The bending technique is only available on a single reed per note harmonica,
if:the "interval" (scale distance) between the two factory-installed reeds in a
hole is a whole step or larger, such as C-d, G-a, etc.
Let's look at the solo system note chart and the Richter system chart, for a key
of C, standard diatonic harmonica. In these charts, the large letters (C,E,G)
are exhale reeds, and the small letters (b,d,f,a) are inhale reeds:
STANDARD RICHTER SYSTEM DIATONIC HARP, KEY OF C
||C d |E g |G b |C d |E f |G a |b C |d E |f G | a C ||
Holes 1-6 are bendable (not hole 5), as inhale bends.
Holes 8-10 (not hole 7) are bendable as exhale bends.
Notice the reversal of breath pattern at hole 7.
The holes 5 and 7 have notes with a distance of only
a half step (E-f; b-C). There is a total of 12 bends available
on a Richter system harmonica.
STANDARD SOLO SYSTEM DIATONIC HARP, KEY OF C
||C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C ||
Holes 1,3,5,7,9,11 have bends available.
No bends are available in holes 2,4,6,8,10 and 12.
The solo system harps have only 6 bendable reeds,
and the Richter system harps have 12 bendable reeds
Thanks for the compliment.
I didn't know the Orchestra's reed setup.
It's not listed in my 2014 Seydel catalog.
Hello, Harmonica Fans.
Harmonica reed placement systems are listed here.
Harmonica tunings are a different subject, often mis-named
for harmonica reed placements.
Harmonica reed placements are systems of positioning
reeds on the reed plates, used by the manufacturers and
customizers, to permit easier playing, and other uses.
Diatonic harmonicas are those that have only one major
scale factory-installed. They include single reed per note
"blues" harps and double reed per note tremolo and octave
harps. They are mostly of the no-slide-button type.
Chromatic harps are the harps playable in 12 major scales,
factory-installed, on one harmonica, without using performer
techniques of bending and overblowing. They are available
in slide harmonicas and no-slide varieties.
In the following charts, large letters (C,E,G) are exhale reeds,
and small letters (b,d,f,a) are inhale reeds.
STANDARD RICHTER SYSTEM REED PLACEMENT:
key of C, 10-mouthpiece-hole diatonic harmonicas:
(Hohner Marine Band, Suzuki Bluesmaster, Seydel
Blues Sessions, and other brands and models)
||C d |E g |G b |C d |E f |G a |b C |d E |f G |a C ||
The Richter system of reed placement was introduced by
the Josef Richter harmonica company in 1857, after Josef
saw it used on accordions. The Richter system allows chordal
playing (3 or more notes played in harmony, at the same time),
The exhale reeds are placed on the top reed plate, and the
inhale reeds are placed on the bottom reed plate.
STANDARD SOLO SYSTEM
key of C, 12-hole diatonic and slide chromatic harmonicas:
(Hohner Super Chromonica, Seydel Fanfare, Suzuki SCX-48,
||C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C || (diatonic harps)
||C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C |C d |E f |G a |b C || slide out (slide chromatics)
||C# d# |E# f# |G# a# |b# C# |C# d# |E# f# |G# a# |b# C# |C# d# |E# f# |G# a# |b# C# || slide in (slide chromatics)
The solo system of reed placement was introduced and patented in 1907, by W.B. Yates,
of Alviso, California. It was designed for a 12-mouthpiece-hole diatonic harmonica. It allows
easier melody playing, with fewer chords available. The first slide chromatic solo system
harmonica was introduced in 1910, by the Hohner company. It was the "Chromatic Harmonica",
in a 10-hole Richter system placement, with the key of C Richter system on the top reed plate,
and the key of C# Richter on the bottom reed plate. It's name was later changed to the Hohner
STANDARD ASIAN SYSTEM REED PLACEMENT
key of C, 24-double-hole diatonic tremolos and octave harps
(Chinese, Japanese, Korean manufacturers)
||G |d |C | f |E |a |G |b |C |d |E |f |G |a |C |b |E |d |G |f |C |a |E |b || top reed plate ( - ) = no reed
||G |d |C |f | E |a |G |b |C |d |E |f |G |a |C |b |E |d |G |f |C |a |E | b || bottom reed plate
The Asian system reed placement was introduced by World Champion Tremolo Harmonica
player Hidero Sato of Japan, at the World Harmonica Championships in Trossingen, Germany,
in 1929. It has 2 consecutive (no skipping) melodic scale octaves, compared to only one
melodic scale in the Richter system,
In tremolo harmonicas, each vertically-paired set of mouthpiece holes has reeds of the same pitch,
but one of the two reeds is slightly de-tuned. This results in a wavy tone when the 2 reeds are played
together ("tremolo"). In octave harmonicas, the two vertical set of reed are pitched an octave (8 scale
degrees) apart. This provides more volume with easier playing.
