I am a collector of mainly historic chromatic harmonicas.
Now, what does it even mean “chromatic” harmonica.
There are several kinds of harmonicas. The main categories are diatonic,
tremolo, and chromatic harmonicas. Besides, there are also additional types
such as bass or chord harmonicas. I won’t go into any detail on those ones.
One reason I got fascinated with chromatic harmonicas is that they allow you
to play chromatically (like the white and black keys on a keyboard). That way
you can play all sorts of music e.g. classical, jazz, blues, etc..
The chromatic harmonica distinguishes itself from other harmonicas
because it uses a slider to switch notes (similar to the keyboard switching
from white to black keys). Usually, the slider has a button attached to the right
side of the harmonica.*
I have been collecting historic harmonicas for the last couple of years. During this time, I collected more than one hundred mostly chromatic harmonicas. Some of these harmonicas are very unique. They do have distinct shapes or colors. Some of them show special features or new inventions used for the chromatic slider or to improve the sound etc..
Below you can find a list of articles I wrote about the most impressive harmonicas in my collection as well as historical ones. Some of them I don’t own (yet). These articles include pictures and as much information I was able to gather. The list is mostly chronological order, based on the release dates of the harmonicas.
I would really appreciate your feedback and additional information. At the bottom of each page you have an option to submit comments.
Update: by pure accident I got in contact with Joel Andersson, who actually very skillfully plays Irish music on a diatonic harmonica. Last year in November 2019, he went to the harmonica museum in Trossingen and was able to take a closer look at the harmonica treasures hidden away in a drawer. Those are mostly prototypes Hohner manufactured but never brought to market. He allowed me to use some of the vast amount of photos he was able to take during his visit. Some of those harmonicas will help me to add more info to some of the existing articles. I will also gradually add more articles about some of the “special” chromatic harmonicas Joel was able to photograph.
Index in chronological order:
1) Johan Richter double harmonica from (about 1875)
2) First known Chromatic Harmonica (1896?)
3) F.A. Bohm “Triller” harmonica (1898)
4) Hohner “Up To Date” chromatically tuned (1898)
5) F.A. Rauner vertical slider chromatic harmonica (1902)
6) “The Chromatic Harmonica” by Hohner (1910)
7) Double Chromatic Harmonicas (1920s)
8) Enameled chromatic harmonicas (since 1920s)
9) Böhm Blue Bird Improved Blow Chromatic (1922)
10) Böhm Blue Bird Improved Chromatic (1922)
11) Koch horn chromatic harmonica (1926)
12) Koch Chromatic (1927)
13) Böhm Chromatic with movable reedplate (1929)
14) Hohner Chromonica with internal spring (1930)
15) Thorens Chromatic with external spring (1930s)
16) Albert’s System Chromorgan (1936)
17) Bass Chromatic (Seydel) (late 1930s)
18) Böhm Blue Bird New World Vamper and Tremolo Chromatic (1941)
19) F.A. Rauner World Master (1944)
20) Magnus plastic chromatic harmonica (1948)
21) Hohner Chromonica De Luxe (1950)
22) Mancini Chromatics (1951)
23) Meteor Chromatic (1954)
24) Machino Tone Chromatic (1957)
25) Wolfe Linde Chromatics (since 1958)
26) Vermonia (1961)
27) Silver Concerto (1967)
28) Chordomonica I & II (1968)
29) Electronic harmonicas (since 1970s)
30) CBH 2012 & 2016 (1973)
31) Polle Concert Harmonica
32) Hohner Meisterklasse (1982)
33) High-end Chromatic Harmonicas (1990s)
34) Hohner CX 12 (1992)
35) Renaissance Chromatic (1997)
36) Suzuki SCT-128 tremolo chromatic (2004)
37) Seydel Saxony (2009)
38) Suzuki SSCH-56 chord chromatic (2013)
39) Tombo MU-01 and MU-01 PG (2015)
40) Hohner ACE-48 (2016)
41) AsiaBend (2016)
42) Tiane (Swan) Horn Chromatic
43) Suzuki S-48B Bass Chromatic (2019)
44) Seydel Symphony 48 (2019)
45) Kongsheng Lyra (2019)
46) Will’s Make Chromatic Harmonicas (2020)
47) Will’s Make A12 (2021)
48) Hei Ba Shi Chromatic
49) Chromatic harmonica history – last words
Info: the image at the top shows the Hohner “C” chromatic harmonica limited
edition. It was issued in 2010 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the
Hohner chromatic harmonica. Only 200 were produced. Mine is number 44.
*Note: there are many other kinds of “chromatic harmonicas” without a slider system as mentioned by John Broecker. Throughout this blog I will use the term “chromatic harmonica” exclusively to refer to chromatic harmonicas with a slider system.
4 thoughts on “Chromatic Harmonica History”
Gonçalo Mendes Filipe de Sousa
Well done my friend! I´m gonna learn a lot about the harmonica!
March 11, 2019 at 7:36 pm
After I finish publishing my last article, there will be a test. Be well prepared. 🙂
Your blog is very interesting and it allowed me to discover old chromatic models, that I didn’t know at all, thank you very much. I take the opportunity to invite you to visit my blog – Open window – Harmonica blog https://riskas513.blogspot.com/
Best regards, Gildo
https://riskas513.blogspot.com/2019/04/chromatic-harmonica-history.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR3r6rGk-w3oJG1pSQhuwOZTMuH0WlvQgaX2W4FDq07-BXaPyf5k_aWUyKA BEST REGARDS
5 thoughts on “Chromatic Harmonica History”
Great blog. Wondering if you had much inform about the cheapish Bandmasters made in Germany DR. Cheap, light , flimsy, thin covers, lots of air escapes and hard to push a sound out. The few l found only have the single slide direct onto the harmonica comb face, nothing inbetween. BUT , great to practise without disturbing the family because ONLY the player can hear it! Any information about these and history?
An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast simply because I discovered it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your internet site.🤗 🤠 2021-09-12 13h 17min
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You are welcome! Hope you enjoyed the breakfast. Mission accomplished. 🙂
I am following up since my last E-Mail.I need your input as an expert on construction and design.The Newest Chromatic that has really peaked my interest is the Easttop Titanium comb.I have heard video/audio recordings and I am totally impressed.The Power of clarity is remarkable.I checked the weight on the 12 hole and it is over a pound.The price is incredibly low. I remember years ago about the debate between wood and plastic combs and made no difference.I although not heard in person there is a definite difference.Like pure resonance.with the Titanium.
I would like your view and thoughts on this matter.Thank You.
Titanium is a great metal for harmonica bodies. It is light and the tone it produces is very pleasant.
Even the Polle concert harmonica (the so called Rolls Royce of chromatic harmonicas) is available now with TI body. In fact my current harmonica (ML-12 Silver Helvetia) you can find a picture here: https://chromhistory.blog/wills-make-chromatic-harmonicas/
consist of a titanium body and silver covers. The sound is excellent.
I have never played the new Easttop TI. The price is certainly attractive. BTW for a similar price you might be able to get a Will’s Make chromatic harmonica with TI body and wood covers. More info can be found on that same page.