Tombo are perhaps best known in the West for making the Lee Oskar diatonics, but they also manufacture a full range of harmonicas, including some rather innovative designs. Two relatively recent additions to their range are the Tombo Pocket Bass and Pocket Chord harmonicas. As their names suggest, these are accompaniment harmonicas that are somewhat smaller than the usual bass and chord harps, although to be honest you would still need pretty big pockets to carry these around!
The Pocket Chord is an eight chord harmonica with brass reedplates fully recessed in a satin finished ABS comb, with what looks like chromed brass covers, everything held together by screws and nuts. Measuring 147mm x 37mm x 26mm (about 5 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 1") and weighing 138g (a little less than 5oz), it is about the same size as a typical 12-hole chromatic. Each chord has four blow reeds and the tuning and reed adjustment is excellent. The major and minor chords are tuned in Just Intonation to give the smoothest possible chords and the 7th chords tuned as a pure major triad with a tempered seventh added. The instrument gives the commonest chords for the keys of C major and A minor, although these could be useful in other keys as well. The upper row gives the chords F major, C major, G7 and D7; the lower row gives Dm, Am, E7 and B7.
The Pocket Bass is slightly larger, measuring 145mm x 59mm x 47mm (about 5 3/4" x 2 5/16" x 1 7/8") and weighs 390g (a little under 14oz). As with the Pocket Chord, the reedplates are fully recessed into an ABS comb and attached by screws and nuts, ditto for the chromed brass covers. This instrument has ten blow reeds, giving the root and fifth for each of the chords on the Pocket Chord. The upper row has F, C, G, D and A; the lower row D, A, E, B and F#. The lowest note is the E, which is tuned one octave lower than the lowest note of a low E diatonic, or hole 2 of a tenor chromatic; the highest note is the F, which is tuned the same as the lowest note of a low F diatonic, or 2 draw of a tenor chromatic.
The combination of the extra thick reedplate (twice the thickness of a standard diatonic or chromatic) and the huge reeds (the longest reed measures 37mm - almost one and a half inches!) gives the Pocket Bass a very powerful sound.
Both harps are made to extremely high standards and come in nice zippered cases with polishing cloths and leaflets with musical examples. Although they are obviously aimed at giving the bass or chord harmonica player a more portable instrument for sessions that don't require full chromatic capability, I think they could also be a way for the typical diatonic player to expand their music palette. These could be great instruments for those that play in a duo with a guitarist and I've also had a lot of fun incorporating them into solo performances, alternating between them and variously tuned diatonics. These are superb instruments and I highly recommend them to anyone wishing to expand their arsenal of harmonicas.
The UK distributors are FCN Music. Interested parties in other countries should check www.tombo-m.co.jp/eng/distoributor.html for details of their local distributor. You may also be interested in this video clip of Lee Oskar backed by a couple of Tombo staff with the Pocket Bass and Pocket Chord at the Frankfurt Musik Messe:
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