Hello, Acearl. Welcome to the Harmonica Club.
Here's a list of composers' and arrangers' tools,
free websites for harmonicas.
(converts traditional music notation to harmonica tablature)
(traditional music notation to harmonica tablature)
(a tuner, useable for harmonicas & other instruments)
(slows speed of music, for easier practice)
(converts midi to traditional music notation)
(just for fun, free tunes pre-recorded for play-along.
In harp tab only, no traditional music notation.
The tunes are freely downloadable and printable)
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA
Here's one person's process for maintenance/repair
of a Hohner #1896 Marine Band harmonica. Other
players may have different techniques.
If your MB harp has performance problems, not
maintenance problems, other techniques may be needed.
HOHNER #1896 MARINE BAND DIS-ASSEMBLY
1. Removing the metal covers: with a single-edged
razor blade or pen knife, go to the tabbed sides
of the covers (where the nails hold the covers to
the reed plates).
LIGHTLY and carefully pry the covers from the
reed plates. When the nails are rising from the
covers, pull them out with a small tweezers or
needle-nose pliers. Store the nails in a cup, being
careful to not lose any nails. Store the covers in the
cup with the nails, set them aside.
2. Cleaning the metal covers: since your Marine
Band harp is new, the covers won't need cleaning.
Wipe them off with a damp cloth.
3. Separating the brass reed plates from the wood comb:
The reed plates must be removed from the comb for cleaning.
Since your MB harp is new, no cleaning is needed at this time.
[l]4. Cleaning the reed plates[/i], soak them in lemon juice for
about 10 minutes, rinse the plates under running water, about
5. Cleaning the wood comb, Liquids are the enemy of wood
combs. Store the wood comb in a separate cup. To clean the
wood comb, use a clean, dry tooth brush, on all surfaces. If
more cleaning is needed, lightly scrape the comb's "teeth" (tines)
with a small jeweler's slotted screwdriver. NEVER use any liquids
to clean a wood comb.
6. Removing the reed plates from the comb: Go to the audience
side of the comb. With the pen knife or single-edged razor blade,
LIGHTLY and carefully slip the blade between the reed plate and
comb, at the audience side corners. Gently pry the plate away from
When the plate is separated from the comb. gently remove
the nails with a tweezer or needle-nose pliers. Put these
nails in a separate cup, not in the same cup as the cover nails.
The nails need to be re-installed later in the same holes as when
removed. Separation of cover nails from plate nails is important.
Store the reed plates in the same cup with the plate nails.
7. Re-assemble the clean harmonica. The Hohner wood comb nails
are shaped like a fish hook ( J) . That's a design that produces
an air-tight seal for the covers and reed plates to the comb.
The MB was not designed to be dis-assembled.
The Hohner #1896 Marine Band harmonica has been sold since
1896, and was not designed for owner maintenance.
Avoid wood combed harmonicas. The Marine Band harmonicas
have an excellent tone, but they are susceptible to humidity changes,
and liquids. The Hohner #1896 Marine Band is made with 19th-century
materials and parts.
