Am I on the right track to switch to chromatic harmonica?

Hi, appreciate it very much if any experienced harmonica players can advise me which chromatic harmonica should I buy for a beginner after learning diatonic harmonica for few months. I like the rich tone of diatonic harmonica like Special 20, but after playing for few months, I find I my interest lies in playing pop/folk/classical melodies rather than the blues music. So am I on the right track to switch to chromatic harmonica if I just like to play melodies and not having the troubles of keep buying a number of diatonic harmonicas of different keys?

Also, which chromatic harmonica should I buy if I would like one that allows me to play more octaves, easy to play for beginner, and having rich tone like Special 20? Is it Discovery 48, Chrometta 14, Super Chromonica 48, 270 Deluxe, or Chromonica 64? This will be my first Chromatic harmonica and I would like to use it to play classical, pop and folk music in various keys. Kindly advise, thank you!
Kind regards, MosesChen

Hi Moses, thanks for your enquiry. It sounds like a good idea for you to switch to chromatic harmonica. I would recommend you try either the 270 Deluxe or the CX-12 in the key of C. Both are good quality chromatics with a 3 octave range and both will be suitable for your purposes. The 270 Deluxe is an updated version of a traditional design with a wooden body and fairly narrow mouthpiece with square holes. The CX-12 features a revolutionary design where the plastic mouthpiece (broader, with round holes) and covers form a single unit, into which the comb and reed plate assembly is slotted. The sound is louder and also closer to that of the Special 20, though diatonics and chromatics have a fundamentally different sound due to the fact that chroms are fitted with windsaver valves, which prevent reeds in the same hole from sounding together.

I hope this is a help,
best regards

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Hi Steve, thank you so much for your valuable advice and insight. It’s very useful.
It’s a pity that I received your reply only today and I just bought my first chromatic harmonica Discovery 48 yesterday! I hope Discovery 48 is not a bad choice (it suits my budget).
Steve, as I’m completely new to chromatic harmonica, I sincerely hope you have time to answer my following questions:

  1. Is the embouchure of playing a chromatic harmonica same as that of playing a diatonic harmonica?
  2. Can a chromatic harmonica be played as expressive as a diatonic harmonica?
  3. Can I learn both diatonic and chromatic harmonica at the same time? Or would you advise a beginner to stick to just one type of harmonica?
  4. I know it’s too late for me to switch to 270 Deluxe or CX12 now because I’ve already bought Discovery 48. Just wonder is Discovery 48 good enough for a complete beginner of chromatic harmonica like me?
  5. You mentioned CX12 in your reply. Are you referring to CX12 Black or CX12 Jazz?

Thank you and have a great day!
Kind regards,

Hi Moses,
The Discovery 48 is also a good choice and offers great value for money. To your questions:

  1. The embouchure is of necessity slightly different due to the larger size of the chromatic. This is basically a matter of opening your jaw slightly further to accommodate it. As with the diatonic, you can use both/either a pucker embouchure and/or a tongue block to play single notes.
  2. The chromatic doesn’t permit the same note bending capabilities as the diatonic (a function of dual reed systems), as the reeds sound in isolation due to the windsaver valves. However, all notes can be bent to a certain degree and this is important for expression in some styles (listen to the great Stevie Wonder, for example). Traditional chrom players often made little use of this capability though.
  3. In principle I see no problem with learning both, but you’ll need to see how you get along with the differences in size, tonal layout and embouchure. Many people play both.
  4. The Discovery is definitely good enough, a fine choice.
  5. The practical difference between CX-12 Black and CX-12 Jazz is the narrower mouthpiece of the Jazz, they are otherwise very similar. I like both.

Enjoy your new musical journey and feel free to ask if you have any more queries,

all the best, Steve

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Hi Steve,
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions. They are comprehensive, informative and helpful to me. Appreciate it very much for your kindness in sharing your vast knowledge of harmonica with me. Yes, my journey of harmonica learning has just begun. All the best to you and to your family!
Warm regards,

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