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MINI PITCHBENDER and BLUESHARP MOUTHPIECE for MIDI HARMONICA

The Lekholm DM48 is a very impressive MIDI Harmonica, only released in 2017. As the first beta tester, I helped the inventor Erik Lekholm add extra tweaks to its amazing range of useful features, which you can see in this video. The DM48 has incredible functionality and expression, but two things about it make it less appealing to diatonic harp players: an inability to controllably bend notes, and a 12-hole chromatic-harmonica-size mouthpiece.

For my own playing and to help make the DM48 more user-friendly for all harp players, I decided to develop two add-on accessory parts to address these issues. Diatonic players are used to small 10-hole harps, so I designed a 10-hole mouthpiece with the same shape and close hole spacing as a blues harp - complete with real metal coverplates! It screws into the same sockets as the stock DM48 mouthpiece, and gives a familiar diatonic-size interface to the amazing new world of MIDI harmonica.

The Mini PitchBender was something I could not develop on my own; it required a partner with sophisticated electrical and MIDI knowledge. I found the perfect person on YouTube: London electronics guru Tim Jacobs (check out his website). We struck up an online friendship and worked hard together over several months, trying various approaches to this gnarly issue. The best approach turned out to be a mini joystick, which allows a player to bend notes accurately to 4 different pitches with small finger movements.

After a little practice I was able to use it to mimic the kinds of bends I do on harmonica, and discover more cool bends that are not possible on any normal harp! This pitch-bending control adds so much soul to the DM48, which for me greatly increases the playing pleasure of this amazing instrument. Combined with the Bluesharp Mouthpiece, the Mini PitchBender gives diatonic harp players the ability to play MIDI harmonica with a familiar interface and bending technique for the first time.

Hear for yourself: check out both accessories in the video!

DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48

UPDATE Dec 2017: PitchBender gets Modulation/Vibrato!

I found I was not using the up-bend direction on the Mini PitchBender at all, so asked Tim Jacobs to replace it with something that would be really useful: Modulation (the technical term for Vibrato). Now you can get modulation/vibrato at any breath level on the DM48, incuding very quiet notes. You can hear the sound in the demonstration video. There is also a description of an online Calibration Tool that Tim has created to fine tune the Mini Pitchbender, and even make it work in different ways. For example, to get bigger ned ranges, change the bend directions, or swap Modulation for some other MIDI effect. You can see his extensive notes on the calibration tool plus the fascinating history and electronics behind our Mini PitchBender project here.

UPDATE March 2018: CUSTOM 12-HOLE MOUTHPIECE

For those who want a 12-hole mouthpiece that is substantially lighter, non-metallic, and with location dots added, here is one that I've designed and use myself:
DM48 DM48 DM48 DM48

Technical Points

The Bluesharp Mouthpiece directs air to holes 2-11 on the DM48, so tunings using it need to be configured for those holes (holes 1 and 12 in the Tuning Editor will not sound). The Mini PitchBender is powered by its own USB lead (included) and will be recognised in your music software as a MIDI controller. To get the correct in-tune bending range you need to set the bend settings to 3 semitones in the patch you’re using.

Buying Advice

The Blues-Harp Mouthpiece includes soft rear gasket for airtightness and two securing screws. Price £60 including postage. The Mini PitchBender includes USB lead and double-sided gel tape for sticking on to the DM48. Price is £60 including postage. REDUCED PRICE OFFER: Cost for both units together is £100 including postage.

DM48 Mouthpiece £60

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DM48 DM48
DM48 Mini-Pitchbender £60

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DM48
Mouthpiece/Pitchbender Combo £100

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