[Harp-L] Re: Tubes with harmonica reeds attached
Hello, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, home of the SPAH Convention 2007. I
think it was Zombor who asked readers of this chat group if anyone has tried
attaching tubes to reed plates, or tried reeds in tubes, to produce amplified
reed vibration when activated by our inhaled or exhaled breath over the
There was an antique harmonica made by the Weiss harmonica company about 100
years ago: the Pipeolion (1902). The Pipeolion was a 10-hole Richter system
harmonica that had no reed plates, a nickel-brass mouthpiece, a
coat-hanger-shaped wood housing for 10 tubes with two reeds inserted in each brass tube,
with a reed slot that functioned as a reed plate's reed slot.
Each of the tubes had a flared (bell-shaped) end on the outside of the wood
housing, with the tube end inserted into a hole in the wood. The performer
inhaled or exhaled through the mouthpiece into the tube, and the vibrating reeds
I'm working on an idea for a variation of the pipeolion: a "party blow-out"
harmonica using reeds in tubes and no reed plates, housed in a wood or
plastic body (not a "comb"). When the reed is played, the party favor uncurls, and
re-curls when the air is stopped.
I'm certain that both Vern and Winslow have knowledge of this rare harmonica
(Pipeolion). They might be able to give more details about it.
There were many other attempts at using tubing on harmonicas to produce an
amplified sound, but most of the harmonicas with horns were cosmetic. The horns
or tubes usually played no part in tone production, and the tubes weren't
attached to the reed plates. I would guess that the Pipeolion tubes focused the
performer's airflow, thus influencing the sound production, at least in a
A modern harmonica with a large tube around the reed plates is the Suzuki
Pipe Humming diatonic Richter system harmonica. A single pipe is attached to
the reed plates horizontally. It is both a resonator and a cover. It's my
perception that it is an amplifier. Another piped harmonica is the Tombo "Baby
a 4-hole diatonic Richter system mini-harmonica. On this harmonica, the
"pipe" cylinder surrounding the harmonica's reed plates produces little or no
amplification, in my opinion.
Other attempts at acoustic amplification of the harmonica included these
Hohner products: The Hohner Harmonette(1902) was a tremolo harp attached to a
string instrument harp-shaped wood box that had an open "tone hole" in the
center of the box. The wood box theoretically had a similar effect on the
amplification of the harmonica sound as the box with open tone hole of an acoustic
guitar has on the guitar.
Another Hohner Harmonette (1902) was a "mouth accordion," made for the
Spanish market. It had 5 small megaphones attached to the reeds, 10 keys
(buttons), 20 reeds, 2 bass keys, a box and a trumpet mouthpiece. I'm guessing that
it was a blow-only instrument.
Hohner also produced The Echophone, and the Cartridge Harp, (1902), with a
megaphone-type attachment. The megaphone type object was closed at one end, and
placed on the harmonica lengthwise. It produced an amplification. Many
harmonica companies had megaphone-type harmonicas, including the Clover
Harmonophone (1904), made by the C.A.Seydel Sohne company.
The Hohner Hohnerola (1910?) was a variation of the Pipeolion. It had flared
tubes, a box shell, and was played by blowing through an elastic tube
inserted into the box of the Hohnerola. Buttons were pressed to channel the air
through a selected hole. I don't know if it had reed plates. It had 9 horns
(tubes), and was probably a single reed (per note) diatonic, but that's a guess.
The Elton Harmonicaphone (1930s) was a megaphone, clip-attached to your
favorite brand of diatonic or tremolo or octave harmonica. From what I've been
told, the Harmonicaphone was made of a bakelite-type material. In it's picture,
it looks like a modern-day cowbell. I'm certain that it was a very effective
There have been many attempts at acoustic amplification of the various
harmonicas over the 180+ year history. But not many used tubes to amplify the
sound, as far as I know.
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