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The SlipSlider - a Revolutionary Harmonica

The stock Richter diatonic harp is a very expressive instrument, but it has some limitations. The main one is that only 8 of the 20 reeds can be bent in pitch: holes 1,2,3,4,6 draw, and 8,9,10 blow. That's because these are the only holes where the blow and draw notes are a tone or more apart, allowing for an interactive-reed bend between them. The high reed in each hole will bend, but the low one won't - because it doesn't have a lower-pitched reed to bend down to.

But what if you could somehow move reeds around so that the non-bending reeds were in the same airstream as a lower reed, thus allowing them to bend? That's the concept behind the patent-pending SlipSlider harp.

It's made in two separate parts, with the draw reed attached to a sheet of super-slippery Teflon (the space-age food grade plastic coating that lines non-stick fry pans). The two halves of the harp are held together with magnets, which also locate them in the neutral position for normal play. But when you want the extra bend notes, you just slide the draw reedplate a few millimetres to left or right with a small adjustment of your grip.

Slide to the right, and hey presto: you can bend the lower blow notes! 2, 5, 6 and 7 blow are suddenly juicily bendable. The high blow bends remain the same, so you can play Jimmy Reed style over the top and middle octave. It's really cool and very soulful.

Slide to the left, and now you can bend your high draw notes! 8 and 10 draw now bend like 4 and 6 draw. In fact, you can play the top octave in exactly the same way as the middle octave, which stays the same as normal during the shift. Just transfer your favourite middle-octave licks up there with identical bends and breathing patterns - so easy, and so expressive! The reason it's easy to adjust to is that the rest of the harp remains exactly the same in each shift, so you can flow through the octaves. Release your grip and the magnets snap the draw plate back to the middle position, for normal harp play with overblows and all the stuff you're used to.

Slip Slider tuning diagram
The harp is made in two parts with magnets holding them together and locating the reeds in the default home position. The lower reedplate can slide left or right using easy finger action.
  1. Home Position - plays exactly like a normal harp
  2.  Right-Shift of Drawplate - Gives new blow bends in the bottom two octaves, top octave stays the same.
  3. Left-Shift of Drawplate - Gives new draw bends in the top octave, lower two octaves stay the same.

Check out the videos to hear it in action, and click on the tuning diagram to see the note layout for the three positions.

All the Richter playing videos will apply to all harmonica brands. Specific making assembly videos for each harp model will be added to the pages relating to them.

A SlipSlider for PowerBender, PowerDraw, Wholetone etc!
With Seydel you can order an alternate version of the SlipSlider for regular-breath tunings where the draw note is always higher than the blow in every hole, like PowerBender & PowerDraw. It only requires one shift direction and needs no rocker-arm assembly. Check it out in the video and info on the Seydel tab.

Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider  

ORDERING OPTIONS

At present, the SlipSlider comes only in Hohner Crossover & MB Deluxe versions - more brands/models will be added soon. You can order it fully assembled ready to play, or buy the finished parts and assemble to your own reedplates and covers. It's a straightforward process (just follow the steps in the video) and means you can transform your existing favourite harps into SlipSliders and save money.

If you are really tech-minded and want the lowest price you can choose to buy the loose Raw Parts and do all the finishing work yourself - check out the step-by-step video showing how. This option is best for customisers and players who are experienced with working on their harmonicas; without good tool skills you could mess up one of the steps. If you choose the Raw Parts option, the responsibility for doing the job successfully lies with you. If in any doubt, buy the finished PowerParts to attach to your reedplates/covers, or the fully assembled SlipSlider harmonica.

HISTORY OF THE IDEA

It turns out the concept of sliding reedplates in a harmonica goes back at least to 1892, when a patent was issued to one Franz Jacob for a tremolo-type harmonica that used the idea gave extra chords. There was another patent in 1925 but nothing came of these early designs and the idea fell into obscurity. The application of sliding the draw plate on 10-hole diationic harps for extra note bending was invented by my good friend Zombor Kovacs, a clever harmonica-playing engineer from Budapest, Hungary. He made a prototype in 2006 that worked, but not well enough for his liking. The movement either way was quite large (7.5mm), and it was a bit sluggish - so he gave up on the idea.  Here are some photos:
Slip Slider Prototype Slip Slider Prototype Slip Slider Prototype Slip Slider Prototype
In 2017 with Zombor's blessing I decided to reexamine this idea and see if it could be improved. I designed a new 3d printed comb that reduced the movement in either direction by half on the SlipSlider from Zombor's original prototype, and created a new more-intuitive tuning arrangement. I added magnets to snap the parts back into alignment, plus the Teflon interface plate for ultimate slipperiness between the two halves of the harp. I also created a special little cantilver reed dampener that sits inside the lower coverplate and operates on the cam principle. It stops the 7 draw reed from sounding when you slide the lower reedplate - without it extra reeds will sound, stopping the bends. I was really pleased with that idea! (Though the sliding-reedplate idea is Zombor's, I have taken out a provisional patent on my technical innovations in the SlipSlider - but in recognition of his pioneering role in inventing the concept, Zombor will receive a percentage of the profit from every SlipSlider sold).

