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Let's talk about the standard modern chromatic, tuned to the key of C.

On that instrument,the same C note appears twice at two adjacent holes, both blow notes. The first C hole ends an octave, the second one begins a new octave.

That being the case, when navigating through a piece of music and C has to be played, the player always has to choose which C hole to use. (Unless you're playing the lowest or very highest/last hole - C.)
What are the criteria for choosing which C to play?


I am not a very serious player on the chromatic, but I do fool around with it sometimes. My general rule is that if I get to the end of an octave and intend to continue playing into the next octave, I jump to the second C hole to start the new octave. But if I intend to stay in the same octave and move back down (or just stop playing) I play the first C hole.

Can anyone add to this? Is there something wrong with my method - for example, some inefficiency or error it can lead to?

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    Just dug out some of my chromonicas - 4 octave Hohners, a couple of them - and they all have one blow hole for C. Can't understand why they'd need two True, it means the lowest hole is C blow, D draw, and the next octave hole is B draw, C blow, making the next one up D draw, E blow. They're at least 50 yrs old, still playing well, so maybe the design has changed, but these are/were simple enough to play. Thought about finding an older model?!! – Tim Oct 30 '17 at 8:06
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    @Tim My harmonica has two holes for each C, like Stinkfoot describes. The reason why this exists is because there are more draw notes (D, F, A, B) than blow notes (C, E, G). By having two holes per C, the positions of blow and draw notes are neatly aligned across the entire harmonica. However, I'm a pretty sloppy harmonica player, and when I play a C note I indiscriminately blow into both holes at the same time. This is probably not proper technique. :-) – Lee White Oct 30 '17 at 9:11
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    the plot thickens! Just found four chromonicas - all C, and all work the same as I said, except one, which plays C# until the button is pressed in!! Another couple only have single C holes as well. The C# is somewhat intriguing though... ChromoniKa III. I remember talking about it, but still think mine do the job well enough. Each octave becomes the same blow/draw... – Tim Oct 30 '17 at 10:30
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    Blowing through two C holes will use twice the air, I'd have thought. – Tim Oct 30 '17 at 10:34
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    My personal issue with blowing through both C holes is that it creates a slight of tremolo (even if barely audible), and probably makes the note a bit louder than all others. That's probably not something you should do unless you really intend to get that effect. :) – Lee White Oct 30 '17 at 10:37
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I'm not actually really a chromatic player, I'm much more a diatonic player. Having said that, here's the answer: there is no hard and fast rule, it's simply whichever one is more convenient for a given passage. Practically, for the 2 blow notes, it makes very little difference. Obviously, if you're about to play an A or a G then it's easier to play the first C, and if you're about to play an E or an F then it's easier to use the last one, to not have to skip over a hole.

The much more pressing question is whether to use the C on the blow with the slide out, or the C on the draw with the slide in: using the latter can make certain passages much easier, not having to reverse breath direction coming from a quick A for example.


If it seems strange and illogical that most notes on the chromatic harmonica have no enharmonic equivalent, but that C has 3 enharmonics, and 2 of them are right next to each other, that's because it is strange and illogical, but see this question for why that came about B -> C on a chromatic harmonica :

  • The much more pressing question is whether to use the C on the blow with the slide out, or the C on the draw with the slide in Yes. Same question also applies to E->F. Draw or slide. – Stinkfoot Oct 30 '17 at 13:38
  • but see this question for why that came about - Oh! That's my question - I didn't realize you finally posted an answer. I must have missed the notice. I will check it out. – Stinkfoot Oct 30 '17 at 13:42
  • We do have E#/F on the modern chrom. – Stinkfoot Oct 30 '17 at 14:25

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