Although they are made by the same factory that produce the Golden Cup harmonicas, those instruments with the Leo Shi name seem to have considerably higher production qualities, not to mention some rather innovative designs. As well as the Leo Shi bass instruments I have reviewed elsewhere, I have also received samples of a new tremolo called the Leo Shi Sequence Scale Harmonica.
This is a tremolo version of what is known as the Single Harmonica (for more details, see www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q36.html). These are commonly used for music education in the Far East and are most often single reed harmonicas, rather than a tremolo instrument like this one. Each group of holes covers one complete diatonic octave, with a spacer before the next octave begins and each octave has exactly the same arrangement of notes. In each group of holes, the notes C, E and G are sounded by blow reeds, with all the other notes being draw. In the case of this particular harmonica, the first set of holes covers the notes C, D, E, F, G and A. The next set of holes covers B, C, D, E, F, G and A in the middle octave. The next set of holes covers B, C, D, E, F, G and A in the upper octave and finally there is a small set of holes covering high B and high C. This arrangement prevents the notes from getting "out of step" with each other as they do with the typical Asian-style layout used for tremolo harps, or omitting certain notes as in the case of the Western-style tremolos, to balance out the fact that there are more draw notes (D, F, A and B) than blow notes (C, E and G).
The sample that I have for review is the Soprano Sequence Scale harmonica, which covers a range of three diatonic octaves starting with middle C, ie the same range as a standard 10-hole diatonic in the key of C. (There is also an Alto Sequence Scale which is tuned one octave lower, as well as an octave-tuned version where the upper note of each pair is tuned like the Soprano and the lower reed like the Alto.)
The instrument is about 6 1/2" (13cm) long, with a smooth black plastic (ABS) comb. The covers are nicely chromed brass with minimal engraving. The standard thickness reedplates are attached with 12 screws and the reed adjustment is very consistent, giving a nice even response across the all three octaves. Tuning is quite accurate (Equal Temperament at about A=443/444Hz), with a fairly mild tremolo effect, ranging from about 1.5Hz in the low octave to about 4Hz at the top. All in all a very playable instrument. It comes in a nice hard plastic case with a form fitted lining.
This would be the ideal solution for those who love the tremolo sound, but are frustrated by the missing notes of the typical German-style tremolos and confused by the layout of the Asian-style tremolos. I hope they are planning on making them available in other keys.
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