Harmonica is an instrument widely used in the world. The blog discusses all the factors related to this magical and legendary musical instrument.
HThe armonica, also popular as the mouth organ or the French harp, is a free reed wind musical instrument that is used in many musical genres. The main genres associated with this instrument are blues, American folk music, jazz, classical music, country and rock.
History and significance
At the beginning of the 19th century, the harmonica was invented in Europe. Prior to 1824, the harmonica was initially sold in Vienna, where chamber harmonicas were most popular. The Richter tuning was created in 1826 by Joseph Richter. He was the person who is also credited with inventing the blow and pull mechanism. The technique was then soon adapted universally.
Harmonicas are popular worldwide these days. However, initially it began to gain its recognition in the continents of Europe, North America and East Asia.
The harmonica is made up of different parts. They are:
- Comb – The reed is the main body of the instrument and when combined with the reed plates it creates air chambers for the reeds. The term “comb” may have come from the similarity of this harp part to a hair comb. Harmonica combs were historically made of wood, although they are now available in plastic (ABS) and metal (including titanium for high-end instruments). The way they direct the air complicates some of the modern and experimental comb designs.
- reed plate – A reed plate is a set of reeds housed in a single enclosure. Brass is the most common material for reeds, but steel, aluminum and plastic are also used on occasion. Individual reeds are usually riveted to the reed plate, but they can also be soldered or screwed. Blowing activates the reeds on the inner side of the reed plate (in the air chamber of the reed), while suction activates the reeds on the outer side.
- Cover plates – The cover plates, which are normally metal, but have also been made of wood and plastic to cover the reed plates. These are personal preferences as they project the sound and they determine the tonal quality of the instrument. There are mainly two types of cover plates. Traditional open shapes of metal or stamped plastic, which are used only to achieve the grip, and closed designs, provide a stronger tonal quality.
- windbreaker – One-way valves made from thin strips of plastic, knitted paper, leather, or Teflon glued to reed plates are called Wind-savers. Chromatic harmonicas, chordal harmonicas, and various octave-turned harmonicas all have them. When two reeds share a cell and there is a lot of leakage through the non-playing reed, windstoppers are used.
- Mouth – The mouthpiece sits between the air chambers of the instrument and the player’s mouth. This can be part of the comb, part of the cover, or a separate unit held on by screws, as is common with chromatics. The mouthpiece is only an ergonomic aid in many harmonicas, designed to make playing more comfortable.
Types of harmonicas
There are several types of harmonicas:
- Chromatic – A button-activated slide bar redirects air from the mouthpiece hole to the selected reed plate of the chromatic harmonica.
- Diatonic – A diatonic harmonica is a type designed to play in a single key.
- Tremolo-tuned – The unique feature of a tremolo harmonica is that it has two reeds per note, one slightly sharp and the other slightly flat.
- Orchestral – These are designed for use in ensemble play.
- honk – Horn harmonicas are the most common in East Asia. These consist of a single large comb with reed plates on top and bottom that are only there for blowing.
- ChengGong – The ChengGong harmonica has a sliding mouthpiece and the main body. The body is a 24-hole diatonic harmonica.
- no pipe – The Pitch pipe is a basic specialized harmonica that gives singers and other instruments a reference pitch.
play the harmonica
The instrumentalist who will play the harmonica must know all the related playing techniques. Some of the techniques are:
- tremolo – Vibrato is a technique for giving the note of a ‘Shaking’ sound that is often used on the harmonica and other instruments. This process can be done in different ways. Changing the way the harp is held is the most popular method.
- Folding – Players can play notes other than the 19 accessible on the diatonic harmonica by modifying their mouthpiece and forcing the reed to resonate at a different pitch. This method is known as bending.
- More flex – Overbending is a technique developed by Howard Levy in the 1970s. This technique is also known as overblowing and overstretching. Bending and overbending techniques allowed players to play the full chromatic scale.
Harmonicas are one of the most famous musical instruments in the world. The harmonica’s legacy will always be rich due to its unique style, charisma and techniques.
Alicia Parker is a fashion enthusiast studying at the University of California. She contributes to Daily Music Roll as a music blogger and writes a review of various music daily.