Chromatic Harmonica History

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.

Diatonic, Tremolo and Chromatic Harmonica

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.*

Slider Button

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 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.

Hidden drawer with harmonica prototypes, courtesy Joel Andersson

Index in chronological order:
1)   Johan Richter double harmonica from (about 1875)
2)   First known Chromatic Harmonica (1896?)
3)   Hohner “Up To Date” chromatically tuned (1898)
4)   F.A. Rauner vertical slider chromatic harmonica (1902)
5)   “The Chromatic Harmonica” by Hohner (1910)
6)   F.A. Rauner World Master (1920)
7)   Double Chromatic Harmonicas (1920s)
8)   Enameled chromatic harmonicas (since 1920s)
9)   Böhm Blue Bird Improved Chromatic (1922)
10) Koch horn chromatic harmonica (1926)
11) Koch Chromatic (1927)
12) Böhm Chromatic with movable reedplate (1929)
13) Hohner Chromonica with internal spring (1930)
14) Thorens Chromatic with external spring (1930s)
15) Albert’s System Chromorgan (1936)
16) Bass Chromatic (Seydel) (late 1930s)
17) Magnus plastic chromatic harmonica (1948)
18) Hohner Chromonica De Luxe (1950)
19) Mancini Chromatics (1951)
20) Meteor Chromatic (1954)
21) Machino Tone Chromatic (1957)
22) Wolfe Linde Chromatics (since 1958)
23) Vermonia (1961)
24) Silver Concerto (1967)
25) Chordomonica I & II (1968)
26) Electronic harmonicas (since 1970s)
27) CBH 2012 & 2016 (1973)
28) Hohner Meisterklasse (1982)
29) High-end Chromatic Harmonicas (1990s)
30) Hohner CX 12 (1992)
31) Renaissance Chromatic (1997)
32) Suzuki SCT-128 tremolo chromatic (2004)
33) Seydel Saxony (2009)
34) Suzuki SSCH-56 chord chromatic (2013)
35) Tombo MU-01 and MU-01 PG (2015)
36) Hohner ACE-48 (2016)
37) AsiaBend (2016)
38) Tiane (Swan) Horn Chromatic
39) Suzuki S-48B Bass Chromatic (2019)
40) Seydel Symphony 48 (2019)
41) Kongsheng Lyra (2019)
42) Will’s Make Chromatic Harmonicas (2020)
43) 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

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