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1. History of the harmonica

  

For the ancient Chinese, the principle according to which our current harmonica works was already known about 5000 years ago: the free-swinging reed. A bamboo instrument called Sheng is today still played in China and the Khan in Thailand. 
From the early 19th century, this principle of sound production in Europe was used. Although the inventor of the harmonica can no longer be determined clearly (at least 9 different references are mentioned), the invention is usually attributed to the Berlin Christian Friedrich Buschmann in 1821. However, it remains the assumption that other instrument makers also came up with this idea independently of each other at this time. In any case, there was a very rapid spread of this idea and it started several manufacturers first in Vienna and later in Württemberg and Saxony with the production of harmonicas. It would take decades before the harmonica got its present form. Between 1845 and 1865 the three basic and well-known to this day harmonica models have emerged from the predominantly used as a toy by then Reedplates:

  • Viennese octave and tremolo models (Thie company in Vienna)

  • Knittlinger octave models (company Hotz in Knittlingen)

  • Richter models

In the mid-20s of the 20th century, the harmonica made significant progress through the development of the chromatic harmonica.

With this instrument, the player was given the opportunity to play more complicated melodies without having to change the instrument in between.

The real key event in the history of Harp was the development of the American market for Hohner products. On the one hand, Hohner quickly became one of the largest harmonica producers in the world. On the other hand, the introduction of the harmonica in the United States and the associated encounter with African-American culture led to new opportunities that probably none of the inventors would have dreamed. Hardly any other instrument was better suited to the newly developing blues music than the diatonic Richter harmonica, which was simply called harp in the USA. It was inexpensive, handy and could be "tortured" in a way that made sounds playable that were not actually available as a reed.

This playing technique, called Bending, and Overblow / Overdraw, discovered only in 1969 by the American Howard Levy, helped the Richter harmonica reach its due position as a full-fledged instrument.

 

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