This is a fascinating invention. It has a set of reeds which produce a C major scale running from the B below middle C, to the D three octaves higher, with a blow reed and a draw reed for each note. As you can see from the pictures, the mouthpiece can slide from left to right and the ingenious placing of holes in the mouthpiece allow various harmonic combinations to be played:
With the mouthpiece in the central position (ie. with both ends of the mouthpiece lined up with the ends of the comb), the holes allow the following notes to sound:
Moving the slide one step to the left produces the notes:
Moving the slide one step to the right produces the notes:
Moving the slide two steps to the right produces the notes:
By selecting just two of the holes, you can play a melody harmonised in thirds, or parallel fourths. By tongue blocking you can play the melody in fifths, sixths, or octaves. The upper holes give you slightly different intervals so you can play extended chords. Here is a list of the chords playable on the instrument:
Triads - C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim
6th chords - C6, F6, G6
7th chords - CM7, Dm7 Em7, FM7, G7, Am7, Bm7b5
9th chords - CM9, Dm9, Em9, FM9, G9, Am9, Bm9b5
The layout also allows you to play any two notes of the C major scale simultaneously, although that is much easier said than done. It really is the kind of instrument you could spent years trying to master. All in all, it's an extremely clever design, but the instrument itself is made to not exactly superlative standards. The reeds are a bit wimpy, it's rather leaky to play, etc., but it would be nice to see a really well-made version.
The inventor, Cheng Xuexue, was awarded Chinese patent number 2408549 for the ChengGong harmonica in 2000 and holds several other harmonica-related patents. You can learn more about this harmonica (but only if you can read Chinese!) at his website and the first link at the top of that page allows you to download an .mp3 clip of the ChengGong harmonica.
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