Harmonica/Anatomy of a Harmonica

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No matter what kind of harmonica, they are always made up of five basic parts: a comb (also known as body), which is made of plastic, wood or metal, and contains the air channel, as well as supporting the reed plates (or sandwich the comb), which have the reeds blots on to it. This sandwich is further sandwiched by two coverplates, which provide a place to grip the harmonica, as well as producing the aural quality.

In the past, the parts were nailed onto the comb, and this is still common with some wooden combs. However, in modern times, most of them are secured using screws.

Diatonic harmonica[edit | edit source]

Blues Harp and Tremelo Harmonica[edit | edit source]

Comb and two reedplates of a cronetic harmonica.
  • Comb
  • Reed plates
    • Reed
  • Cover plates and cover posts

The construction of tremolo harmonicas and blues harps is very similar. However, blues harps traditionally have all blow reeds on one plate and all draw reeds on the other one, while tremolo harps have both blow and draw reeds on one plate; the other plate differs mainly by the aural frequency the reeds produce. The combs also differ - a blues harp's comb really resembles a comb, while a tremolo harp has a separator across the comb's equator, which separates the air channel for both reed plates.

Hohner XB-40[edit | edit source]

While ultimately it is a Richter tuned harmonica, it differs by having the following construction:

  • mouthpiece
  • Body
  • Windsaver (aka valve)
    • The body is split into two halves along the equator, and each half contains a windsaver, a small piece of flexible flim that is slightly larger than the air channel. They worked by following the air flow produce, which either open up the reed, or completely block air to reach the reeds. In the XB-40, this separates the blow and draw chambers, allowing activation of appropriate notes through bending.
  • reed plates
    • Unlike the standard blues harp, the XB-40 contains both blow and draw reeds. The normally blow plate will contain blow reeds that is offset as usual, while the draw reeds will be at zero offset (i.e. at the same level of the plate). This results in allowing muting draw reeds when not bending, but open up for blow bend when needed. Draw plates is construct and operate similarly.
  • cover plates

Chromatic harmonica[edit | edit source]

Being even more complex than the XB-40, chromatic harmonicas have even more parts:

  • Mouthpiece
  • Slide compartments
    • If cross-tuned - made up of 2 parts: the slide and the slide plate
    • If straight-tuned - Made up of a slide plate, the slide, and the slide cover.
  • Slide buffers
  • Counterlock screws
    • Located inside the comb of Hohner 280, Super 64, and Super64X, it was used to help mount the mouthpiece screws.
  • Spring
  • Spring Post
    • Where the spring are held in place.
  • Comb
    • While its purpose is still supporting the parts of the harmonica, the construction of it is more complex, in order to accommodate the spring post and mouth piece.
  • Reed plates
  • Reed
  • Windsavers
    • a small piece of flexible film that is slightly larger than the air channel. They work by following the air flow produce, which either open up the reed, or completely block air to reach the reeds. In the chromatic, they help direct more air to the appropriate reeds, thus making the reed respond better.
  • Cover plates and cover posts
Getting started: Why should I Play Harmonica? | Types of harmonica | Anatomy of a Harmonica | Harmonica Purchasing guide
Playing the harmonica: Basic Holding and Playing a Harmonica | Tablature | Basic Chords | Bending
Additional techniques: Advance Chords | Advance techniques | Self accompaniment
General harmonica theory: Chromatic Harmonica | Positions | Tremelo | Ensemble Playing | Music Style | Learning Songs | Improvising | Recording | Playing with Amp
Cleaning and maintainence: Basic Maintainence and Care | Advance Maintainence |Harmonica Modifications |Tuning
Appendices: Harmonica Layouts and Alternate Tunings| Harmonica Positions Chart | Blues | Writing Songs