My first chromatic harmonica 280 C 64

By education and 16 years of training, I was a classical musician on piano and clarinet. Then life intervened, and decades went by when I didn’t play any instrument. Last year I had a yearning to play music again, but I wanted something small and easy to cart around. Hence – harmonica. It took 8+ months to find the right thing, but 2 weeks ago I bought a 280 C, so now I’m able to apply what I learned from piano to this instrument. I’m learning to blow it, reaching for a rounded sound, and where the holes are. I bought Max De Aloe’s Method for Chromatic Harmonica and Love of Chromatic Harmonica by Kettlewell and Cohen. In this little Montana town, the music store doesn’t sell chromatics and there are no instructors for either the diatonic or chromatic harmonica. I’m struggling, but determined to once again make good music. Not just classical, but other types, too.
Question: What are wind savers for? And what are they, anyway?
Thank you!

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Hi @Car0lBMT,

Congratulations on your purchase, the 280 is a very good choice for someone in your situation!
Wind savers are there to guide the air flow directly to the desired reed. Less air is needed to produce a full sound. One can also play without them, but given the same air pressure, the sound would be flatter.

Hi, Ines,
Thank you! I’ve been eyeing the Super 64, but I want to do as much as I can with the 280. Already I’ve had my doubts about the sound, but I can’t yet tell how much to attribute to my own ineptitude (so far), or other factors. When I’ve gone as far as I can with the 280 and want a better sound I’ll make sure that I’ve gone beyond what the 280 can do. That may take years! :slight_smile:
Perhaps you have a recommendation for which instrument to consider next.

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You’re welcome @Car0lBMT!
Sounds like a plan! Once you’re there, I’d suggest you to go for the Super 64X. It is the high-end model out of the 64 reed models, offering a massive boost in volume over all octaves.

Thank you for the suggestion, Ines! I’ll have to be very good indeed to justify the expense of the Super 64X, but I’ve put it on my Amazon WishList to inspire me to work harder. Does it have wind savers? What is the life of the instrument, generally?
Some people on Amazon have complained about the sound of the low tones on the 280 C, but I have no fault to find with them. Still, I am a rank beginner, and the harp will teach me as I go.

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Have fun with your new instrument. I have messed around with diatonic harmonicas since I was a kid but never really learned properly and always held back because there were no sharps and flats. I have just bought a vintage Hohner 64 Chromonica and love its sound. I wanted a chromatic to give me all the notes but didn’t want to spend too much yet. Had to dismantle it a bit to clean it and also just discovered windsavers :grinning: I suspect I will have to renew them at some stage… OR buy a new one :+1:

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Easy peasy just learn the scales…it will all fall into place …tc x

Hi, Car0lBMT I am also playing the same Hohner Chromatic 280 C… I love the sound of it despite having more expensive range of Chromatic Harmonicas such as Suzukis & also Hohner Meisterklasse 7565 Chromatic known to be well suited for Music played on Violin… Hohner 64 280 c Chromonica sound Growls like no other refined version that I have trialled so far… I mean they sound too Sterile for my playability unlike the 280 c Chromonica… From most sterile aspect I would prefer Suzuki Fabulous 64 series or Sirius unlike hohner Super 64 X which incorporate Brass reeds instead of Bronze Phosphor like on Suzuki Harmonicas… The wear and tear of Bronze Phosphor reeds fatigue is less than Brass reeds and of course the sound range and quality also differs… Similar to Steel reeds used in Seydel Harmonicas… After all its individual Choice and taste what they prefer to play as Music instruments and it’s not always the most expensive Harmonicas that delivers exquisite response… It’s the one who is playing it gives all the intricacies of Exquisite Sound… Chromatic Harmonica player like Hugo Diaz & Carey Bell who was using Hohner 280 c Chromonica and there was nothing technically new about their Instruments… I assume anyone with their latest Hohner Super 64 X can play the same Compositions done by them… My other favourite Chromatic Harmonica players is late Franz Chmel who was using the most extraordinary Harmonica ever built back then costing 12,000 for engineers to develop it meticulously like no other most expensive chromatic harmonica in the market till now .. I also enjoy Toot & Larry.. My Point is it's not all about the internal specification of Chromatic Harmonica.. It's the one who make those delicate Reeds resonate in agility & utter Harmonious blends besides the technical innovations thats involved in Harmonica Market... I will also point out the persons those who claim to repair these harmonicas generally exploit the vulnerability of Mediocre and hobby musicians.. Airtight and Reed Valve Buzzing is the most common term used in it besides tuning.. I don't want to utter the name of an Harmonica Enthusiast from Canada .. Who offered me to do a job on my Hohner 280 c Chromonica without even trying it anyway how could he then.. He wanted 270 to make it Airtight… I met him on Facebook… Sadly he is authorised repairing goon of Hohner Harmonica Incorporated… I reside in Hamburg in Germany and I do not require a Canadian on facebook asking me to get my Hohner 280 c Airtight for 270 Dollars… I know fellows in Trossingen that is the head office of Hohner’s… Who will promptly do any job under 100 euros… Something like air tightening I assume… I wrote all this to you because you are new in it and I don’t want you to get exploited by anyone favouring any particular Company of Harmonica, Model or its Latest Innovation… I don’t believe in unnecessary expenditure in wealth for so long one is satisfied with who they are and what they utilise without utter hassle… There is no end for something as always new appearing in the market after all that’s Business. Similar to getting another Dumb Smartphone with faster Camera and whatever they always offer for the dumb majority…

