[Harp-L] Re: OK, breaking down and buying a chromatic. Little help???

You can certainly play in all keys on one chromatic. People whose main focus is chromatic do just that.

So why get chromatics in keys other than C? Partly because you may want chords in a particular key. As you get farther away from the key of the harp, you have to get pretty clever in coming up with two- or three-note combinations that work with a particular song.

Also, just like with diatonic, which can theoretically play in any key, it's easier to learn to play in a few positions and then change to a different key of chromatic to play beyond those keys. However, while playing just one chromatic forces you to learn to play in more than a few key positions, it doesn't make you bend or overblow to get the notes.

If the tunes you're playing tend to be in keys like C, F, G, Bb, and Eb, then a C chromatic will be quite friendly to those keys. Keys like D are also fine, but as you move into keys with a lot of sharps in the scale, like A and E, things get a little harder. Look at the keys you'll be playing in before deciding on a key of chromatic.

As to what to get, any chromatic nowadays is pricey - even the venerable Hohner 270 Super chromonica is going for nearly $140 online - it wasn't that long ago that I was paying about half that. More upscale models include the 270 Deluxe (round holes, held together with screws instead of nails), the CX-12, and some of the Seydel models.

I'd avoid 10-hole chromatics - not enough range, and also cheap brands like Golden Cup - not durable enough and poor quality control. I wish I could recommend Hering instruments - their build quality is great and they're very responsive, but I'm not alone in finding that their reeds just don't hold up.

While a 10-hole diatonic will give you three a range of octaves, a chromatic requires qw holes to deliver the same range, and I'd suggest that as a minimum. In the Hohner line, a C chromatic has the same range as a C diatonic, while all the other keys are lower in pitch. The 16-hole chromatics come only in C (though rare examples in other keys are not unknown) and give you a whopping four-octave range. But they can be a little overwhelming, especially if you're coming from playing ten-hole diatonic.

One thing that can help you get acquainted with the chromatic is the area where the tuning is identical with the diatonic, in the middle octave. On a diatonic, Holes 4 through 7 give you the major scale of the key of the harp. On a chromatic, Holes 5 through 8 give you the same note layout, and this layout is used for all octave, so it's very consistent, unlike the diatonic where notes are missing and the relationship between blow and draw notes in the same hole keeps changing as you move up the range of the harp. Once you have a chromatic,k try starting with first position nursery rhymes and other simple tunes in the middle octave. Then try playing the same tunes an octave lower and an octave higher.

For more, check out some of my early articles at harmonicasessions.com

Hope this helps.

Winslow Yerxa

Author, Harmonica For Dummies ISBN 978-0-470-33729-5

--- On Mon, 11/24/08, Michael Meehan <mikemeehan2002@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
From: Michael Meehan <mikemeehan2002@xxxxxxxxx>
Subject: OK, breaking down and buying a chromatic. Little help???
To: winslowyerxa@xxxxxxxxx, "Harp L Harp L" <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Monday, November 24, 2008, 4:26 PM

OK, I can't put it off any longer. Struggling to play certain songs in my band's list with my diatonic harps (we play 20's and 30's jazz/pop/standards stuff. Kind of jug band style) so am going to bite the bullet and try to learn a chromatic. I don't know anything about them, though. I am not a pro, and don't have a billion songs in my repertoire, so what do I really need? Just one? I know they sell them in different keys, but I don't understand why.   Also, what would be a decent one to get? I can't afford a REALLY pricey one, but I don't mind dishin' out a little cash to make sure I get one that does not sound like garbage. 
  BTW, you all are a wonderful resource, and I can't thank you enough for the guidance I have received in the past.   Regards, Mike 



This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.