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Making the diatonic versatile #2
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Making the diatonic versatile #2

Uploaded on Mar 5


BillAbout the Inventor (Bill Price) and the invention

Upon discharge from the Marine Corps in September of 1969, I was searching for something to tame the memory of my recent experiences. A couple years later I found the diatonic harmonica.  Playing for a dozen or so years culminated with an album, titled “Friends”. My family grew beyond the time and money it would take to continue a serious active interest in music, so I gave it up. Since being a musician was no longer a part of my life I eventually became involved in another endeavor, a cathartic work that manifested in a book titled Vietnam in Wonderland.

“But, music found me once again.”

But, music found me once again. My oldest son and eventually two of my daughters started playing and composing various works on their guitars. After twenty-seven years of inactivity, I came back to the diatonic harmonica. Trying to rekindle the spark I once had for the instrument was proving to be impossible. The diatonic harmonica was just too limited for my new expectations, so I began to experiment with something I briefly tried in 1984, when I used the full tone concept on a song I wrote titled “Vietnam”. Back then I recognized a harmonious pattern by skipping over the half tone, but never fully investigated the intricacies of these relationships. About four years ago I began to re-explore. Codifying the new patterns for playing full diatonic scales on the Richter harmonica became a new method. Playing more than one diatonic harmonica simultaneously turned out to be much easier than I first imagined. over the last three years I play mostly two and occasionally three harmonicas simultaneously. The indisputable evidence of this new melodic expansion for the Richter is posted here, in a two and a half year audio, video history. It reveals that the world’s most versatile diatonic harmonica emerges through the method of full tone Coupling.

I began playing the diatonic harmonica at twenty-four. I quit playing at about thirty-seven. I had achieved a professional level of proficiency by my mid thirties. Toward the end of that period I recorded an album with a friend. The album consisted of folk/rock/blues and a little country.

“At last, I had the time to seriously play again!”

Life goes on… Shortly after our album was finished, in 1985, I quit playing. My wife, Carleen and I just had the fourth of what would eventually be our six children. Music ambitions that consumed so much time became a burden on the growing needs of my family. A few years after I retired, as an electrician, my oldest son, an excellent guitar player, asked me why I had quit. Motivated by the thought of playing a little music with him, I gathered up my old diatonic harmonicas. At last, I again had the time to play seriously!

The first thing that slammed home while attempting a come-back was the all too familiar Richter diatonic design limitations. Creativity could only go so far toward over-coming the instrument’s truncated scales. Discouraged, I started experimenting with something I first tried almost thirty years ago… “coupling” two or three instruments simultaneously. Finally, I was able to get past the diatonic harmonica’s biggest glitch, too many missing notes. Complete diatonic scales in all three octaves became available by coupling. Whole step tuning became the new formula for creating the 20 hole Richter diatonic harmonica, a new instrument. Also achieved in this process, were new chord options. A collateral effect with using these special diatonic combinations was some very welcome chromatic notes, adding even more potency. The only thing left to do was establish this new 20 hole Richter diatonic harmonica at the professional level.

I’m proud to announce that a new “diatonic” instrument has emerged – one that will soon be recognized for its unique versatility!
-Bill Price

Date →
Jan 21
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  • Rogan Says:

    Hi Bill, it’s great to hear your history, I love the new site! It was a great visit and Kyle and I really enjoyed the previews of your next songs!

  • Katie Says:

    Hey Great stuff! The method you came up with completely broadens the potential of the harmonica. It gave it a unique sound and much more versatility. I really enjoyed the songs and I look forward to hearing more!

  • Laura Says:

    It’s nice to see this progressing. Beautiful website and even better music. Best of luck!

  • Dymphna Says:

    “Summertime’! Wow. Just, WOW! What earthy, sweet sounds. Some of the most refreshing, not to mention hypnotic, harmonica I have ever heard. Man, ….and those vocals!?! TIGHT production.

    Overall, Fun, fresh and fabulous takes on some American classics. Pushing the boundaries in all the right ways! Loads of appeal. Good luck with your work.

  • Terry Says:

    Why not just play a chromatic harp. You method seems to involve more difficulties for an equal or lesser result. It is impressive visually though.

  • bill Says:

    Thanks for the comment. In answer to your statement: The coupling method allows for completely unique chord options, as demonstrated in the song “Gimmie Some Lovin”. There is no chromatic harmonica musician that could equal such a hard hitting delivery as enabled by the coupling on “Gimmie Some Lovin” or on a multitude of other songs. The chromatic has virtually no usable chord options. Additionally, one diatonic harmonica is insufficient in its overall capability to get the job done. For the most part, the only way you’ll play what you hear me play is to use coupled diatonic harmonicas.

    When coupling diatonic harmonicas you automatically retain its vocal quality on songs that will require more than a truncated diatonic scale. As far as difficulties go – its three years this summer that I began to couple harmonicas, so as you can see it’s not as difficult as you may imagine. What one man can do another can also do! Finally, try and find another rendition of “California Dreaming” that can compete with the coupled version of that song: Thanks again and I hope this answers some of your questions about the coupling method.

  • Steven De bruyn Says:

    Fascinating story Bill, a lot of players -including me- do switch harmonica’s within a song or solo, but I’ve never come across this method and the good thing is you can keep your cup, necessary to get a good tone. Really interesting. Thanks for your story!

  • bill Says:

    Steven Thanks much! I saw your “Hohner Masters of the Harmonica video:

    I’m posting it here because you’re very talented and quite the innovator. I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t benefit by watching it.

  • Leslie (Les) Drake Says:

    Hi Bill! I enjoyed listening to your tracks and a very informative website. Look forward to future tunes!
    Leslie Drake

  • bill Says:

    Thanks Leslie!! By the way everyone Leslie Drake guitar and bass player is a fantastic musician. He worked with me on my last six songs, CRAZY, You’ve LOST THAT LOVIN FEELING, BABY IT’s YOU, STAND By ME, The WAY YOU DO The THINGS YOU DO, and WHEN the SAINTS GO MARCHING IN. He’s the best!! Richie Copeland the drummer on those tunes is also a gifted musician. Many thanks to those two for their super job

  • Larry Says:

    I have my hands full and my brain as well trying to learn the 10 hole diatonic. With my little knowledge of music and scales I can see exactly what you are talking about in the limitations the diatonic has. Some day if and when I master what I want with the 10 hole I will have to investigate coupling. Thanks for the great music I heard and may you have great success on your website and thanks for openly sharing your video’s and music regarding coupling.

  • bill Says:

    Thanks Larry. Learning the simple 10 hole diatonic lays the foundation for the 20 hole that I play. But, you don’t have to become an expert with the 10 hole diatonic harmonica to begin. Think… with a ten hole diatonic you have one complete diatonic scale in the center octave. With the 20 hole diatonic you have four complete diatonic scales AND some chromatic notes. You don’t have to have musical knowledge to understand, just an ear. If you need more help, I can help you. Most are chomping at the bit to get in front of a microphone and show what little they have. I took a few years to bring the world’s most vocal sounding instrument into a world that has yet to appreciate the diatonic for its unique sound. Don’t be in a hurry, use my method. You’ll eventually surpass all those ten-holers. As I point out in my latest video, the ten hole diatonic has a LOW reputation within a context of versatility. People used to laugh at me when I told them my instrument was a diatonic harmonica. They’re not laughing anymore… E-mail me at harmonicdoctor @

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