Everyone knows about the humble little 10 hole harmonica, but in this video I introduce you to the 16 hole chromatic harmonica and the monster bass and chord harmonicas. Sit back and enjoy as myself (Hal Walker) along with Al and Judy Smith (“The Hotshots”) play three songs for you: “Maltese Melody”, a fun Waltz ditty called “Valsentino” and soulful song called “In My Solitude”…
As you’ve probably heard me say, for most of my life, I played the 10-hole diatonic harmonica. In the late 90’s, I found the perfect Fender harmonica box to carry around all my different key harps. I knew about the chromatic harmonica and as a child, I actually owned a little Chrometta 8; but I mostly assumed that I would go through my life without ever playing the chromatic harmonica.
That was until I went to my first harmonica convention. It was at the Buckeye harmonica festival in Akron, Ohio in about 2010 that I first met Al and Judy Smith – the Harmonica Hotshots. They invited me to their home and they introduced me to the world of harmonica ensembles. I learned that Al has been playing professionally in harmonica ensembles since before the time of the Harmonicats.
On that autumn afternoon around the dining room table, Judy picked up a monster three pound bass harmonica. Al brought out his two and a half foot long chord harmonica. They handed me my first 16 hole chromatic harmonica. The sound that we created together on that day was amazing. There was no turning back.
It took a while to find my way around those 16 holes. Sometimes I felt completely lost. Al and Judy reminded me that the harmonica is a blind man’s instrument — you can’t see where you are. Since that day, I have had the privilege of spending time with this wonderful, generous and musical duo, Al and Judy Smith. I will always be grateful for what they have taught me and I’m so glad to introduce them to you now.
On a final note. Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to seek out other harmonica players in your area.
You may even discover that there’s a harmonica club right in your own hometown. A great place to get connected is by becoming a member of the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the harmonica, SPAH. And don’t forget. Have Fun!
P.S. Check out Al and Judy’s fun version of the classic, Tequilla!