Anyone use a chromatic harmonica here?

Thinking of buying my 1st one … saw the prices around $200, so I figure I’d better do a little legwork 1st. I’ve used the Hohner Marine Band for years for blues-type stuff, looking to get a harmonica sound for more, uhhh, chromatic-sounding playing.

Thanks for any comments or suggestions -

I’d be grateful to know what conclusions you come to. I worked, years ago, with a guy called Larry Adler who played chromatic…he was AMAZING and I’ve been looking for a cheap one ever since but cheap ones don’t seem to exist! :frowning:

Will do, I’ll post back. Bet there are cheap used ones on eBay, but … ickkk!

BTW - Do you recall if your buddy ever happened to say whether Magic Dick (silly forum censor, his name is Magic D*ck) of J Geils Band used a chromatic for “Whammer Jammer”? Never could definitively get an answer on youtube/etc, the responses vary between “Y”, “N”, and “Just for Part of It”!

Sadly he’s dead now but was strictly a Jazzer. We did a lot of Gershwin on tour. Look him up. He was noted for scoring a film called Genevieve.

Ah, a real harmonica player, must have been a great experience. Will look him up when I get back home (at work now), thanks.

Ok, so your post made me pull out my harps…and there it was, a late '60’s Hohner Chrometta 8. Haven’t played it for years, but it’s a lot of fun if you learn. $88.00 new today, less on ebay, guess you’d have to boil it out, or better yet put it in a bourbon soak :smiley: , my favorite, beer is to sticky. Saw this guy give it a whirl

Good luck.


LOL, another good memory rekindled by talk of a harmonica!

I saw that Chrometta listed on line … don’t know why I passed it by. What do you think (besides number of Samolians it costs) is the main difference between your Chrometta and, for example this $200 model: . # holes? Sound quality?

BTW, OT on my own thread: for stage blues bending, I will usually dunk the Marine Band in a glass of water, slap out the extra water, and bend away. I find that the wet reeds give me great bending powers :laughing: . But someone told me that it’s a great way to shorten the life of the harmonica too. I do know that after a while it gets real hard to play them … so I guess they are right? Then again, bourbon vs. water … maybe it’s OK to do after all?

Thanks for any more thoughts and suggestions!

I’m 99% sure Magic D i c k used a ‘normal’ blues harp on ‘Whammer Jammer’ because we used to do that tune in one of my bands, we had an excellent harp player (Uncle John Eyers), and it sure takes one to play that tune :slight_smile: !

Besides, a chromatic harp sounds different to the blues one.


Yeah, the chromatic sounds like ‘Honey in Warm Milk’ where as the blues harp and marine band harp have a harsher sound.

Harp adjustments;

Harps are tough, just found my first harp, a Hohner Blues Harp, circa 1969/70, been dipped in beer, booze, water, not to mention the spittle and ya know they come apart, wiped it out and off, did the tune up like in the video, put it back together (needed a couple new brads) and it never sounded better…the cowling is a bit bent, but hey. :sunglasses:

Check out the ‘HarmonaCats’ United Audio great Bill Putnam recorded them in the men’s room at the , I believe and correct me if I’m wrong, Empire State Building due to the quality of natural reverb in the can, so to speak.

Serious? Bourbon soak?

Thanks for posting that link. It’s nice to hear something different from a fixed key.

Thank you John for posting that Chrometta vid!

It made me think about the little clicky sound getting printed … I went and looked at a Hohner model the other day (the $200 behemoth), I wish I had seen your vid first because I can’t remember whether the Hohner also had a clicky sound, or was quiet!

