This is an abridged version of a full history now being written.

On August 27, 2017, Brian DeCelle of MTD Consulting in Valencia, California, chief designer and cutter on the Psardo Elite and Gold Bar harp project, successfully handcrafted the first functional Sleeve type Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece.

The path to this was not fast or easy.

The concept for the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece was first put to paper in November of 2016 by David Kettlewell in response to an email he received from a young man who played chromatic harmonica in Asia, who complained of persistent lip irritation including nasty blisters. “Can’t something be made which eliminates this problem for us players?” the young man asked.

David thought about it and concluded that the conventional design for a mouthpiece was obsolete and due for reinvention…the idea of moving to new note hole positions on an instrument by sliding the lips on a metal piece, lubricated by saliva (which dissipates quickly…making movement difficult) seemed less than ideal.

The initial concept came to David quickly over the next two days…a sleeve which the lips rest upon (Slider) having 5 holes, running friction-free left and right on a lower portion (Base), most easily made by the Base being a slightly modified conventional mouthpiece.

The biggest decision to be made was whether the mouthpiece design would be patented, or not.

“I concluded the greatest good would be done if all players could enjoy the frictionless mouthpiece as quickly as possible, and at the lowest cost possible, and the best way to do that was to make the idea available for free to any and all who choose to make it, worldwide,” said Mr. Kettlewell.

David continued, “I was concerned that if I held a patent, I’d have to sign a binding contract with one manufacturer for up to 3 years, and if they sat on the invention, which they might do because it could impact their cash flow on conventional mouthpiece instruments, nothing might happen for years. I wanted to enjoy the mouthpiece quickly, and for others to do so. The best way to accomplish that was to give it away to all.”

This decision was not well received by some. Mr. Kettlewell was criticized by close friends for throwing a great financial opportunity away, others criticized him for gifting it, saying it was a worthless idea.

An early supporter was Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci, who said from the outset that the mouthpiece was the future of the instrument. Another strong supporter was and is Rocky Lok of King’s Harmonica Quintet, considered the finest classical player in the world today.

In order to stop patent applications, the idea with drawings was made publicly known through a formal process called Donation To The Public Domain, done by Mr. Kettlewell in January of 2017.

The first firm to attempt the build out was a respected maker of custom instruments in Holland, The deQuelery Instrument Company. They opted to deviate from Mr. Kettlewell’s original design and use a flat bar Lower. Mr. Kettlewell felt that the design would not hold its shape under load of mouthpiece screws due to the instability of flat bar brass, and would leak air. The design, although noteworthy in many regards and certainly beautiful, did not prove successful in prototype form. But DeQuelery was first with drawings and it is to their credit, and they released their drawings quickly…just a few days after Mr. Kettlewell donated the invention to the public domain.

17549072_10209195776072447_187691784_o-300x170 BLOG Chromatic Harmonica

5 months later, on July 20, 2017, Mr. Kettlewell flew to the San Fernando Valley, California, to visit MTD Consulting, a design/cutting shop owned by Brian DeCelle. DeCelle was the lead designer to bring inventor Phil Sardo’s innovations on chromatic harmonica to life in the Psardo Elite and Gold Bar Harps.

The day before Mr. Kettlewell left California, Brian DeCelle presented his engineering drawings to Phil Sardo and David Kettlewell for the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece.

The basic idea of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece is simple, the lips rest on a 5 hole Slider which can slide easily left and right on a slightly modified conventional mouthpiece held on the instrument by a small lip at bottom of the Slider sides, and stops either end.

Brian DeCelle took a new and revolutionary approach….A Delrin lined Slider and 4 ball bearings at bottom of the slider to provide frictionless but precise movement. As the unit wears, the bearings can be adjusted with a small screwdriver to effect perfect tolerances.

This original design was then modified by Brian to include slightly curved sides on the Slider which meant the only areas the Slider would touch were at the very top of the prepared conventional mouthpiece where the holes are, and the 4 adjustable bearings at bottom of the slider running on side channels cut in the conventional mouthpiece.