For about the same price, you can get a Hohner Special 20
Progressive (my favorite model); or a Suzuki BluesMaster
or HarpMaster; or Seydel Blues Session or Favorite.They are
all in the mid-price range.
The Suzuki models have equal temperament tuning. They're
designed for players who play mostly melodically (one note at
a time),don't use chords, and/or like to play different scales
(positions, modes) on one harmonica. Chords may be played,
but they may sound slightly out of tune in chords.
The Hohner and Seydel models use either just intonation or
compromise tuning. They're designed to be played mostly in
one music scale, melodically and with chords.
All of the above-named models (except the Marine Bands)
have plastic combs, and screws hold the reed plates and
covers to the plastic comb. Plastic and other synthetic combs
aren't affected by moisture.
An opinion: Plastic combed harmonicas are a big improvement
over the wood combed harmonicas, that have nails holding the
reed plates and covers to the wood comb.
Your selection of which harp to use on which song is usually a matter of:
1. personal taste you can use 1st position: playing the key of the harp,
(it must be a selected minor harp), 3rd position-major key harp, 4th position
on a major key harp, and so on.
Or 2. easiest position to use.
For more information on chord playing ("chugging") on a 10-hole Richter
harp, try this instruction book. It includes a play-along CD:
"Get Chugging," by Ben Hewlett and Paul Lennon, Mel Bay publication.
It's a guess that the book & CD costs under $20.
Dezzy, keeping the melody note on top when the (melody note is the highest pitched
chord note), with the other chord notes below, is the way that I usually play chords,
not including "vamping" (playing the melody, followed by the chord: "oom-pa" where
the "oom" is the melody note, and the "pa" is the rest of the chord).
We may also play all 3 chord notes together. Use your ears to determine which
"inversion" sounds best to you.
In theory, we can play any of the 3 chord tones on the top, as long as they're spelled
in the chord: C-E-G (C is lowest tone); E-G-C (E is lowest tone); G-C-E (G is lowest tone).
G-C-E ("2nd inversion" chord) is a favorite in country music. Regardless of which order
we spell the chord, it's always the chord as labeled (in the example, it's a C chord in all
Chord symbols are usually written above the music staff. It's important for chording,
and for improvising a melody, to know where the basic chords are found on our
standard (Richter) diatonic harmonica:
The following chords are factory- on a C harp, no bending or overblowing needed.
Large letters (C-E-G) are exhale chords; small letters (b-d-f-a) are inhale chords.
1. C chord: C-E-G;
exhale 3 tones anywhere on a key of C harp, and you'll be playing a C chord
2. D minor chord: d-f-a;
on a 10-hole Richter diatonic harp, draw on holes 4-6 or 8-10. No "inversions"
3. D minor 6th chord: d-f-a-b; Bb diminished 7 chord:
draw holes 4-7, or a d minor inversion at holes 3-6.
In holes 3-6, this chord is known as a b diminished 7
4. g (g major, g-b-d); draw holes 2-4;
5. g7 (g dominant 7, g-b-d-f); draw holes 2-5;
6. g9: (g dominant 9: g-b-d-f-a); draw holes 2-6;
7. b diminished (see number 3 above).
Two other important partial chords are factory-installed.
They aren't complete chords, having only 2 notes played
at the same time:
8. f (f subdominant, f-a-(C). The C note is an exhale reed.
It can't be played with the f-a combination, the f-a are draw reeds.
inhale the incomplete f chord at holes 6-7 and 9-10.
9. a minor (a-C-E). The a note is an inhale reed, and the C-E are
exhale reeds. Use the C major chord, number 1 above, for a substitute.
Spideryak: for more exposure to the a minor scale (available factory-installed
on a C harp), practice the a minor scale: a-b-C-d-E-f-G-a, holes 6-10, and
going down, holes 10-6.
