Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Bruce McCaskey

Harmonica Based Anglo

Recommended Posts

I was reading a tribute today to recently passed local musician Allen Hart, and a comment in the fifth paragraph from the end caught my attention. It mentions that one project he had been pursuing was a changeable key concertina, based on being able to swap out harmonicas.

 

The source is here: https://folkworks.org/features/passings/46726-rip-al-hart

 

No detail is offered beyond that, but the notion does catch my attention. I'm imagining a twenty button Anglo design with a harmonica for each button row. Perhaps a latch on each end, and the ends hinged with appropriate edge seals) to permit quick access to the internals and the harmonicas in some sort of ducted (for air passages) frame with a quick release holder.

 

There are several mechanical issues that come to mind, not the least of which is that you might need two harmonicas for each button row. One on the left side for the low note buttons and one right for the high note buttons of that key to cover the full range without needing to resort to complex flexible internal tubing across the bellows. Or maybe he was planning to have all the buttons on each end all one key, so that you might have G on the left and C on the right.

 

I did not know Allen, but it would have been interesting to see his prototype.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would be an interesting project, but unlikely to be a successful instrument. Harmonica reeds are tiny and closely spaced.

 

The best way to do it would be to remove the reed plates from the harmonica and design the concertina so that a standard reed plate could be snicked into place. Putting the whole harmonica in complete with comb and cover plates, would be clumsy and (even) less efficient.

 

Harmonica was my first instrument, although I play it rarely now. I used to play in first position jigs, reels etc. at folk clubs most weeks. If I had a choice, rather than a concertina with interchangeable harmonicas, I'd have a "two row" (that is, with a slide) Richter tune harmonica with the two sets of reeds a 5th apart. That way, I could translate Anglo patterns directly to it.

 

As a practical solution to the changeable key Anglo, midi would be the best way forward.

 

However, back to the original idea: yes,, it would be a fun and interesting project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have seen Wheatstones for sale that have extra reed-pans (one for each end), pitched a semi-tone sharp.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But if you could cut a harmonica reed plate in half, and then insert the halves into each side like a cellphone sim card, wouldn't that be cool?

 

 

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I, too, have thought about this re-purposing of the humble harp, and believe I have seen something similar mentioned in an interest group (perhaps here?) some years ago. Anyway, the mechanics of it all are daunting to an old ham-hand like me, but I do love the idea of quick change to different keys. And, frankly, the notion that the harmonica could still be a harmonica instantly appeals to me more than all the tiny screws......My guess is a very carefully molded plastic "manifold" with slick silicone compression gaskets and simple latches could be great. But of course, the "too many reeds for a side" issue would remain, no?

 

One of you smart folk...........

 

Regards,

 

David

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But if you could cut a harmonica reed plate in half, and then insert the halves into each side like a cellphone sim card, wouldn't that be cool?

 

I guess the ideal would be to slip two whole harmonicas into each end of a concertina (one for each row) like SIM cards. Only half the reeds would be used, but you would still have usable harmonicas when they came out. Just have to work out the mechanics of getting the air from the holes in the action board to the appropriate holes in the harmonica.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course, someone who plays the harmonica as their first choice instrument, say Brendan Power, Larry Adler... might not regard it as a "humble harp". A good player can play two simultaneous notes that are not adjacent. Also, with the ability to adjust your mouth cavity, cup your hands, flutter your tongue, vamp adjacent notes rapidly and with syncopation, and bend notes, they may not want to limit it by adding clumsy buttons and bellows...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×