About Us

Posted on March 9, 2017

Welcome to the official blog of PCGHS Harmonica Band.

The harmonica was developed in Europe in the early part of the 19th century. Free-reed instruments like the Chinese sheng were fairly common in Asia since ancient times. They became relatively well known in Europe after being introduced by the French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot (1718-1793), who lived in Qing-era China. Around 1820, free-reed designs began being created in Europe. Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann is often cited as the inventor of the harmonica in 1821, but other inventors developed similar instruments at the same time. Mouth-blown free-reed instruments appeared in the United States, South America, the United Kingdom and Europe at roughly the same time. These instruments were made for playing classical music.

The chromatic harmonica is a type of harmonica that uses a button-activated sliding bar to redirect air from the hole in the mouthpiece to the selected reed-plate desired. When the button is not pressed, an altered diatonic major scale of the key of the harmonica is available, while depressing the button accesses the same scale a semitone higher in each hole. Thus, the instrument is capable of playing the 12 notes of the Western chromatic scale. The chromatic harmonica can thus be contrasted with a standard harmonica, which can play only the notes in a given musical key.

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Chromatic Harmonica

The chord harmonica has up to 48 chords: major, seventh, minor, augmented and diminished for ensemble playing. It is laid out in four-note clusters, each sounding a different chord on inhaling or exhaling. Typically each hole has two reeds for each note, tuned to one octave of each other. However, less expensive models often have only one reed per note. Quite a few orchestra harmonicas are also designed to serve as both bass and chord harmonica, with bass notes next to chord groupings. There are also other chord harmonicas, such as the Chordomonica (which operates similarly to a chromatic harmonica), and the junior chord harmonicas (which typically provide six chords).

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Chord Harmonica

Yes, believe it or not, there is a bass harmonica (also known as the bass harp).  The harp at right is a Hohner Double Bass (348), which has a two-octave, fully chromatic range, starting with EE (the lowest note on a string bass or bass guitar).  This model is made with two hinged bodies, the lower having all the natural notes, and the upper having all the sharps/flats.  Each hole has two reeds tuned in octaves (i.e., it is an “octave” harp), and it is “all blow” (you don’t get a different note – or any note – by drawing).

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