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The chromatic harmonica contains all natural notes plus all sharps and flats, thus enabling melodies to be played that include all standard Western notes.
How do Chromatic Harmonicas Work?
In terms of construction, it is easiest to visualise a standard chromatic harmonica as being akin to two diatonics arranged on top of each other and tuned a semitone apart. The slide, which is activated by a button on the side of the harmonica, directs air to the top or bottom reeds, thus enabling all standard Western notes to be sounded without the need to resort to bending.
Is the Chromatic Harmonica More Difficult to Play than the Diatonic?
It should be noted that, as the reed plates contain multiple octaves tuned a semitone apart, there is some overlap in notes when the slide is in or out. For example, a harmonica with C and Db reed plates will share the notes C and F on both sets of reed plates, meaning that C and F can be played on the harmonica with the slide in or out. This makes the learning curve of the chromatic somewhat steeper than the diatonic, although this is partially offset by the fact that bending notes is not required on the chromatic - something that beginners often find difficult initially.
The Most Popular Chromatic Harmonicas
The most popular chromatics are those with 12 holes, but they are commonly available in sizes ranging from 8 to 16 holes. The German made Hohner Chromonica 48, Seydel Saxony and the SCX range from Suzuki in Japan tend to be the best selling chromatic harmonicas, and represent excellent value. The Harmonica Company also stocks and extensive range of other models from Hohner, Seydel Suzuki and Tombo and offers fast worldwide shipping.