I can go back and check it out. I guess if I heard the Chrometta clicky sound on the youtube, I ought to plan on its being present on my recording as well :frowning: .

aeh… I wouldn’t worry about the clicky sound. You may be able to wrap gaffers tape on the end to damper the click sound. It is a part of the instrument though :mrgreen: A piano without hammers :laughing:

In an old harp book they talked stories of the big players of the day and taught the how’s and why’s from the likes of Big Walter Horton (I), Sonny Boy Williamson , Sonny Terry and more. It told of using ‘soaks’, beer when your down on your luck and bourbon when your rolling high. So seriously, in the early 70s, standing at a bar with some friends, the band was playing Kansas City in ‘E’. With an ‘A’ harp in my pocket, started to play. The bartender heard it and got all excited and wanted me to play with the band, said I would if he gave me (on the house) a double bourbon and water in a tall glass no ice. This isn’t how I live by any means, but in the moment, I got to tell ya, those boys new what they were talking about…on top of a couple beers, adrenalin from playing harp live the first time (and never again) the effects of the ‘soak’ were most interesting. You see, when you draw in, a mist of bourbon flys down into your lungs. Needless to say, for the whole song, every chance I got, I dunked, and I didn’t shake it out. Never happened again, Never forget it. :open_mouth:

Side Note (on a more sobering note): the Hohner manual says; “NEVER soak your harmonica. Soaking it will cause the reeds to corrode and the wooden body (comb) to swell, causing more rapid deterioration of both of these vital parts of your instrument. Soaking also voids your warranty.”

I can go back and check it out. I guess if I heard the Chrometta clicky sound on the youtube, I ought to plan on its being present on my recording as well :frowning:


The Chromette 8 has a plastic like frame with brass reed plate on it. The chromatic Button that pushes the slide gate over the holes is in the plastic frame/body and is very smooth. If you slam it , it clicks, if you play with grace, you just hear the sliding of the gates, very soft sound. I think it’s like fret buzz or finger slide noise on a guitar, sometime it happens, most times, it’s less than great playing and technique.

Hi John - Thank you for your posts - the anecdotal one and the informational one!

Re: soaking - yeah, I kind of knew that it messed them up, but the sound is SO nice … and if Sonny Boy Williamson does (did :frowning: ) it, it’s good enough for me! GREAT story, thanks (do you remember what song you played? … I’m sure you do)!!

Interesting perspective on the clicky thing, comparing it to fret noises. The guy in the vid seems pretty good, but he still has a big click (let’s see what the forum sensors do with THAT one!). I’m guessing he plays live and doesn’t record then, based on what you said, that the biggus clickus can be controlled.

Thanks again … I’ll probably drop a few on a Chromatica … the price of a few bourbons, right? :wink:

So two things come to mind…

One: Respect, the guy was a legend. Worked with some amazing people in his life, and was one of those guys who redefined his instrument in the public perception, kind of in the same way as Django Reinhardt or Stéphane Grappelli did.

Two: That people here haven’t heard of him!!! It’s not like he was obscure or working in some tiny genre. He was a household name.

Ha ha. I don’t expect everybody to know Larry because his era had been swallowed up a lot by all the fads that came after but, yes, he was a major land mark in that genre.
I did gigs with him at places like Pizza on the Park and Cleo Lane’s place in Wavendon. I’d get there early just to sit and listen to Larry’s stories. He’d talk about being in a jeep in Italy during WWII with Lauren Bacall(oh yes) and bullets flying everywhere. :sunglasses: He had stories about growing up with the Gershwins too.
Great guy, amazing musician(you had to keep on your toes as he could change his mind about numbers IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GIG!!!)!
Hair raising but worth every second.

Hey Mark and Trevor,

One of the beauties of this forum is guys like you bringing experiences different from ours to light giving those interested the opportunity to broaden our horizons.

I googled Larry, WOW, didn’t know. Must have been great playing around him Trevor, well done.

I’ve been a long time fan of Larry Adler, a truly gifted musician.


I’ve had a Hohner Chrometta 12 - 3 octaves. Paid $75.00 for it brand new. Sounds great or should I say it sounds is great as I can play :wink: Actually, a good public performance is based on both talent and the right microphone. Believe me, the greats have their own particular mic. they swear by. You have to find your own sound and that’s harmonica!