HOHNER SLIP-SLIDER

The initial development of the SlipSlider was to fit the excellent Hohner Marine Band Deluxe and Crossover harps. All the design and testing work was done for the Hohner version, and they feature on the first videos. As you can hear from them, the Hohner harps come out sounding very good in SlipSlider format, even without any reed gapping or slot embossing. When those refinements are added they sound very close to customised standard Hohners, with enhanced overblow performance as well as all the fantastic extra bending expression the SlipSlider gives.

The only downside of the Crossover and MB Deluxe is their small size, which makes gripping the harp for the sliding action slightly more difficult than for wider harps like Suzuki and Seydel. However, adding suitable grip tape compensates for this. As with all SlipSliders, adding a very light coating of a food-safe grease like Vaseline to the upper comb will enhance the seal between the two halves of the harp.

Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider Slip Slider

ORDERING OPTIONS

You can order your Hohner SlipSlider in one of three ways:

1. Fully assembled with brand new harmonica parts, lovingly put together by us, tested and ready to play.
2. Buy the finished parts and assemble to your own reedplates and covers. It's a straightforward process (just follow the steps in the video) and means you can transform your existing favourite harps into SlipSliders and save money.
3. If you are really tech-minded and want the lowest price you can choose to buy the loose Raw Parts and do all the finishing work yourself - check out the step-by-step video showing how. This option is best for customisers and players who are experienced with working on their harmonicas; without good tool skills you could mess up one of the steps. If you choose the Raw Parts option, the responsibility for doing the job successfully lies with you.

If in any doubt, buy the finished PowerParts to attach to your reedplates/covers, or the fully assembled SlipSlider harmonica.

Tech videos

Tech 1: Preparing the Raw Parts for Assembly (PowerParts Raw Parts Option)

Tech 2: Assembling Your SlipSlider (PowerParts Assembly Option)

Items you will need (PowerParts Raw Parts option)

Inbox Notes (all options)

Hohner SlipSlider Fully Assembled

(including new harmonica)

Base Price: £115

Harmonica:

Key:

Colour:



All prices include international tracked shipping
Slip Slider

SlipSlider PowerParts Kit

(you supply harmonica - 2 options)

Base Price: £32

Finish Level:

Colour:

Harmonica Type:

Reed Slot Length:

Add Sanding Jig For two Hohner SlipSlider PowerCombs to achieve even sanding. Watch the Raw Parts video to see how it is used.
Watch the sanding jig video for how to assemble your jig.


All prices include international shipping Slip Slider

BUYERS' COMMENTS

" The harmonica plays like a dream, I was a bit concerned about the air tightness when I first see the concept, but in action, I can overblow 456 and overdraw 789 out of the box, 10 is a bit squealing but I think that's just my technique. This is WAY better than the OOTB crossovers I've had in the past, so the air tightness is definitely not an issue.

In terms of the notes, from my little experience with it, I can now play the b3 in the lower octave which I wasn't able to get with OB, and I can get the same juicy bending trill between the major 7 and root as the PowerBender running in the middle octave when playing 2nd, much stronger than using OB, and much more musical and tonally pleasant.

It is totally a game changer for sure. "

Wenchao Li (May 2018)

" I purchased a SlipSlider Crossover in G a bit ago and have been digging it... Took a bit of time to figure out a method to prevent slipping fingers but in the end I came up with a nice grip system using a few brass finishing washers and a spot of hot glue; it works well and looks great. ... I really appreciate your ingenuity! "

Harp, from Brendan's Forum (May 2018)
" I finally put my SlipSlider together. This is fun. I haven't done much with it yet, just noodled around, and haven't decided yet how I'm going to do the grip modifications, if any. With Thunderbird covers it does pretty well, maybe just a small dab or two of clear E6000 glue on each side will do the trick. In C having the blowbent Eb and Ab available is going to be nice. The ease of disassembly for cleaning and adjusting alone is a great plus. If it works as well in the Lucky 13 regular breath direction models my other harmonicas are going to get dusty. "

CrawfordEs, from Brendan's Forum (May 2018)

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