The x-reeds are set with a zero gap in the reedplate, sounding only when you adopt the bending embouchure to enable the active reeds to bend. X-Reed harmonicas come in triple-reed or quad-reed types.
In a triple-reed type, you have three reeds in each sound chamber. Assuming the active reeds are tuned a tone or more apart, customary bending is on the high-pitched reed, which interacts with the other active reed in the hole to get a bend. Let’s use hole 4 on a C harp as an example : you can bend the D draw down to C# because it interacts with the C blow reed.
So far so normal. But the x-reed (a reed with zero gap of the opposite direction to the low-pitched reed, a draw reed tuned to Bb or lower in this example) now allows the usually un-bendable blow C to bend as well! Because of the zero gap it is usually passive, but it vibrates to give the bend note as soon as the player initiates the bend on the blow C. The Suzuki SUB30 is an example of the x-reed triple type.
That's the principle, and it can be extended to a quad-reed type where there are four reeds in the cell: two active reeds and two x-reeds. This allows the bending of each active reed to be determined by the tuning of the x-reeds, allowing all sorts of bends to be possible. The Hohner XB-40 is an example of the x-reed quad type.
I was one of the two independent inventors of the X-Reed harmonica concept, and created the world's first working 30-reed 10 hole harmonica in New Zealand in 1989 (a triple-reed design made from a Koch chromatic). Things should have progressed quickly from there but inventions often become ensnared in legal issues, and this happened with the concept of extra bending reeds in harmonicas. In the process, development of the idea was halted for many years. It's a long, winding, fascinating story featuring several key figures: you can read about it here.
But now, after a long period of court wrangling and design stagnation, the legal barriers to harmonica progress are in the past. I am finally free to pursue my original vision, and two years ago combined with my partner Zombor Kovacs to offer adventurous players who want to explore the X-Reed concept the very best harps available, from our website x-reed.com.
We have come up with several innovations to make x-reed harps work much better, notably the X-Reed OverValve Plate and the Z1 comb In addition to offering x-reed harps on the x-reed site, some of my own designs are also offered here. The first is the ChromaBender, a bending harmonica in the 12 hole Solo tuned format. More in the pipeline, watch this space!
I found I had to create an entirely new harmonica to achieve an authentic sound for Chinese and other Asian styles. I first used it on my album New Chinese Harmonica - you can hear clips from it here. I soon found the harmonica was great for playing Western melodies more expressively too, and started using it on my gigs. The album and live shows generated many requests for the harmonica itself, so here it is: the AsiaBend!
Bending on the AsiaBend is exactly the same type of interactive-reed draw bending as on diatonic 10-hole harps. The scale is similar to the middle octave of a diatonic, or Solo tuning on chromatic, with a 3 octave range. So it will be easy for both diatonic and chromatic players to adapt to. The layout is:
SLIDE OUT: C E
G C | C E
G C | C E
SLIDE IN: D F A B | D F A B | D F A B
These are draw notes only. The notes all bend down to the adjacent
scale note below with the exception of the G (bends down to E) and
the left-hand C (bends down to A). Blow notes don't sound in normal
playing but there are overblows on every hole, slide-in and out,
which give these notes: C#,D# - F,F# - G#,A# - C#,C (they
are repeatable in all octaves).
These harmonicas are sent to you direct by my business partner Roland, in Shanghai. This helps us to keep prices low and re-stock quickly. We use a respected Chinese courier company with tracking on all orders. In the rare event that your parcel gets lost, the courier company will need your contact telephone number. We recommend that you add the correct phone number into PayPal when you order, as this will ensure that you can be contacted in the event of an issue. (Your choice, but please note that without a valid phone number we cannot guarantee delivery).
All prices INCLUDE International Shipping with Tracking.
" The AsiaBend is fabulous and I hope to learn a few good tunes on it. It's a lot more intuitive than I thought it would be. "
Steve Watne, USA (August 2016)
" I received the chromabender. It is a beautiful instrument and I love it...I am accustomed to bending and I am happily getting used to this instrument. "
Chris Harrison, USA (July 2016)
The ChromaBender harps arrived yesterday. I spent about an hour with them last night. Since I had arranged to take a long over-due day off work today I spent three hours working through some exercises and then played with friends on fiddle, whistle and guitar. Well I could go on for a while but the short of it is that this D may be the best harmonica I've ever touched. The G will need a little tweaking on the 3 and 4 draw so I've downloaded your videos to try that for myself. But this D is just amazing. I love playing whistles but this harp is going to get equal time.
Thanks brother. These are really special.
Michael Hawke, USA
" I have had the ChromaBender for a couple of days now. I really enjoy trying to work out new phrases. It's like learning to play a harmonica all over again (I'm a Diatonic player only, until now). The different tones and bending notes really makes playing this harp fun, and possibilities are endless. You got a lot more than just a normal chromatic. This is really going to be to good. My feeling is that it's going to be a seller. Can't wait for more keys to come out once you really get going. Thank You. "
" It arrived this morning and is FANTASTIC!
... I am mainly a chromatic player - a pale imitation of Toots and Gregoire!! The Chromabender is the most exciting harp I have played for ages. And it is beautifully made and weighted.
All the best. "
" Hi Brendan I received the chromabender today . I love it! As soon as I opened the case I played samba pa ti by Carlos Santana then tried some simple blues and pentatonic scales and all the notes are here. This harp and your other innovations are fantastic additions to a world ruled by purists and technical elitists.Please continue to breathe new life into the harmonica.I hope more people will support the advancement of your x-reed tech and usher in the new age of incredible out of the box harps. "
" The ChromaBender is a wonderful instrument. I enjoy playing it.
To be a little more specific, after playing the ChromaBender over the last week I can say, historically, it is the first real attempt to address the challenges of chromatic harmonicas. There are no uncontrolled air leaks making bends so much easier and the full spectrum of notes are playable especially at the high end.
It's the first harmonica (both diatonic or chromatic) I thoroughly enjoy playing without complaint. "
Bryan Ferguson (owner of three ChomaBenders!)
" Letting you know the ChromaBender has just arrived. First impression is how little air is required to sound all the notes. The reed tolerances are very tight indeed, as mentioned on your web site. Thanks for another wonderful creation to join my arsenal of three SUB30 Ultrabends and one PowerBender! "
" Cher Brendan;
J'ai bien reçu votre nouvelle merveille "ChromaBender" ce matin et je suis enchanté vraiment par la qualité de vos réalisations;je vous remercie encore une fois du fond du coeur.
C'est une réussite!excellentes continuation!
(I received your new wonder the "Chromabender" this morning, and I am truly delighted with the quality of your accomplishments; Thank you once again from the bottom of my heart. It is a success! Keep up the good work!)