History & Approach
The diatonic harmonica was invented at the end of the 19th century in Germany.
In the 20th century, harmonicists discovered its unsuspected properties, from the addition of certain very expressive notes through bends, to a totally chromatic way of playing through the use of overblows and overdraws.
Surprisingly, if the use of the instrument changes enormously between the end of the 19th and the end of the 20th century, the instrument itself hardly evolves among the main manufacturers.
However, some major trends in the search for improvements since the end of the 20th century can be noted, which have developed significantly over the last 20 years.
- On the industrial side, different materials have been tested, some of them providing a better airtightness, while keeping the price of the instrument at a low level.
- On the "customizers" side, two different professions appeared: harmonica makers, and customizers.
The makers, led by Brodur (undoubtedly the one who went the furthest in his research), offered instruments in noble materials, with rich sounds and remarkable airtightness. The improvement of the instrument has been achieved through research on materials, on the shape of the instrument, and on the manufacturing processes to obtain a better gliding and a better airtightness. They didn't change its structure, they improved its construction.
On the customizers' side, they have rather tried to overcome the structural defects of the instrument by playing on the parameters of the instrument as it is manufactured, especially on the reeds (closing the gap, arcing the reed, embossing the reed plate, etc.), with results that are rarely convincing and highly dependent on the customizer in question.
- Finally, let's mention a third, more marginal way: the creators of new concepts. Some, whether industrials or private individuals, have indeed offered structural evolutions of the instrument, but most of the time by modifying its operating mode (with rare exceptions). Installation of valves, holes to be plugged with the fingers to facilitate overblows, lever to operate while playing, "phantom reeds", etc. These new concepts lead to a new way of playing, forcing the harmonicist to develop a new playing technique. Depending on the invention, this technique can be very complicated to use, particularly because of the new arrangement of the notes on the instrument, or because of the obligation to operate something manually at the same time as you play.
A R K I A was created on a completely different will from these approaches.
Instead of trying to compensate for the defects of the instrument, the objective from the beginning was to diminish them by structurally modifying the harmonica, without forcing the musician to change his playing, and without losing the qualities of the harmonica: richness of sound and expressivity. But these qualities come precisely from its structure!
It was thus a question of resolving a double paradox.
On the one hand, to modify the structure of the instrument without changing the way it works, and above all without losing its expressivity. On the other hand, to make it easier to obtain certain notes without changing the way of playing, and without it being at the detriment of the other notes.
Because 2 reeds are facing each other in each chamber, without separation, and allow to obtain at least 4 different notes, it would be logical to think that modifying a parameter to facilitate the obtaining of one of these 4 notes could very well complicate the obtaining of the 3 others.
We made the bet that by better manage the air flow in the instrument, we would manage to solve all or part of these paradoxes.
We also bet on the fact that by doing so we would minimize manual interventions and could provide an instrument with exemplary reactivity for a very competitive price.
The objective was simple: to develop a harmonica with the fastest overblows in the West of the Galaxy, right out of the box, for less than US$ 100 !
It is not a revolution, it is even the opposite: a modification in continuity, an evolution of the harmonical DNA.
This is where the A R K I A adventure begins.