2002 P.Missin - Details

What's that harmonica on the cover of Toots Thielemans' "Man Bites Harmonica" album?

It's a Hohner Chromonica II Deluxe. It's not all that likely that Toots actually plays it on the album. They were not Hohner's most successful harp from a player's point of view, they are universally loathed by repair technicians, but they do look good in photographs!

Back in the 1950s, Hohner made a 10-hole Chromonica Deluxe I, a 12-hole Chromonica Deluxe II and there was even a prototype 16-hole Chromonica Deluxe III, although the latter was never marketed. The design was covered by German Patent 853853, granted in 1952 with Walter Hohner named as the inventor. This was an attempt to make a chromatic with sleek automobile-like contours and the visual aspect was a complete success. The wood comb is completely surrounded by metalwork and the slider is worked by pushing a rounded bumper-like piece on the right end. Unfortunately, this tends to lever the slide forward slightly as you push it, making it feel very hard to work. Some of them were made with double-thick reedplates which gave the instrument a nice rich tone, but they also have a reputation for wearing out the reeds faster than usual. The thick reedplates were made of aluminium (the regular thickness reedplates were made from brass), which tends to develop a fluffy, powdery corrosion which can impede the reeds and is possibly a health hazard. The metal covering makes the harp very hard to dismantle in order to remedy any of these faults. Not surprisingly, they were only made for a few years and because of their looks and period charm, they are now highly sought after by collectors. Just don't send any of them to me for repair!


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