Have a Pleasant time & feel free to communicate.
With regard
Bergedorfer

Hi, Car0lBMT I am also playing the same Hohner Chromatic 280 C… I love the sound of it despite having more expensive range of Chromatic Harmonicas such as Suzukis & also Hohner Meisterklasse 7565 Chromatic known to be well suited for Music played on Violin… Hohner 64 280 c Chromonica sound Growls like no other refined version that I have trialled so far… I mean they sound too Sterile for my playability unlike the 280 c Chromonica… From most sterile aspect I would prefer Suzuki Fabulous 64 series or Sirius unlike hohner Super 64 X which incorporate Brass reeds instead of Bronze Phosphor like on Suzuki Harmonicas… The wear and tear of Bronze Phosphor reeds fatigue is less than Brass reeds and of course the sound range and quality also differs… Similar to Steel reeds used in Seydel Harmonicas… After all its individual Choice and taste what they prefer to play as Music instruments and it’s not always the most expensive Harmonicas that delivers exquisite response… It’s the one who is playing it gives all the intricacies of Exquisite Sound… Chromatic Harmonica player like Hugo Diaz & Carey Bell who was using Hohner 280 c Chromonica and there was nothing technically new about their Instruments… I assume anyone with their latest Hohner Super 64 X can play the same Compositions done by them… My other favourite Chromatic Harmonica players is Late Franz Chmel who was using the most extraordinary Harmonica ever built back then costing 12,000 for engineers to develop it meticulously like no other most expensive chromatic harmonica in the market till now .. I also enjoy Toot & Larry.. My Point is it's not all about the internal specification of Chromatic Harmonica.. It's the one who make those delicate Reeds resonate in agility & utter Harmonious blends besides the technical innovations thats involved in Harmonica Market... I will also point out the persons those who claim to repair these harmonicas generally exploit the vulnerability of Mediocre and hobby musicians.. Airtight and Reed Valve Buzzing is the most common term used in it besides tuning.. I don't want to utter the name of an Harmonica Enthusiast from Canada .. Who offered me to do a job on my Hohner 280 c Chromonica without even trying it.. Anyway how could he then..He wanted 270 to make it Airtight… I met him on Facebook… Sadly he is authorised repairing goon of Hohner Harmonica Incorporated… I reside in Hamburg in Germany and I do not require a Canadian on facebook asking me to get my Hohner 280 c Airtight for 270 Dollars… I know fellows in Trossingen that is the head office of Hohner’s… Who will promptly do any job under 100 euros… Something like air tightening I assume… I wrote all this to you because you are new in it and I don’t want you to get exploited by anyone favouring any particular Company of Harmonica, Model or its Latest Innovation… I don’t believe in unnecessary expenditure in wealth for so long one is satisfied with who they are and what they utilise without utter hassle… There is no end for something as always new appearing in the market after all that’s Business. Similar to getting another Dumb Smartphone with faster Camera and whatever they always offer for the dumb majority…

