The chromatic instrument is a type of harmonica that has a button on the side that is used to redirect air from the hole in the mouthpiece toward the desired reed plate. When the button is not pressed, it allows the musician to play a normal major scale in the key of the chromatic. When the button is pressed, all the missing half step notes are in-between the major scale notes. This way, the musician can play in any key and any type of scale, in contrast with the standard harmonica, which can only play the notes in a given musical key.

The main advantage of this type of harmonica is the fact that the ‘solo tuning’ repeats itself at each octave, which simplifies the process of playing in different octaves and keys.
Even though the chromatic harmonica can play in all keys, it does have some limitations. Among the limitations, we can mention the fact that it can only bend downward by a semi tone, and as a single reed bend it sounds very different from the dual reed bend of a blues harp. These instruments are usually 12, 14 or 16 holes long. In the 12 hole harmonica, which is available in 12 keys, usually the musicians use the ‘C’ key because it is easier to remember.

The chromatic harmonica is found in all styles of music, but mainly it is used in jazz, classical music, and blues.
Among many famous chromatic harmonica players, we can mention jazz players Gregoire Maret, Toots Thielemans, Hendrik Meurkens and Max Geldray, classical players Tommy Reilly, Willi Burger, and Larry Adler, and famous musicians Stevie Wonder and Norton Buffalo.

At Varsity music we provide a great range of new and used chromatic harmonicas available to buy online. They are the best on the market and serviced by our trained musicians.

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