The Machino Tone chromatic was invented by the Torahachi Machino company of Tokyo in the 1950’s. According to several patents given in different countries, the earliest being from Britain (Patent 819441) and Switzerland (Patent 352220), the Machino Tone might have been available around 1957. The U.S. patent# 2,877,679 was granted in 1959.
As Pat Missin mentions on his website, a similar invention was already mentioned in patent# DE19221 by Adolf Glass Junior from 1882 (see also my previous post on the Glass Junior harmonica) .
There was a nice article written in the Garden State Harmonica Club Newsletter from 2006:
Our reliable expert, Stan Harper, recently
wrote of an intriguing Japanese harmonica…
Stan writes: In the 1950’s, a German, whose name
I forget, came to me with a Japanese harmonica
he was importing. He wanted me to play and
promote it. I had two or three which I eventually
gave to Andy Paskas [a passionate and eccentric
harmonica collector of Canadian background, well
known to many of us, including your editor].
It was the most powerful 12-holer I’d ever played.
It had no conventional mouthpiece and slide.
Instead, the airflow was directed by a [rocking]
damper, controlled by a pair of springs, which
normally prevented air from flowing through the
Db reeds, thus allowing only the C reeds to sound.
When the damper was rocked, by a tab [on the
back of the harmonica] it covered the C openings
and allowed the Db reeds to sound.
It was the best harmonica I’ve played to this day.
It had one major drawback: the damper had to be
worked up and down with the index finger. This
motion is contrary to how the hand works. I could
never play accurate rapid technique or cup it
properly. Here we have to disagree with Stan. We
heard him play this harmonica, and his technique
was quite rapid enough to suit most of us!]
The system is 100% superior to the mouthpiece
and slide setup. It never gummed up or needed
any care. I told the importer that if they could
make some sort of arrangement whereby an
operating lever could be placed on the right side
like the slide button, it would be the best harmonica
in the world. As it was, however, it was a loser.
(There were many wonderful harmonicas, but
bigger companies either bought them out or put
them out of business by preventing stores from
Well, Stan, we don’t remember the German
importer’s name either, but his company was
“Worldwide Musical Instrument Co.”
He had been seeking someone to write and design
a small sales brochure for him. This was not long
after we had written an instruction book for
Hohner and someone at Hohner recommended us.
We got the assignment, but probably forgot him
deliberately, because he stiffed us on some of the
money he owed…quite different from Hohner, who
always treated us right; we still have some spare
reeds and springs and other odds and ends they
gave us years ago.
The name of the harmonica was “Machino Tone”.
This had nothing to do with machinery; the
inventor’s name was T. Machino. Here are
pictures of both the “Machino Tone” and the
brochure we created for it.
As Stan says, it was a terrific concept…easy to
blow, and quite loud. Also, as he says, there was
no slide to stick, or get “gummed up”. Despite a
preference for a 16-holer, your editor played the
Machino for quite a while (using his middle finger
on the lever), but it eventually sort of fell apart
(the Machino, not the finger). It needed three
combs…one between the reed plates, one above,
and another below. The above and below combs
were not made well, in our opinion, and they were
very hard to repair–to make airtight—once they
disintegrated. Of course, Stan’s point about
the somewhat awkward button or lever is
well taken, too. It was a whole new
learning experience. But, as we stated
above, Stan flew over it pretty darn well,
no matter what he says now.
Today, with molded plastic combs and
such, it might be possible to make such an
instrument that would be really durable.
With a button in the right place, it would be
Incidentally, the Worldwide Musical
Instrument Co. was located at 404 4th Ave.,
New York 16, New York, across the street
from Hohner’s old location at 351 4th Ave.
(Note the nostalgic two-digit postal zone,
dear REEDers. Today it’s zip 10016, and
real estate values on 4th Ave. have been
boosted by simply renaming it Park Ave.
Torahachi Machino also invented two tremolo chromatics with a similar mechanism.