Pre-War Hohner 260 Chromatic/Koch


I recently acquired a few pre-war 10 hole chromonicas and a couple Koch 10 holers. These are very interesting harps as they tuned in the style of a standard diatonic Richter, as opposed to the solo tuning which is common to chromatic harmonicas. Essentially, the harps are two complete diatonics that are 1/2 step apart and the player can switch between notes using the button slide. The purests call them a slide-diatonic although I still consider them chromatic and evidently Hohner did, too, as that’s how these were marked. The Koch and the Hohner are almost identical with a few key minor differences. The Koch was built with no wind savers. This design means there will be considerable air leakage through the non-playing reeds so to compensate for this, the comb has individual chambers or grooves. A lot of players like the Koch and they sold a bunch of them but really without some modification, they don’t play that well. The pre-War Hohners used a standard chromatic style comb and they play much better as both reeds have windsavers. I tried a couple out recently and was amazed at the sound coming from that harp. This led to a little project where I disassembled and studied both. I swapped out the Koch comb with a Hohner 260 comb and then half-valved it. I also removed half of the valves on the Hohners. The pre-War s still edge out the Koch but not by much and I’m pretty sure it is just a matter of adjustment. Now comes the fun part. As half-valved instruments, beautifully expressive blow and draw bends are available on all the notes. It doesn’t stop there, the slide gives the player a whole range of extra notes that are right on pitch. The re-tuning options are endless here. I started by taking the blow 3 slide in and tuning it up to an A. This gives a full G major 2nd scale in 2nd position using the slide on blow 3 and draw 5. A player could also grab the major 7 as a blow 6 blow bend. The possibilities are endless. Getting these harps play ready still takes a little know-how from a harp tech, but there is no limit to what the player can come up with and I can hear these harps playing some beautiful jazz standards, soulful country licks, and even some clever 1-3 position blues. Below are photos. Expect more info on the old 260s and if this is something that interests you as a player, contact me atgreg@1623customharmonicas.com

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