Have a Pleasant time & feel free to communicate.
With regard
Bergedorfer

Hi I have not played the 280 c 64 but from what I understand it’s the same as the Super 64. The difference is ergonomics eg. the smooth transition the Super 64 has while holding sides. I bought my Super 64 in 1987 glad I did, the silver still looks brand new unlike the black 64x which I have read wears off after a while. One thing with the plastic wind savers is that they stick after playing a few songs which then requires to let sit and dry before playing again. I don’t mind it only takes that much playing for me and I am happy. Sometimes I love doing 3 hole tongue blocking for double octaves! I’m confident you will enjoy playing yours. Here is a great Chromatic Harmonica teacher in San Francisco Winslow Yerxa I learned from his free online info. but he does courses online too! https://takelessons.com/profile/winslow-y?service=harmonica

The 280 is the original and basic four-octave chromatic. Many of the great performances of the past in classical, jazz, popular music, and blues were played on this model. Many other models are available from Hohner and others, but there’s no reason you can’t get a good sound and learn on the venerable 280. Many players succumb to HAS (Harmonica Acquisition syndrome) and you may, too, once the bug bites you deeply enough. But for now, dig in on the 280 and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

Windsaver valves are little strips of plastic (originally leather) that increase the airtightness of the instrument and help to focus tone by directing all the air to the reed being played.

All the reeds in the harmonica are mounted on two reedplates. Each reed is mounted over a slot cut to precisely fit its shape and allow it to vibrate through the slot when air is applied to it.
In chromatic harmonicas, blow reeds are mounted on one side of the reedplate, and draw reeds are mounted in the opposite side of the same plate. Each hole in the harmonica has a blow reed and a draw reed. (And of course, when you press the slide in, you get another blow-draw pair tuned a semitone higher, mounted on the other reedplate.)

When you exhale into the harmonica, your breath pushes the blow reed into its slot, and it springs back, with the repeating cycle creating the note. But at the same time, air will escape through the draw reed’s slot. The draw reed won’t sound, but the escaping air is leakage that weakens the tone of the blow reed and reduces efficiency of the applied airflow. But with a valve mounted over the draw slot (the draw reed is on the other side of the reedplate), the valve gets pressed against the draw slot, shutting off airflow through that slot, and all the air goes to the blow reed.

Inhaling will pull the draw reed into its slot to start the cycle of vibration, but some air will also leak in through the blow slot. Mounting a valve on the other side of the blow slot prevents that leakage, as that valve will be pulled against the blow slot, blocking leakage and allowing all the air to come in through the draw reed.

Your clarinet training will stand you in good stead with the harmonica, but the embouchure is very different and, most importantly, you need to train your inhaled breaths to sustain and produce tone, not merely refill your lungs quickly for blow notes. The throat and oral cavity need to stay open while inhaling and your embouchure, instead of producing tone by pressing the reed, is chiefly engaged in directing an unimpeded flow of air to the location(s) of the reed(s) you wish to play, with both lips and tongue engaged in the selection.

In Kettlewell’s book, I’d advise you to give greater weight to what’s in the interviews with expert players than to the playing advice from the far less experienced authors.

De Aloe’s book may be a bit advanced for someone who is still working to train muscle memory, ear, and mental mapping to locate the notes on what is essentially a blind person’s instrument. Unlike the piano, the harmonica has almost no direct visual component in locating the notes. And unlike the clarinet, the harmonica does not keep the note selectors (the fingers in the case of the clarinet, lips and tongue in the case of the harmonica) in the same location relative to the body of the instrument.

I teach by Skype and have developed teaching material for players new to the chromatic, in addition to authoring two well-known books for diatonic harmonica, Harmonica For Dummies and Blues Harmonica For Dummies. Feel free to get in touch if you feel you could benefit from lessons.

by the way, you can get in touch with me directly at winslowyerxa@yahoo.com and can read about my teaching philosophy at my website, http://winslowyerxa.com

