© 2005 P. Missin - Details

US Patent 2565100

Patented in 1951 by John R. Tate of Whittier, California, this harmonica actually has two rather separate aspects to it. One aspect is that it has a built-in microphone, but more intriguingly, it is designed to be able to bend each and every note on the instrument by restricting the airflow to the reeds, without requiring any additional mechanical parts to the instrument.

The first version that Tate shows of his invention is a typical diatonic except that it has covers which provide a discrete chamber above every reed. Each chamber has an opening towards the front of the harmonica and a smaller opening towards the rear. During normal play, the openings are left clear; however when the player wishes to lower the pitch of a note, the player's lips cover the hole in the front of the cover corresponding to that note. In this way, the airflow is restricted and the pitch of the note drops, although the opening at the rear of the chamber (this opening being smaller for each higher pitched reed) means that the reed is never completely choked off.

Tate also shows another embodiment of his invention, where the airflow to the reeds is restricted by squeezing a pair of flexible covers which gradually close off the reed chambers. The following diagrams illustrate this, as well as showing the microphone unit:

Interestingly enough, a similar idea to the second embodiment of Tate's invention was patented by the Yamaha Corporation almost fifty years later. Japanese Patent 9050276 from 1997, naming Nakano Minoru as the inventor, shows a harmonica whose covers can be squeezed together to restrict airflow to and from the reeds, lowering the pitches of the notes produced:

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