Then, practice "Summertime", by George Gershwin
Which other keyed Richter 10-hole harmonica chords
would you like listed?
Each keyed harp (F, Bb, D, G, etc.) has the same types of chords,
in the same places as the C major harp, with the same functions.
But, they are spelled for the key of the harmonica: In the chart, large
letters are exhale, small letters are inhale. The sign, bb, is for b flat.
C major harp: C major chord: C-E-G; g dominant 7th chord: g-b-d-f; d minor chord: d-f-a
G major harp: G major chord: G-B-D; d dominant 7th chord: d-f#-a-c; a minor chord: a-c-e
F major harp: F major chord: F-A-C; c dominant 7th chord: c-e-g-bb; g minor chord: g-bb-d
Remember, only the chord of the harmonica's key is an exhale chord. The others are all inhale.
Ninth chords and diminished chords were left out of the chart above. They are rarely used in
music for the harmonica. Ninth chords (example: F9) are used in jazz, and some rock music,
but not often in other music styles. The diminished chords are used in jazz, but not often in other
Learn the locations of the major, dominant 7th and minor chords. These are the most common
in most types of music.
Here are the available chords on a standard key of C, Richter 10-hole diatonic harmonica.
The large letter chords are exhale chords. The small letter chords are inhale chords. A chord
is 3 or more notes played together.
There are more chords available, if you use bending and/or overblowing techniques. These
chords are factory-installed, no bending or overblowing needed:
C = C major; C-E-G; E-G-C; G-C-E. (exhlale)
dm = d minor; d-f-a; (inhale)
dm6 = d minor 6th; d-f-a-b (inhale)
g = g major; g-b-d; (inhale)
g7 = g dominant 7th; g-b-d-f (inhale)
b dim. = b diminished; b-d-f (inhale)
b dim.7 = b diminished 7th; b-d-f-a (inhale)
Arpeggios ("broken chords") are available everywhere
on the C harp, if you play one note (one reed) at a time.
A hybrid of blues and hillbilly music: bluebilly.
Polka music: brewglass music.
As You've written, there are many ways to play a bend note
on the 10-hole standard (Richter system) diatonic harmonica.
Harmonica bending is flattening the pitch of a reed. Here's what I do:
Holes 1-6 inhale (not hole 5):
Whichever embouchure (mouth shape) you use, tongue block,
u-block or pucker, the idea is to create a smaller than normal air
passage in the mouth, by moving the tongue to the back of the mouth,
for draw reeds.
To bend a draw reed in a harmonica chamber, the two reeds must
be at least a whole step apart, scale-wise. On a key of C harp,
hole #5 draw is an F note, and the hole 5 blow note is an E.
E-F is an interval (distance in pitch) of a half step. We can't bend
the draw reed F in hole #5.
The two reeds are a half step apart (C blow, B draw). We can't bend
the C reed in hole 7.
Holes 8-10 Exhale:
To bend notes in holes 8-10 (on exhale reeds), we move the tongue
from the back of the mouth forward, to the front of the mouth. The result,
while exhaling, is bended reeds (flattened).
Holes 1-6 overblow; holes 7-10 overdraw:
The squealing sounds you are getting in the lower holes are overblow
pitches. The overblow technique in the lower holes 1-6, and overdraw
in the upper holes 7-10, raise the note a half step on the hole's highest
Work slowly, be patient. Your tongue must be precisely located in the mouth,
to produce in-tune bends and overblows/draws. If you practice slowly,
concentrating on developing a good tone, the muscles will "learn" where
to place them selves to achieve the bend & overblow techniques.
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA.
Welcome to the Harmonica Club.
You have many new friends here.
Just for fun, try this free website for
harmonica players. It's a play-along site,
with thousands of pre-recorded tunes.
The tunes are written in harmonica tablature,
not traditional music notation. You may download
the tablature, and the recorded tunes, free.
Sussex, Wisconsin, USA