of A yesterday. Per the documentation that
came with the instrument "Break in you harmonica gently. It is important to
play a new harmonica gently for the first week in order to 'break in' the
reeds. (I know this is a controversial topic, but I always follow the
manufacturers suggestions.....) Thus, I have yet to put the instrument
through it's paces. I have been playing nice and easy.
My first impressions of the the instrument:
The physical size. It's almost like a Special 20 on steroids. It's about the
size of a Slide Harp, without the button. The mouth piece is comfortable and
it's easy to play.
The tone. It's not your typical diatonic tone, but it's not a chromatic tone
either. Per the Hohner documentation: "The internal valve cells ensure
airtight performance and provides resonating chambers for a full rich tone."
I guess it's those "resonating chambers" you can hear in the tone. (As the
comb and chambers are plastic, I wonder what wooden or metal comb and
chambers would do to the tone?)
1st position licks. Wow! Talk about expression. On the low and high end.
I've been playing this thing gently, just like the instructions say, but you
can get bends and vibrato (defined as --A tremulous or pulsating effect
produced in an instrumental or vocal tone by barely perceptible minute and
rapid variations in pitch) that I have never heard on a regular short harp,
or a chromatic. There are licks in the XB-40 that have never been heard
My plan is to break in the harp gently (by the book), and then start working
out all those bends. I'll use my keyboard and tuner, just like working on
draw-3 and draw-2 on a regular harp, and attempt to master all of those
added notes. I'll probably work out 2 octaves of major scales in positions
1, 2 and 3, and then follow that up with blues scales. And I'll just play
the thing. It'll be fun pulling melodies out the air -- commercials, TV
themes, movie scores, show tunes, classic rock licks. I do that on a short
harp now, but XB40 has all the notes, and then some.
I think the XB40 is a revolutionary instrument. It has changed the harmonica
world forever. Will it replace a regular diatonic? No, the regular short
harp will be around for the next few centuries, I'm sure. Chromatics are any
entirely different instrument, and the XB40 is certainly not going to
replace them. But it adds another color to the harper's palette. I will
still play short harps, chromatics, Lee Oscar minors, Steve Baker Specials,
and Slide Harp. The XB40 is just another tool to help get the job done.
As harmonica players, we live in a wonderful time.
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