Winslow

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The Older Black version of Hohner Super 64 X Acrylic Comb tends to Crack up I have heard Complains and it’s very expensive to purchase a new one unlike ABS plastic Combs… I was getting Brand new Hohner Super 64 and also Hering 16 holes acrylic comb brand new for good price… But I am happy with the sound and performance of Chromonica 280 C & I have also begun playing Suzuki Chromatix in 16 Hole… Then Winslow Yerxa also encouraged me to try their Sirius version… But due to some Credit card Hitch I couldn’t purchase… So I got myself their Chromatix in 16 hole version… It’s another good quality Harmonica in its Price range other than exquisite Sirius and Fabulous…I also play Hohner Meisterklasse 7565 Chromatic in 14 holes… Everything is just fine as per sound and performance… But it’s too sterile for my ears unlike older cover plates of Chromonica 280 c & Hering also produces something similar to the same model like 280 C … Beside their imitation of Hohner super 64 X in Black cover with Acrylic Comb and the other version is with chrome plated cover from hering with acrylic comb… The after sales and service of Hering does not exist in in Europe I assume that no one wants to purchase a Hering Harmonica… Though they are superb in playability as well… I am also playing Tombo 12 Hole Chromatic version that has same old style cover plates like in Super Chromonica version… Tombos are out of the box well Tuned Harmonica… But once again the spare parts aren’t easy to get…

Thank you, Paulc! I am having fun with it, learning how to breathe with it, finding its best sounds, all the newbie stuff. I think it’ll be with me for a long time.

Thank you, Bergdorfer! I appreciate the warning about repairmen. I hope my 280C will last a very long time, because within the past week I found its beautiful sound. Just what I’ve been looking for. Thank you, too, for mentioning some great harmonica players. I’ve looked some up on YouTube, and I’ll try to find them all. I’m learning from books and from watching the artists on YouTube, and I’m training my ear along with my mouth. Learning the Chromatic Harmonica is far more interesting than I thought it would be when I began to search for the “right” harmonica for me, given my classical music background. It’s a voyage of discovery and I’m discovering good things.
Best regards,
Carol

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Thank you, RustyR! I looked up Winslow Yerxa and bought his Dummies book. At this point I’m a rank beginner, but enjoying it immensely because my 280C already gives me glimpses of the beautiful sound it has. I think the only – or major – difference between the 280C and the Super 64 are the windsavers. But I know so little that I may well be wrong on that. At any rate, I’m happy with the 280C.

Thank you, Winslow, for the thorough response. I bought your Harmonica for Dummies book and explored your website yesterday. I’ll be in touch at your email address. I have discovered the differences between the clarinet and the harmonica, and am working to train my breathing and to think of my mouth and throat as a sound box of sorts. The sound of the 280 C is much richer with my tongue lowered, which in turn opens the throat. I like complicated projects – my books are also complicated – so I’m having fun learning the components of how to produce good sound on the harmonica.
Carol

Easy peasy, huh, db133? Yeah, right. :slightly_smiling_face:

Mention not you are always most Welcome… It’s my Pleasure to provide any means of assistance that I can to humble Musicians… I am not a Musician… But a mere enthusiast… I admire your liking towards Chromatic Harmonica… That’s very Endeavouring indeed because you are professional player in other Instruments besides Harmonica… So I am enthralled… Your Love and Life is only Music and nothing else at all…
With Regards,
Roy
Hamburg, Lohbrügge… Germany

Thank you, Roy, but I have to clear up a misunderstanding. I’m not a professional musician. I’m a writer. I had to choose whether to be a writer or a musician in college, and I chose writer. I sold my piano in 1980, and got a guitar. When arthritis attacked my hands, I sold the guitar. I’m happy about the 280 C because if fits me and I love the sound. The clarinet I gave up when I graduated from college. A long time ago. I’m glad I studied music because it helps now to learn the 280 C. My husband, though, doesn’t like the sound of the harmonica, and I don’t blame him. I’m terrible right now, but I’ll get better at it. Maybe someday he’ll like it, too.

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No 2 persons are same… What you pursue in your life as aesthetic matter such as Hobbies and other creativity should satisfy your own passion… But in positive sense… I don’t believe in Good, Better & Best for so long it makes me happy in those wee hours when I am trying to Improvise my aesthetics… So be it Music, Cooking, Gardening, Animal Husbandry including honing the skills in Hunting and Fishing animals… I have a wife too in Long Island New york… But what I do to impress myself has no connection with what she does to impress herself with her own activities…Happiness is personal and very private matter to indulge in and someone like myself are satisfied alone with what I do in life and without the necessity of others approval…

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