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My harmonicas

I play both chromatic, as well as the diatonic harmonica. These days, the harmonica player has a marvelous choice of instruments available. Years ago, certainly where I was living in London England, there was only one brand of harmonica available to me, and that was from "Hohner", made in Germany. Now there are lots of manufacturers of "mouth organs" from all over the world, and because of the competition between them, the standard of instruments manufactured these days is vastly better than it was in the past. Most of my instruments are made by Hohner. Probably because I am used to ideosincrasies of that particular brand! However, Hohner have never been particularly helpful to me as a "professional" harmonica player. Back in the 1960s, I had been buying my instruments direct from Hohner's old British headquarters, in Farringdon Street, London, England. I would purchase dozens of diatonic harmonicas at a time back then. However, some "bright spark" at Hohners, decided that I should no longer be "allowed" to purchase my instruments direct from them wholesale, and that in future I would have to buy my harmonicas from retail musical instrument shops at VASTLY higher prices. I would have understood that, if I had been buying just a few harmonicas at a time, but I was buying boxes and boxes of them back then!

Many of my harmonicas have been built, and regularly serviced for me, by the harmonica customiser.... & harmonica genius... Dr Antony Danneker D. Mus., and he certainly creates some of the very best harmonicas available anywhere. Link: http://www.antonydannecker.com/

What are my "main" instruments?

Chromatic Harmonicas

Almost all of my chromatic harmonicas are in what is known as "Solo" Tuning. My favorite mouth organ is my ILUS Renaissance Chromatic harmonica, in the key of "C". I have devoted a web page to this instrument. Link: http://johnwalden.freevar.com/index.php?i=j However, I mostly play 3 octave Hohner Super Chromonica (model 270) chromatic harps. I have quite a few of these, almost all of them customised in one way or another. I have at least one, in every major key... Of course, a chromatic harmonica can be played in ANY key, but by doing that, the player's choice of chords is strictly limited. I play almost entirely "by ear", and I have got used to the idea of "playing in harmonica positions".... That is, mostly in 1st 2nd or third position. On a "C" tuned harmonica, playing in "C" major is known as 1st position, performing in the key of "G" major on a "C" harp is 2nd position, and playing in the key of "D minor" is 3rd position. I often play my harmonica to accompany vocalists, and once I have learned a tune in a particular key on my harmonica, should the singer suddenly wish to sing the song in a different key to suit their own voice better, I can simply grab a harp tuned in a different key and instantly play the tune and the chords that I have already decided might be appropriate, in the new key. If I want a different "sound" I use yet another key harmonica, and play in a different "position". I sometimes play a 4 octave Hohner Larry Adler Professional 16 "C" instrument. My mother bought it for me as a thirteenth birthday gift, and it has been repaired and re-built many times since then! But I am not a great fan of four octave harmonicas. The ones that I have played have always been more "leaky" than the three octave variety, and consequently not as loud. Perhaps I shall try a more modern 16 hole harmonica one day, that will prove me wrong in this respect.

Diatonic Harmonicas

My working kit consists of TWO sets of "short harps", Richter tuned. That is 24 individual musical instruments. I like to have two of each key, simply because they are NOT the world's most reliable musical instrument, and I like to be able to grab a "spare" if the harp I am playing fails during a tune. I like Hohner MS system 10 hole diatonic harmonicas. Most of my "short harps" are these, with a variety of different combs. Some plastic, some wood, some metal. I also have a few 12 hole "Echo Vamper" diatonic harmonicas, dating from the early 1960s, as well as a few special tunings.... I wrote an article for "Blues Asia" entitled "The Working Tools of a Harmonica Player" which can be read by clicking this link: http://bluesasianetwork.com/2010/12/18/the-working-tools-of-a-harmonica-player/

John "Whiteboy" Walden. April 2011.
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