I've come up with a theoretical way to play any reed in a diatonic harmonica as either blow or draw. It's not simultaneous, you have to manually choose one or the other with a selector mechanism similar to a chromatic slider. When you do, all the notes in the harmonica switch breath direction, so it can work for single notes or chords. In terms of single notes, for example on a particular hole, blow C/draw D would become draw C/blow D. It's interesting - but for the life of me I can't think of a useful application for this dual-function reed system in harmonicas, so haven't bothered to test it out yet. If anyone has any suggestions, please offer them
If there is one (or more) idea that survives scrutiny and seems really useful, I'll make a prototype. If it works, I'll post it to the person who first suggested the application
Here my first thoughts roughly sketched, subject to further investigation:
1. I shall think about the possibility to use this idea to design a more compact bordune (i.e. drone) harmonica. Especially if there might be a use for playing drone chords. I shall make some preparing tests with my modular harp. Maybe I need some more reeds for this. Btw, did you continue to work on this project in the meantime?
The salient point at this idea is the reaction of the reeds to change of air direction, i.e. change from blow to draw and v/v. Some experiments with different designs of the comb might be necessary as well.
2. Compact bass harmonica.
Example for the design of a diatonic: Tombo Pocket Bass (also copied by Easttop). Example chromatic: Tombo Contrabass. (Both have the same design as Suzuki or Tombo Soprano Pipe / Alto Pipe etc, i.e. only one reed in each channel, fully separated from each other) The salient point at this is, whether your new reeds require any interaction among reeds (like e.g. interactive reed bending etc) or not.
I have already made practical tests with conversion of conventional blow- and draw reeds in the Tombo / Easttop pocket Bass. The idea showed practically realizable as well as playtechnically and musically useful.
At least I am wondering and curious about how this might work, thinking about gapping, fixation and direction of reeds, degrees of freedom for oscillation of reeds etc.
But do you still have some more reeds on stock for further tests?
To specify those ideas take sa little time.
In a slide harmonica we dedicate the bottom 3 holes for chords. In the top reedplate, say, these holes contain double action (DA) reeds, while the bottom reedplate has valved draw and blow reeds in each hole. The slide is then modified with extra holes so that both chambers are open when unpressed. Thus, each hole has three blow notes and three draw notes, two of which are the same.
With capital letters for DA reeds, first letter blow and last letter draw, the first holes could, for instance, be tuned like aCEg eGBd bDF#a.
This gives the one-hole blow chords Am, Em and Bm, and one-hole draw chords C, G and D with the slide out. If we press the slide, we get one note per hole, with double stops giving the power chords A, E, G and D.
This system would let you at least play the tonic chord and some other useful chords in keys C, G, D, A, E, Gm, Dm, Am, Em and Bm. Some of these are power chords, but the more common Celtic keys all contain full chords. This is pretty good for three holes, especially as you would still have a 9 hole chromatic in the same instrument! As this wasn't enough, all chords are close to each other, and no awkward long jumps while playing several holes at the time are required.
Would this qualify as an application?
Edit: I was probably too quick here. I read your first post early in the morning before my brain was on, thought about it while biking to work and wrote it down later. It's not obvious your reeds as you described them would allow my system to work, (but neither that they wouldn't.) Would something like this work?
There could be some uses for this.
Flipping the top 4 holes of a standard Richter would turn the top to a spiral tuned harp. In addition to "fixing" the inverted breathing pattern in the top octave so that you have only draw bends, you get some new chords and double stops.
On a Paddy righter, flipping only hole 3 would make third position much nicer as the home chord would get a base fifth below the root note. Combining this with the above, the same switch could be used to activate holes 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
It becomes a question of how complicated this invention is to build. It's easy to imagine small advantages that might or might not be worth the hassle. Take a PowerChromatic for instance:
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Blow: G A C E G A C E Draw: A B D F# A B D F#
1. It's activated manually, like a chromatic slider, with similar ease and speed.
2. In the standard version, all reeds in the harmonica change breath direction at once.
3. However it could be designed so only selected reeds change breath direction, the rest stay the same.
4. It works for single notes or chords, whatever you're playing at the time.
5. The note pairs in each chamber remain the same, but change breath direction.
6. The available bends and overbends stay the same in each hole, but change breath direction.
7. The standard version applies to typical single-reed diatonic harmonicas in any tuning, but it could be applied to a chromatic-style slide harmonica, in any tuning.
Making it selectable, as Edvin enquires, isn't something I'd considered. It would be possible, but would require some more thought and design work. I can see that it could be handy for getting extra chords with unaltered notes. That's a useful concept alright I'll mull over your ideas and consider how this option could be made.
So far I have a design based on a standard 10-hole diatonic, with blow reedplate on top and draw reedplate on bottom. Edvin's suggestion for extra chording using chromatic-style reedplates would also require more design work, but it's conceptually possible. A tuning diagram would help me grasp that particular idea better. (Post here or send privately Edvin, whatever you prefer).
As for your other idea that the dual-action reed function overcomes the reversed reed direction in the top octave of Richter tuning: yes, it makes draw notes higher than blows, but the note pairs are still the same. A switch to Spiral Tuning, as you say. Is that it useful? I'm not sure
Actually I think the SlipSlider is better in that respect: with a right push, it gives you the same scale in the top octave as the middle, with all the familiar draw bends etc I would choose it instead, I think.
Randy Weinstein says he prefers blow bends to draw bends in general, and has had Seydel make him a harp with a breath pattern like the top end of Richter throughout the range. This DA function would give a player blow bends in the lower two octaves, so for Randy it's useful. But I don't know anyone else who shares his preference. And again, the SlipSlider can fulfill that function probably better.
I'll think more about a version using chromatic reedplates. One idea that pops into my head is combining the DA function with Slide-Diatonic tuning. The Slide-Diatonic duplicates notes and gives you new reed pairs, meaning you can bend on notes that you normally can't.
For example, in hole 5 of a C SD, you have CD slide-out, and DE slide-in. With half-valving, that means you can bend the draw E note, which is normally an un-bendable blow on hole 6.
Now, if you activate the DA function at the same time, the notes in hole 5 would be D draw/E blow. This means the E stays as a blow but is now bendable...
Hmm... Interesting, but is it really useful? On reflection, I don't really think so. However, it does indicate that, if you can find a good tuning for the slider notes in a chromatic, there might be some utility hidden in this idea.
It's a bit of a mind-bender though. I need another coffee...
For my system from the first post, I had in mind reeds that would respond to either a blow or a draw. I see now this is not what you meant, and take this as another example of how morning brain is dangerous.
I'll try to describe my idea anyway, both for reference and because I'm happy with it. (I'll turn blow and draw around from my first outline, to get a regular breathing pattern.)
I imagine it would be tuned as follows, where the first three holes are chords and the rest is just Solo chromatic.
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Top Plate : CE GB DF# CD EF GA CB Bottom Plate: GA DE AB C#D# FF# G#A# C#C
The slider is modified with extra holes, so that with the slide out both plates are played. With the slide in, only the bottom plate plays, like in the rest of the harp.
This would result in the following behaviour with the slide out:
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Blow: G D A Either: CE GB DF# Draw: A E B
Pressing the slide closes off the DA reeds, removing the "Either" row:
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Blow: G D A Draw: A E B
Of course the rest of the chromatic could be a Solo in another key than C, a PC or something else. The main point is that with true, passive double action reeds, which respond to breath in either direction(which is probably not what you have), you could make an extremely compact but powerful chord harmonica which could fit in the bottom end of an ordinary chrom.