Re: Hohner XB-40...You can bend all the notes

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Posted by Jeremy Steinberg on January 17, 2003 at 05:43:06:

In Reply to: Re: Hohner XB-40...You can bend all the notes posted by Antonio on January 17, 2003 at 04:27:47:

: : I heard today that Hohner will be releasing their new XB-40 diatonic at the end of February. It's the one where you can bend all the blow and draw notes two complete half steps.

: Sounds great. It will be possible to get a chromatic scale without too much trouble then? Do you have any more news about it?

Hello All -

I don't know when this new Hohner harmonica will actually be on the market, but if Hohner says February, there is a good chance it might actually be May or June. Last second production issues, development issues, refinement issues, etc., could cause unforseen delays.

There are only 2 ways that I can think of that this diatonic harmonica will be able to play all notes of the 'standard' chromatic scale; either with valves, or a discrete comb.

In order for a diatonic to be able to play as a chromatic, one has to be able to bend each note (reed) down at least 1 step, and in some cases, 2 steps.

The only ways to do this are by overblows (assuming gapping of reed-in-slot has been carefully adjusted for each reed to enable overblows - or overdraws - by appropriate playing technique), or by re-directing each individual reed to its own dedicated hole in the front of the harmonica.

The discrete comb actually isolates each blow and draw reed fed air by a single hole - each hole on a 10-hole diatonic actually feeds air to the draw note (in the reed plate below the comb) and also to the blow note (in the reed plate above the comb, assuming you are holding the harp right side up, high notes to the right). Thus, the discrete comb creates 20 air flow chambers, and sends 10 to the 10 blow reeds, and 10 to the 10 draw reeds. With valving, this will allow overblows and/or overdraws on every single reed in the harmonica. The compromise is a larger comb, larger mouthpiece, and adjustment in playing techniques.

(Incidentally, an 'old-timer' master repairer/designer named John Infande also does this with 2 chromatic harmonicas together (!), called a Musette, for tremolo effects. He used to build them with Hohner 280's, and now, Hohner 270's, two chromatics merged into one instrument! A very interesting harmonica!)

At any rate, the other option is to valve every reed, so that all reeds will allow for a full 2-step bend. When you overblow a reed, you actually play the draw note at that point, not the blow note. And when you overdraw a reed, the draw reed ceases to bend, and the blow reed takes over.

But gapping also tends to cause choking of reeds, unless your technique is sensitive enough to avoid this.

My guess is that for the XB-40, the gapping and valving will be used in conjunction with each other, but I'm just guessing. It will be interesting to buy one, and then take it apart to see what technology Hohner has installed and combined.

A guy named Winslow Yerxa will be doing this, and reporting it on some chat groups, I suspect. As well as some of the other professional diatonic harp players.

Regards, Jeremy c/o

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