Brian’s design exceeded Mr. Kettlewell’s expectations, and the concept was approved immediately for build out.

17549072_10209195776072447_187691784_o-300x170 BLOG Chromatic Harmonica

Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci has said that the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece will revolutionize the instrument in the same way that the shoulder rest did for violin, or the pianoforte for harpsichord.

Other manufacturers are now in the process of early stage development of their own versions of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece, but Brian DeCelle was first, and Mr. Kettlewell will be playing Brian’s version in practice and performance on a Psardo Elite 16 hole harp with stainless steel reeds, and custom button.

Approximately 8 months elapsed from the gifting of Mr. Kettlewell’s idea to the public domain to a working prototype.

Credit is due to Brian DeCelle, Phil Sardo, Andrea Antonello Nacci and Rocky Lok for their strong support of this endeavor, to the benefit of players of the chromatic instrument worldwide.

Said Mr. Kettlewell, “It is difficult to accurately project how the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece will impact and affect play of the chromatic harmonica in the decades and centuries ahead. Why? Because all the chromatic harmonicas we’ve played for over a century have had the conventional mouthpiece, so it’s hard to wrap our heads fully around the impact this invention will have. I believe that the ease of movement to new note hole positions will make the instrument far less cumbersome to play, more enjoyable to play, enhance the popularity of the instrument, and open the door to new styles of play. The impact of truly effortless movement to new note hole positions is hard to fathom, for all of us. It is worth remembering that none of it would have happened without the struggles of all those having a hand in this great task. Those who contributed to the effort are mentioned in the history above. Yes, I had the idea, but others brought the idea to fruition (such as Brian DeCelle) and of course, they carried the risk. Modern machinery helped, but in fact machines can do no better than the imagination of the designer, and of this Brian DeCelle proved the master. It is my hope that those who met this task head-on, and succeeded will prosper as a result; I will assist them in this as I am able.”


Love of Chromatic Harmonica, By David Kettlewell and Frederica Cohen is just over 670 pages of things Students of the Chromatic Harmonica need to know. As a newcomer to this often frustrating instrument, I found so much in this “Bible” to enthuse, guide and inspire me. Among its pages is a section of interviews titled “Contributor Chapters” 423 pages of the personal stories of the trials and successes of many established players who have generously donated their experiences for all to read. Personally, I find these player interviews a source of priceless knowledge and their wisdom is worth re-reading frequently.
David Kettlewell is no slouch when it comes to musical knowledge so be warned, in this book he occasionally repeats himself, with good reason: so much of his valuable information is well worth driving home. Although book learning is not the best way to approach the Chromatic Harmonica, it is far less daunting than the logistical nightmare of taking on Internet lessons between The USA and most foreign countries.
Thankfully, a good chunk of David Kettlewell’s formidable knowledge is also available on his website and YouTube.
Why learn the Chromatic Harp? After struggling with a Hohner Special 20, I decided that my mouth was just too clunky to play that tiny instrument which then sat in its box for four years before I revised my “bucket list”. I decided to try another type of Harp – something bigger. The first, a Chrometta 12 was a vast improvement, then the somewhat more comfortable Swan 1248 and as soon as my budget allowed, a Suzuki SCX-64C Chromatix, for which my lips and lungs are eternally grateful.
The price of “Love of Chromatic Harmonica” worried me (considering the currency exchange rate and the high cost of postage), but as with several of my reference books bought through AMAZON I purchased the Kindle version and read it first. I was hooked, and bought the paperback version in all its glory – money well spent. This is not the only Harmonica “how to” I own, I have a half dozen others, but it is one of the two I most often refer to and easily the most comprehensive book in my collection.
A big part of playing Chromatic Harmonicas is keeping the instrument working well, and regular maintenance is critical to prolong its useful life. While big time players pay technicians to service their harmonicas, few beginner/learners can afford these services. This book covers most of what you need to know about servicing and trouble-shooting to help you circumvent most awkward mistakes and keep you playing longer. “Love of Chromatic Harmonica” contains essential information about keeping a chromatic harmonica in good working order.
A point worth noting is that products mentioned in books of this type are often not easily acquired outside the country of authorship — no doubt the converse applies. David Kettlewell covers lubricating the slide in detail, his preferred lubricant is unheard of in my homeland so I had to brain-pick until I found a suitable substitute. The makers of CRC products here sell a (certified Food Grade) Silicone grease that does not melt, run, freeze or dry out. I use this grease very sparingly and follow his instructions in all other regards and my slide continues to work like new after being cleaned and reassembled several times.
This is not a book of printed music, yet it is extremely music oriented. What it does teach in great detail is the art of making music with your chromatic harmonica. The book uses a holistic approach which sets out how to play and why it works.
There is also a short section dealing with the correct frame of mind and mental approach to make learning the harmonica work for you. It is very easy for a learner to lose heart and begin to drift but “Managing Your Feelings… Staying In The Proper Frame Of Mind” is a powerful little gem of a chapter and well worth reading carefully.
I think readers will use this book as I do, for frequent memory refreshing. When unsure of a particular aspect of playing or maintaining, I drag it from the shelf and soon become so engrossed in my search that I occasionally spend longer than intended re-reading sections that I come across in my initial search.
It is really like reading an encyclopedia: addictive!
“Love of Chromatic Harmonica” is an easy to read learning tool – five star quality. Ms Cohen’s influence is so seamlessly blended into the structure of this work that she and David Kettlewell surely make a great teaching team. With a copy of their book, along with the YouTube segments and “mastersofharmonica.com” there is little else a player needs to get well on the way to success, except of course determination, and a few good tunes to practice.
(COMMENT: I do not know who wrote this review, but I appreciate all, and I can say that what is mentioned are all the goals I and Frederica had in mind when creating the book….to great a definitive METHOD book to help and guide all into the future on this instrument…the chromatic hamonica.)


