[Harp-L] Couldn't we rename our instruments ?

Sébastien Frémal sebastien.fremal@xxxxx
Thu Oct 12 05:39:53 EDT 2017

Hello !

It may be seen as a daring request, but things evolve and maybe the name of
our instruments "chromatic harmonica" and "diatonic harmonica" could
evolve. I'm a "young" harmonicist as I have been playing harmonica for 4
years only, but I started directly with video of Jason Ricci and quickly
studied overnotes. On out-of-the box harmonicas, these things can be really
hard, depending on the setting of the reeds, but with a little
reed gaping and a touch of nail polish, they become really easy. Diatonic
accordions, diatonic xylophone are and will stay diatonic. Diatonic
harmonicas were designed to be played diatonic, but bends and overnotes
have transformed the way we conceive the instrument over the years. You can
find a bunch of talented players who have proven that you can play most of
the tunes with this instrument. I'm currently studying tunes from
Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillepsie... Players such as
Sebastien Charlier, Jérôme Peyrelevade, Konstantin Reinfield... have
recorded wonderful and complex jazz CD. Many Brazilian artists use the
diatonic harmonica in Brazilian music (check Julio Rego for example)...

Most of the time, when I play a gig, I have to explain that the "diatonic
harmonica" is chromatic and that it offers a 3-scale register, which is the
mean for wind instrument. That it's not just a "small instrument". And the
guys are like "But it's a DIATONIC harmonica, you don't have all the notes
on this harmonica" or "you seem to do what Toots Thielemans was doing, why
don't you buy a chromatic harmonica ?" and every time I play all the 3
chromatic scales and I explain that the instrument is called diatonic but
is in fact chromatic.

As I'm tired of all that, I have decided to call the chromatic harmonica
the "button harmonica" and the diatonic harmonica "the buttonless
harmonica". I encourage every harmonica players to do the same so we could,
maybe, one day avoid long discussion about the nature of our instruments
and drink more beers after our gigs ;)


Sébastien Frémal

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