Double Chromatic Harmonicas

The idea of combining two chromatic harmonicas into one, usually a C and G tuned instrument, must have first come up in the 1920s. My assumption is that the first company to actually manufacture such an instrument was F.A. Böhm. However, I was not able to confirm that by any patent. The first double chromatics had external springs. which were very common in the 1920s. F.A. Böhm also produced a double chromatic for Gretsch around the same time.

Gretsch double chromatic, from my collection
F.A. Böhm Blue Bird enameled version from the John Whiteman collection

Later models like the Schlott double chromatic had internal springs.

Schlott double chromatic, from my collection

There is also a similar model made for Gretsch. It is part of the Alan G. Bates Harmonica Collection at the National Music Museum of the University of South Dakota. Bates also wrote, “This double-sided chromatic harmonica in C and G was a short-lived experiment. Most chromatic players became adept enough to play in any key on a C-tuned instrument, so a second key was unnecessary.”

Recently, I saw a picture of another double chromatic by the Emil Friedel harmonica company. The fact that this model seems to be rather post-war, maybe around the 1950s, contradicts Alan Bates’ assumption.

Emil Friedel “Efri” double chromatic harmonica belonging to the Peter Widenmeyer collection


2 thoughts on “Double Chromatic Harmonicas

  1. I just purchased a Gretsch double chromatic harmonica identical to the one in your collection. It all seems to function, but the button mechanisms seem to be a bit sticky. It has a minor amount of pitting on the outer covers but is basically in good to excellent condition. I’m fascinated with it because I’ve never seen one before. What can you tell me about it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Douglas, congratulations! Did you get the box with it? It is normal that over the years the slider gets sticky. I actually don’t play on my historic instruments. They are just too valuable for me. If the sticky slider action bothers you, take off the slider and clean it up (if this is the first time you doing it – I would recommend taking pictures along the way to remember the position of each piece). I have seen the Gretsch double harmonica a couple of times on E-Bay. The harmonica was actually produced in Germany by F.A. Böhm as mentioned above in the article.


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