This section is devoted to a new and exciting kind of harmonica, with extra reeds for extended note bending. These extra reeds have been called auxiliary reeds, enabler reeds, sympathetic reeds... But I simply call them X-Reeds. 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 the legal barriers to harmonica progress with x-reeds were finally over, and I was free to pursue my original vision by exploring new designs. In the last decade I combined with my Hungarian engineer Zombor Kovacs to offer adventurous players who wanted to explore the X-Reed concept the very best harps available, from our website x-reed.com.
We came 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 were also offered here, such as the ChromaBender and AsiaBend.
Our partnership ended and the X-Reed.com website is now archived, but you can still check out all the cool x-reed harps we created . I'm still very keen on this concept and am busy working on new designs - watch this space!
I love My ASIA BEND harp
Mickey Raphael, USA (September 2017)
Mickey Raphael, USA (September 2017)
" 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!)