The chromatic harmonica
Version 3.1 4Feb04/4May10
The diatonic and chromatic scales
Here is a keyboard covering slightly more than one octave. The diatonic octave runs through C D E F G A B C; and the chromatic octave runs through
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C. Note that Eb is rendered by
D# and so on. Click a key to hear its sound.
[The keyboard image was obtained from a now-extinct site; and the sounds were obtained, circa 1997, from Michael Ossman's
Here is the musical notation for the notes:-
| ___C____ ||___D____ || ___E____ || ___F____ || ___G____ || ___A____ ||___B____ || ___C____ || ___D____ || ___E____
C D E F G A B C
How to play the chromatic harmonica
The note produced by a chromatic harmonica depends on whether the end-button is
out or in, and on whether you blow or draw, as shown in the following
||C ||__ ||E||__ ||G ||__ ||C||__
||C||__ ||E||__ ||G||__ ||C||__ ||C||__ ||E||__
||__||D ||__||F ||__||A ||__||B
||__||D ||__||F ||__||A ||__||B ||__||D ||__||F ||__||A ||__||B
||_||D# ||__||F# ||_||A# ||_||C
||_||D# ||__||F# ||_||A# ||_||C ||_||D# ||__||F# ||_||A# ||_||C
||C# ||_ ||F||_ ||G# ||_ ||C#||__
||C#||_ ||F||_ ||G#||_ ||C#||__ ||C#||_ ||F||_
Asssume that the slide is out. View the table as blocks of four.
- Place your lips over the first 4-block: blow for C, draw for D.
- Move your lips to the next 4-block: blow for E, draw for F.
- Move your lips to the next 4-block: blow for G, draw for A.
- Move your lips to the next 4-block: draw for B.
- Move your lips to the next 4-block: blow for C, draw for D.
- And so on.
Holding the slide in raises every note by a semi-tone, so that C becomes
C# (C-sharp), and so on. Note that C# may also
be read as Db, and so on.
- You can play three octaves.
- Note that there are two Cs between each octave, and that we need only
one of the two.
- As you proceed from left to right, through the diatonic octaves, you
alternately blow and draw except when passing through B. Here you
produce G A B C with the sequence blow draw draw blow.
Assignment for Christmas Day
Assume that you received your chromatic harmonica on Christmas morning. Then your goal
is to play Home on the Range by the end of Boxing Day. You can do so if you
work through a sequence of tunes such as the following:-
- Step 1: white notes from C to A in the key of C.
- Little Bo-peep in the key of C.
- Jingle bells in the key of C.
- Step 2: white notes from C to A in the keys of F or G.
- Mary had a little lamb in the key of G (one sharp).
- Au clair de la lune in the key of F (one flat).
- Step 3: white notes from C to B and above in any key.
- Randal the rascal in the key of C.
- Jingle bells in the key of G (one sharp).
- Auld lang Syne in the key of F (one flat).
- Lavender's blue in the key of G (one sharp).
- Step 5: white and black notes from C to B and above.
- Hush-a-bye baby in the key of G (one sharp).
- Coventry carol in the key of C.
- Coventry carol in the key of Bb (two flats).
- Home on the range in the key of G (one sharp).
The Hero chromatic harmonica
The Hero chromatic harmonica is made by
Shanghai Guo Guang Harmonica
Co Ltd. [Click "english" at the site.]
See, also, Ron Gluckman's article on the
Music in the public domain
Sheet Music Online.
Some harmonica sites on the WWW
Jack's Harmonica Page.
Society for the Preservation and Advancement
of the Harmonica (SPAH).
The Electric Library's
page on Larry Adler.
© 1998 D.R. Watson