Charity/Thrift Shop visits bring some lovely finds. This morning I bought this Chromonica. A Chromatic Harmonica. Took it part way apart and gave it a soapy wash on the metal pieces. My gosh they are difficult to play! The metal button on the end pushes in/out on a thin piece of wire type metal which I believe acts as a spring. This pushes two plates with upper and lower holes that access the different sections of the ‘note providers’. These are reed metal plates. It then changes the note again as you breathe either in or out. So four combinations already to one small area of the mouthpiece. Then depending how many of the holes you cover with your lips/mouth to produce notes either singly or extended to a chord of various numbers of notes? More combinations again. And the rhythm of your breathing with the button push can produce some lovely sweeping exchanges note wise.
Then there is variation in being able to produce a quality of timbre from breathing methods producing caressing softness through to driving energy. Like when you sing. You feel you are changing the variation abilities in the Chromonica and teasing the tune into different harmony techniques from out of the instrument. I vaguely remember playing on a very cheap harmonica as a child and probably making as much racket as I could on it. Think it was shiny paint red and silver in colour and a lightweight tin metal and plastic toy shop buy. Bit like the tin ‘Kazoo’ popularity in toy shops at the same time.
Beginning to look at YouTube videos already on experts playing these. Now I realise that this is going to be no easy task. The nice thing about this Chromonica is the possibility that it has a good chance of helping both breathing and muscles to enhance lung capabilities. I need to look into some decent health related research again. I seem to remember one of the respiratory consultants on the Chronic Conditions Management Master’s course I undertook, mentioning something about harmonica playing and the needed disciplined breathing techniques involved. That because of this, playing harmonica could assist people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). I do not have COPD, but am realising the rationale and therapeutic logic of this straight away when playing on it. Breathlessness isn’t a problem for myself, but how to control breathing in and out effectively in order to play it properly is very much evident. Rather like Yogic breathing or Mindfulness breathing too. Focus on the act of both the breath itself and different breathing patterns are intentional and essential in these disciplines.
I used to play a trumpet when at school. Gave it up after a few years. My lovely Nan, who has now passed away, was in the Salvation Army. She played an accordion and peddled miles up to the hospital with it in a case. It was housed in the wicker basket on front of her bike. She played hymns and other tunes to the patients. Christmas was always a bit special when the ‘squeeze box’ came out. I went down with my trumpet to her Salvation Army Hall as a youngster. Just before I would be leaving school for good. But I believe you had to be a Salvation Army member in order to play in the band. Don’t quote me on that! I had no other musicians therefore to play alongside. Just myself and a loud trumpet in the house! So never had any motivation to carry on. Everyone was playing rock and roll early 1970s. So? Bought a guitar instead. Never played any wind instrument since.
I want to play tunes on this Hohner that I have written myself. Not learn tunes of well known songs. Can then record the harmonica over my guitar based songs. Of course, this model is in the keys of C. So will be limited in some respects. But, in reality, to learn the breathing techniques and getting a decent sound out of it is the main aim. The main ambition. It’s a lovely, easy to carry in your pocket and play a tune whenever you want, kind of instrument. So…..with a fair bit of months upon months of practice on techniques and writing a new self penned tune or two. Let’s see how this story goes!
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