April 09, 2021

HARMONICAS, THEN, NOW and the PEOPLE WHO PLAY THEM.

BIRTH OF AN INSTRUMENT:   HOW THE HARMONICA CAME TO BE.

 

From China to Europe, to America to the World.

 

China: The Sheng:

 The harmonica has a long history.  It  began in China several thousand years ago with a bamboo reed instrument called the Sheng. This  became a prominent instrument in Asian traditional music.  The Sheng was introduced to Europe in the late 18th century and soon became popular. 

 Onward to Europe:

 In the early 19th century the harmonica was  developed further as European instrument makers began replacing the Sheng’s wooden reeds with metal.

In 1820, Christian Friedrich Buschmann developed ‘The Aura’ an instrument with metal reeds.  This became popular, but was limited in only providing blow notes.

 Around 1825, a European named Richter invented what was to become the modern harmonica.  This consisted of two reed plates with 10 holes enabling the player to produce notes on both blow and draw. The notes Richter chose for his reeds are the same as today’s diatonic harps.

 Mathias Hohner:

 1829, Vienna saw the start of mass production.  Clockmakers  Mesmer and Weiss in Germany began producing harmonicas in their spare time. Mathias Hohner visited them, learnt the construction technique and began his own business. Hohner wasn’t a good harmonica player, but he was an excellent businessman soon buying out his competitors. The Hohner company is still based in Germany and were responsible for the development of the chromatic harp with a button on the side allowing all notes to be played. 

 America gets the Harp:

 Hohner introduced the harmonica to America in 1862. They were cheap to buy and easy to carry, perfect for the itinerant population of the day; enabling former plantation workers to wander from town to town earning a living.  Juke Joints jumped with life, music, sex and booze! 

 Harmonicas  became popular in the States in the  30’s and 40’s with players like  John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson, becoming well known.

Chicago was a major centre for the Blues after W.W.2 with players like Sonny Boy Williamson II  and Little Walter being early exponents of the art moving forward to players like George ‘Harmonica’ Smith and Magic Dick and Paul Butterfield.

Check out these guys 

 Harp Players Today:

 Today players like Charlie Musselwhite, Paul Oscher, Lee Oskar, Jerry Portnoy and, of course, Stevie Wonder, have carried on the Blues tradition, maintaining it’s roots while moving it forward.  New and innovative styles of playing are also being developed by people like Jason Ricci, Adam Gussow, John Popper and Brendan Power. 

https://www.harmonicauk.com/ Join now for for great value and inspiration.

The Future:

While the simple harmonica has undergone few changes since the 1800s, technology has exploded onto the scene creating numerous ways to change/improve/alter the sound a harp player can produce.  A vast array of pedals promise a multitude of effects, but what if you could achieve all of these sounds from one simple piece of kit?..... Check out the Kinubi PSV harmonica effects pedal to find out.

 For more information check out https://kinubiaudio.com/



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