Chromatic Harmonica Buying Guide

A chromatic harmonica has all 12 notes of the chromatic scale available enabling the user to play in any key. On a C chromatic harmonica the button operated slide mechanism allows the player to alternate between the scales of C and C# – in effect it is like alternating between the white and black notes of the piano.

For many years Eagle Music have not only supplied world class brands including Seydel and Hohner to countless customers but also to many top professional players from around the country. All our Chromatic harmonicas are tested through bellows to ensure they play correctly before despatch.

Here we’ve provided with you some Q&A’s to further assist your buying decision.

Q. I play the diatonic and want to try the chromatic. Which one do I go for?

A: We stock many of the top quality brands of harmonica including Hohner,Seydel,Suzuki and Hering chromatic harmonicas for the amateur to the professional. The most popular choice is the 12 hole chromatic in C. Alternatively you can try a solo tuned diatonic like the Seydel Orchestra. These are like a mini chromatic harmonicas.

Whilst the techniques are very similar in playing most harmonicas the note layout is slightly different. The Chromatic harmonicas has more range than the diatonic and is bigger in size. Chromatics vary in price quite a lot depending on quality. A good quality starter chromatic can range from £50 upwards.

Q. What does the little button do on the side do?

A: The little button on the side is a slide button and when you press it, it open up the sharps and flats of the chromatic scale ie it plays the black notes as on a piano. This is a feature on mostly all chromatic harmonicas the we sell.

Q. Do I choose a 12,14 or 16 hole Chromatic?

A: Our constant stock includes all 3 types. It all depends on how much range you want from the instrument. The 12 hole has 48 notes available. The 14 hole has 56 notes available and the 16 hole has 64 notes available. Most of the big manufacturers have 12-16 hole harmonicas available. Usually the 14 and 16 hole versions have more notes available at the bottom end of the harmonica rather than the top. Very high notes are not used as much and be quite a challenge to play cleanly.

Q. Do I go for a pinned together or screwed together harmonica. Does it make any difference?

A: Both are common build types. The more airtight the harmonica is, the easier and better they will play however the world’s most popular 12 hole chromatic is pinned together and has been so for many years. Certainly the top of the range harmonicas are screwed together.

Q. What are windsavers or valves? Should I go for windsavers on my Chromatic?

A: Generally they are fitted as standard on Chromatic harmonicas. In a nutshell they can make harmonicas easier to play. On harmonicas, ‘valves’ are flaps attached to the reed plate at the rivet over the slot opposite the reed. They are made out of a thin plastic strip, or pair of strips. They block the air stream during a draw from entering through the blow reeds (and vice versa for draw reeds) so less air is required overall to play a reed thus they save wind.

Q. Which Key should I go for?

A: Again, this depends on what you are playing and how low or high you want the harmonica to generally sound. Unlike diatonic harmonicas Chromatics are not available in all keys. C is by far the most popular. There are some available as a Tenor C which is an octave lower than normal C. On a 12 hole chromatic hole number 1 blow is the note that the harmonica is labelled in eg if you have a C chromatic then hole number 1 blow will be a C note.

Q. Can I play the blues on a Chromatic?

A: Yes. Although not as popular as its cousin the diatonic or blues harp you can play the blues on the chromatic. The note bending technique that is applied to diatonic harmonicas is not used as much on the chromatic. There are several Blues Chromatic books available at Eagle Music.

Q. Can I replace the reeds or reed plates on my Chromatic?

A: Yes. They are available for most harmonicas but be aware that some chromatic harmonicas have the reed plates pinned instead of screwed together. We can arrange for any repairs or new parts you need fitting with some of the major manufacturers.

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