Sunday, July 07, 2019

a wide ranging instrument

All our instruments series, episode 15

Next up is another harmonica - we've had this one since the early noughties, but I don't quite remember how it came into the family. I'm quite sure I didn't buy it, but may have been a present the children received from their grandparents.

The writing on it says Bontempi Classic - Made in China, so that was all I knew about it. Wikipedia tells me that Bontempi is actually an Italian company founded in 1937 and famous for cheap instruments and musical toys. They still have a harmonica that looks exactly like ours.

Looking at it now for this series, to figure out what it can do, I realised it has an amazing range, covering a C major scale over 3 octaves and a bit from a low C to a squeaky E (plus, weirdly, the G below the beginning of the scale). That's more than I can do on my flute, although I believe proper flautists can also reach the fourth octave E with extended techniques. Unfortunately, the arrangement of notes obtained from inward vs. outward airflow appears to be a bit illogical, or at least different from what I am used to with my lovely Hohner Echo harmonica, so whenever I try to play something on this one, the attempt ends in confusion. So in the video I just demonstrate the range. I do wonder what you would want the range for ... (maybe two musicians getting along really well could play a duet cheek by jowl?)

PS This is the third harmonica in this series and you'll be relieved to learn that it also the last one - I only have these three and have no plans to buy any more.

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