NEW HARMONICA INVENTION REVOLUTIONIZES INSTRUMENT
Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece by DeCelle Changes The Music Game
The lowly harmonica, called the tin sandwich, axe of the bluesman, voice the rock group, played on Beatles hits by John Lennon, along with popular, classical, and jazz performers such as Stevie Wonder now has its own revolution.
The bane of harmonica over the years has been the fact that the lips must move over a metal or wood surface to find new notes, lubricated by saliva. The saliva on the mouthpiece dries as one plays, and the mouthpiece gets sticky and sluggish, and that affects style of play.
A new invention by Akron, Ohio, USA native David Kettlewell eliminates this problem by use of a simple mechanical device where the player’s lips rest gently upon a moveable Slider, with the Slider moving back and forth effortlessly on a Base connected to the harmonica.
Kettlewell, a skilled player of chromatic harmonica, music scholar, and TV show guest, donated the idea to the public domain, so more people could benefit more quickly.
“The problem came to my attention when a player in Asia wrote to me saying he suffered blisters from practicing his chromatic harmonica 2 hours a day, given the constant movement of the mouthpiece on the lips, and he asked if there might not be some solution,” said Kettlewell.
“The problem from a design perspective was daunting…a frictionless mouthpiece has to be both airtight and frictionless…but those are two opposing engineering design values. Most things that are airtight are so because they’re screwed down tightly one upon another, but in this case the Slider had to be airtight AND slide effortlessly left and right to new note hole positions.”
The designer/builder who figured it all out was an American, Brian DeCelle of MTD Consulting in Valencia, California, who suspended the Slider (part touching the lips gently) on Delrin and ball bearings…resulting in a precision fit mechanical device which is airtight and moves without friction.
Leading composer for chromatic harmonica, Andrea Antonello Nacci of Italy, said, “The creation of the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece by DeCelle is a development of historical proportions to the music world, and of course to the harmonica world. In my opinion it will become the dominant form of the instrument within a generation, or less.”
Nacci says the concept is every bit as significant as the development of the pianoforte (piano) from harpsichord, or the chin rest for violin and viola, created by Yehudi Menuhin.”
According to Kettlewell, the invention does more than make the harmonica more comfortable and relaxing to play…it opens the door to new styles of play, as fast note changes are much easier, and the instrument never slows due to saliva lubrication problems with conventional mouthpieces.
The first harmonica to be fitted with the frictionless mouthpiece was a professional 16 hole Psardo Elite model chromatic harmonica (has all the sharps and flats) but other models of harp, such as the 12 hole German Seydel Saxony model are being retrofitted now.
It’s not really a business for Kettlewell, who requires no payments from builders who use his idea, or contracts of any sort…but more of a public service.
“The truth is, I’m older and like other players around the world, I want to enjoy it while I’m still young enough to do so. Giving it away to all seemed the best way to get multiple models at various price points to market quickly. I believe it’s fair for those who take on the risk of designing and building it, as Brian DeCelle has done, to benefit financially. That’s only right. After all, we musicians serve the love of music.”
Kettlewell says it took 8 months from the release of his concept to the working model by DeCelle, and projects that a total of 5 manufacturers here and overseas will be making various designs within the coming 12 months.
“I was offered an exclusive deal by a very large firm, but turned it down. It’s really better for players and audiences is every maker around the world has the freedom to make the Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece with the design they choose, at the price point they choose, and that all are best served by that approach.”
Photo: Psardo Elite chromatic harmonica with Kettlewell Frictionless Mouthpiece by DeCelle
(David Kettlewell wrote the 678 page book, LOVE OF CHROMATIC HARMONICA…TECNNIQUES AND ADVICE FROM THE WORLD’S BEST! His website is MASTERS OF CHROMATIC HARMONICA, and his Facebook Group is LOVE OF CHROMATIC HARMONICA.)
(Editors: for more information contact Mr. Kettlewell through the CONTACT link on his website, MASTERSOFHARMONICA.COM. Interviews with designer/builder Brian DeCelle and Italian composer Andrea Antonello Nacci, or inventor David Kettlewell, can be arranged by sending an email message.)
Photos are available by contacting Mr. Kettlewell through the Contact link on the website