Thanks for asking Lizzie. There are a few main areas I'm focussing on right now:
LIVE MIDI RECORDING
I'm preparing to make some new instructional material (videos, books etc). A primary element of such material is music notation with associated harmonica tablature. In order to generate the tab automatically, the notation needs to be in the form of a MIDI file.
Since I don't read music myself, in the past I've had to input the notation note by note with a mouse - a slow and laborious process! I wanted to avoid doing that, so looked into how to play the music live and record MIDI at the same time. There are two main ways to do it: use an audio-to-MIDI converter, or record with a MIDI instrument.
For the first approach you just play the stuff you want notated on your harmonica, and then some software converts the audio file (mp3, wave etc) to MIDI. Sounds great in theory, but in practice I discovered all of the software offerings gave very imperfect results in various degrees, requiring a lot of time spent cleaning up the notation later. Not my strong suit, and it defeated the purpose of saving time.
Live MIDI recording should be perfect, I thought: just play the MIDI instrument and your notation appears! That was part of the reason I enthusiastically adopted the Lekholm DM48 MIDI harmonica, for just this task.
Hmmm... Not so simple! I played what I thought was cleanly and in time, and then loaded the MIDI file into the software I use for notation and harmonica tab (Myriad's Harmony Assistant). To my dismay it was a big mess, just as with the audio-to-MIDI converters.
It turned out that my expectations were way too high. Even after decades of widespread use in the music industry, live MIDI recording has not yet been optimised to a simple plug-and-play level - even on keyboards! I found it will work, but you have to go through several stages to get the notation looking right. After two weeks of struggle alternatung between the two approaches above I finally learned how to get what I need using the DM48. There is a long thread on this saga in the DM48 forum if you're interested:
https://groups.google.com/forum/m/#!top ... N3800FFwq0
THE UNI-BENDER X-REED HARMONICA
Lizzie, you'll be glad to hear I'm turning my attention to this project again! I had two versions on the go: the twin-diatonic type you know of, and another based on a retuned chromatic without a slider. I'm working on both, to see what works out best. That's both in terms of playability, the main criterion, but also with practicability in mind, as an affordable harmonica to sell. It's hard to say at this stage, but one or both will emerge at the end.
Many people have wondered over the course of its history why diatonic harmonicas are not made with multiple small single-reed reedplates, instead of two large reedplates containing multiple reeds. The benefits seem obvious for the player:
1. Fast easy replacement of broken reeds
2. The ability to change tunings quickly and easily
For the manufacturer it could be good too. Instead of having to produce 12 different key harmonicas each with its own specially-made blow and draw reedplates, they could have a small stock of universal reeds on individual plates to cover the full range of keys. 47 reeds would cover all the notes between the lowest conventional harp in G and the high F#.
These reeds can be blow or draw depending on their orientation when put in the harmonica comb. These days you could imagine that process being automated quite easily.
Some manufacturers have tried this approach. The Harmonic Reed Corporation of Philadelphia made a couple of very unusual harmonicas in the 1940s: not only did they have single-reed reedplates, but they were fitted vertically in the comb:
No major harmonica manufacturer has ever gone this route, but single-reed reedplates are widely used in two other free reed instruments: the concertina and the harmonium. If they work there, why not in harmonicas? Inspired by these examples, I've decided to have a crack at this old idea myself, either with sliced-up harmonica reedplates or concertina/harmonium type reeds.
Still in the cogitating phase on this project. It requires designing a special comb for a start; will report back once I've done some testing.