I have now posted complete instructions for how one may build a workable SLEEVE type frictionless mouthpiece on this website, just go to the link at top of the homepage entitled KETTLEWELL FRICTIONLESS MOUTHPIECE, and go to the page STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS ON BUILDING A KETTLEWELL FRICTIONLESS MOUTHPIECE.

I’ll keep you posted on which firms will be releasing their designs of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece for sale, and when.


Brian DeCelle will be making his first cuts today of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece. He will send photos and videos, which I’ll post.


LINK TO THE PBS SHOW SEGMENT, AIRING NOW ON PBS  (David’s segment starts at 12:16 in the show)


Many positive comments came in regarding the latest PBS show segment on my work with chromatic harmonica on improvisaton with Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci.
(We’ve also been told we will have a 1 hour show for History Channel or Netflix on the new musical form we invented…Multi-Dimensional Music.)
People spoke of Producer Blue Green’s great talent, and ability to create an emotional and compelling story on an eclectic topic.
Personally, I think he did a great job, and told a story about chromatic harmonica anyone can enjoy.
I’d describe the piece as philosophical.
(My segment starts at 12:16)


SEE WHAT PBS PULLED OUT OF THE HAT on chromatic harmonica improvisational artist David Kettlewell, and enjoy the music of Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci throughout…
Fine work by PBS Producer Blue Green, TV and Film producer extraordinaire!
David’s segment starts at 12:16 in the show…

I am working now with GoDaddy and with Word Press support organizations to revamp our website MASTERSOFHARMONICA.COM into a much stronger service for you.

In the last 4 years, we’ve grown from having about 14 videos to about 250, and have gone from 0 to 10 Facebook Groups.

I’d like to link them all.

The strongest Facebook group we have is LOVE OF CHROMATIC HARMONICA, it’s link is


Our YOUTUBE CHANNEL…MASTERS OF HARMONICA is a wonderful resource, with about 250 videos total.

Videos cover harmonica reviews, how to play the instrument, repair advice, customization advice, and performance tips…it’s the largest repository of chromatic harmonica FREE training free in the world at present…

Our PLAYLISTS on the Youtube channel provide you fast access to specific areas of interest…