AsiaBend (£80)

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image from x-reed.com image from x-reed.com image from x-reed.com image from x-reed.com

The AsiaBend (like the ChromaBender) is Brendan's baby, and is sold on his personal website as well. Here is his description:

I've always loved listening to Indian, Chinese and Arabic music but a few years ago started studying these great Eastern musical traditions more closely. What struck me about all of them was the use of microtonal bending on all notes in their scales (known as Ragas In Indian Music, and Maqam in Arabic). I was especially inspired by the soulful pitch bending in Chinese music, on such traditional instruments as the Erhu and Hulusi. But when I tried playing along on conventional harps, it just didn't sound right - not nearly enough bending available!

I found I had to create an entirely new harmonica to achieve an authentic sound for Chinese and other Asian styles. I first used it on my album New Chinese Harmonica - you can hear clips from it here. I soon found the harmonica was great for playing Western melodies more expressively too, and started using it on my gigs. The album and live shows generated many requests for the harmonica itself, so here it is: the AsiaBend!

Bending on the AsiaBend is exactly the same type of draw bending as on diatonic 10-hole harps. The scale is similar to the middle octave of a diatonic, or Solo tuning on chromatic, with a 3 octave range. So it will be easy for both diatonic and chromatic players to adapt to.

A moving picture is worth a million words, so please check out the demo video:



As you can learn from the video, this is a completely new harmonica type with a unique sound: an all-draw, all-bending soul machine! It has Patent Pending status for its many novel features. It employs sympathetic extra reeds (x-reeds) paired with active reeds of opposite breath direction to allow every active reed to be bent controllably in pitch. Unlike other harmonicas of similar ability (eg. the XB-40), my AsiaBend uses only draw breath direction throughout the whole instrument to create sound, and has no windsaver flap valves. Instead it uses the slider action of an airtight chromatic harmonica to isolate the reed pairs and select the bending function. Its scale layout is designed to allow the player to controllably bend every note of the diatonic scale up to and down from other notes of the scale, as well as microtones in between. The fact it has no valves means that the overblow technique is available on every hole to obtain extra chromatic notes.