Jean Labre (photos M. Vicent-Roubert)All the Harmonicas
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Let's talk about Hohner
Survivor of the 19th century industrial revolution in Germany, to which the mouth organ will always remain linked, this prestigious company celebrates this year its 150 years of existence.
Happy birthday Hohner !
On this occasion Hohner proposes 3 new "Hohner 150th Anniversary" models, attention it's a limited production*.

Our website has been receiving frequent technical requests concerning all sorts of harmonicas, old as well as new ones, from every where.
Concerning the XB40, I am going to quote and supplement an article I had writen for "France Harmonica" revue (n° 43), in which I said :
The XB40 or an easier way to practice bending.
But it's not as easy as that and it's a new training if you want to master this new revolutionary instrument.

Click to see enlarged image.

Before giving the technical description of this instrument, people must know how to practice the bending on a 10 holes Richter harp.
Bending is accomplished by partially isolating the air in the your mouth cavity from the rest of the vocal tract and adjusting its resonant frequency to the desired note. The back of the tongue is raised up against the palate the same way you change the mouth'vowel shape from AHH to EEE, without actually vocalizing. The tongue is then slid backward or forward to a position that will pull down the pitch of the note being played. Hight pitched notes are bent with the back of your tongue placed toward the fraont of the mouth and lowernotes are bent with the tongue farther back.
Beginners will find more bending information in the master's teachers methods, books and CDs written and registred by well known masters like : Howard Levy, Jean Jacques Milteau, Michel Herblin, Joël Hanriot and some others.
Well, after this necessary preamble, let's have a more precise look at the technically revolutionary XB40 and to the possibilities it offers to obtain 40 bending alterations, whereas a standard 10 holes Richter offers only 12 alterations. For a better understanding, look attentively at the following table :

Click to see enlarged image.

After reading it, you can see by yourself that the concept of this instrument avoids the practice of overblows. The XB40 design not only creates a complete chromatic scale, it offers you multiple ways to play most notes. You just replace an overblow by a simple bending as indicated in the chart. The player can, for instance, play in g2 note in the standard manner, with the 6 (blow) unbent,include a sliding bend up to it from f2, or play a g2 as a bent note on the 6 (draw), adding a sliding bend down to it from the unbent a2.This feature significantly increases the expressive capability of the XB40 in a way never before possible on any other harmonica.
These surprising performances are due to the brilliant find which consist to set 2 reeds by note. The main reed note is obtain with the main reed. The second reed doesn't react upon blowing, but it will react after a turn off effect from a valve system set up in the comb.
This new mouth organ concept enables to obtain 60 notes as indicated in the preceeding table.
As usual Hohner has made a serious job, with a perfect air tightness secured by 10 cruciform screws.
The dimensions are bigger than those of the legendary Marine Band , which is natural considering all the technical components of this little wonder.
To each one his own instrument philosophy, some will tell you that the slide is more efficient for practicing chromatic scales. ! Unconditional fans of the overblows will retort...bull sheet...! I reassure them, Howard Levy is for ever going on astonishing us all !
To each one his point of view. As far as I am concerned, I think that people have to go ahead. A plunge has been taken, it's an honourable mention for Hohner... and many thanks to Rick Epping, father of the XB40 . Congratulation Rick, good job !
Keep blowing !

Among other recent models, I'd like to draw your attention to the Chromonica 270 de Luxe which has received a warm welcome among the traditional 12 holes Chromonica fans.

Click to see enlarged image.

The technological innovation of this new model is that Hohner had the good idea to replace the mouth piece square holes by round holes. This apparently insignificant detail is, in fact, a judicious marketing operation to win back the harmonica players round holes adepts who were obliged to turn towards other labels to have satisfaction (here, I don't include the CX12 model which is meant for a different clientele).
In addition to this new mouth piece, Hohner has particulary taken care over the finish of this model, with reed plates carefully screwed on a pear wood comb, an association which ensures a perfect and comfortable air tightness. Let's add to it a new gadget, intended for the left hand players, consisting in the possibility to reverse the slide ; and lastly, a new metal cover, without tin, more attractive.
Are you interested in more information about Hohner products ?
Don't hesitate to consulttheir site :

Jean Labre

*Have a look to our previous article : "Birth and history of a small instrument"

*Harmonicas "Hohner 150th Anniversary", references :
-Gold Edition
-Chrom Edition
-Standard Edition (photo in our column "News").

*I have received several questions concerning the instruments on which I use to play.
I play on the following Hohner models : Super 64X, CX12, Marine Band Special 20, Golden Melody, the Chord Akkord and the Bass model 268.

Photos Hohner
Published March 9th 2007


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