One of the most famous recordings of harmonica is “Little” Stevie Wonder’s first big hit, Fingertips Part II. It was put down on tape live at a performance of the legendary Motown Revue. Barry Gordy would put nearly all of Motown’s stable of artists on tour together, each band performing a few songs. In the middle of Fingertips, Stevie starts vamping on the chromatic and in the background you can hear one of the bandmembers, maybe it was bassist James Jamerson, asking, “What key?! What key?!”
The first question we get from harp players is “can you change keys?”. The answer is of course you can – it wouldn’t be a practical electric harmonica if you couldn’t. We designed a system around what we call Key Cassettes that can be easily changed in a dark nightclub or a unevenly lit stage. The front cover of the HarmonicasterTM is held on by magnetic latches that are strong enough so that it will not come off accidentally when playing, even when holding the HarmonicasterTM by the front grip. You can still open it up when you want to change keys though. Open it up, pop out the cassette, grab another color-coded cassette from your case, pop it in, close the front cover. Play.
This video shows you how easy it is to change keys. You can even do it without looking at the Harmonicaster or key cassettes.
Not only are they color coded for musical keys in the standard music education color coding, the cassettes’ covers have profiles that make it impossible to put the cassette in the wrong housing. Because of that profile, you can tell just by touch, whether or not the cassette is oriented correctly.
In addition to our standard key cassette coverplates, we are also making a variant lower cover that allows clearance for low pitched reeds all the way down to Low C.
The Harmonicaster is compatible with any of Seydel’s steel reedplates for diatonic harmonicas including both Richter and Solo tuning as well as their special tunings and custom configured reedplates.
The basic Harmonicaster rig comes with a key cassette in A. Additional cassettes, which also work just fine as regular harmonicas, are available individually or as sets of 6 or 12.