I strongly recommend you obtain and use The F Tool to straighten both the blow and draw reed plates. These are fine harps, but they suffer a little more from the difficulties associated with mass production than a higher quality harp.
I also found Easttop tuning to be quite imprecise. Tuning was plus or minus six cents! As such, it's not possible to lay out a meaningful tuning table of offsets for these harps.
I use regular evaluation and incremental steps to strive for constant improvement.
I have changed the type of finish I use on the tips of the tines of my Dark combs™. The old finish was excellent, but this one is slightly better. It may be a little more durable and it's a little faster to apply.
One unexpected difference is that the colors are a little deeper. In particular, Dark shadow is pretty close to Deep Black in low light. In brighter light, it has a unique sparkle.
My criteria for implementing a change like this are stringent. The finish must be:
- Food safe - non toxic
- Environmentally friendly (the company making it should not pollute the planet)
- Safe to apply (I don't want to get sick working with toxic chemicals in my shop)
- High quality
- Durable and more resistant to alcohol exposure
- Reasonably fast and easy to apply
It took me a few weeks to figure out the best strategy for long-lasting results. Each product has a sweet spot between the number of coats and the thickness of each coat. Some products are best applied as many layers of a thin coat while others are best applied as a thicker layer with fewer coats.
The thickness is 5.9 mm +/- 0.3 mm (quarter inch). No, they don't all look alike! Being flat is more important that every comb being exactly the same thickness. All combs within that range have the same tone and response.
This is part of a series of checklists I am making available to you.
Click the "Printer-friendly version" link at the bottom of the page and feel free to print out as many copies as you like!
Basic embossing checklist
(Half slot embossing)
___ Tools to disassemble the harmonica (screwdriver)
___ A hard round object (Example, a chrome-plated socket) or a specialized Embossing tool
___ Plinking tool
___ Reed work or gapping tool
___ Reed wrench Prep work
___ The harp is airtight
___ The reed shapes are favorable
___ Gaps are set
___ The harmonica plays well (Embossing will never, ever fix a problem) Embossing
___ Take the harmonica apart
___ Lay reed plates reed-side-up on a flat surface
___ Press the Embossing tool or round object into the middle of a slot. Advance to the tip (not the base) using gentle downward force
___ Use your fingernail to feel for a catch on the inside of the slot. If none is present, repeat the previous step with slightly more downward force.
___ Plink the reed to make sure you didn't use too much force and over-do it.
___ Repeat the process for the other slots
___ If the reed won't plink, consider reed alignment.
___ If you embossed too much, apply pressure to "un-do" the embossed ridge using the reed tool or the plinker. Look through the slot and press the tip of the reed through. Can you see where the reed is contacting the slot? Apply gentle pressure to the slot wall in that area.
Here's a way to fix tuning problems that goes straight to the heart of the problem. Don't worry about temperament. Forget about the numbers. Use your ears to figure out what's wrong.
The goal here is to only tune the worst one or two reeds on the reed plate.
The trouble with "hunt-and-peck" tuning is that you can make things worse if you tune reeds at random. If two reeds are out-of-tune with one another, which one do you adjust? Do you focus on chords or on single notes?
Use this opportunity to decide what sounds good to your ears. If you have trouble deciding if something sounds good, an out-of-tune harp will make it easy for you to hear what sounds bad!. This will help you identify what is in tune and replicate it to the rest of the reed plate.
- Divide the blow plate into three octaves. Play 456 as a chord. How does it sound to your ears? Do the same with 123 and compare. Which one sounds most in tune? If you are in the habit of playing chords on the top octave, try the 789 and 10 hole chord.
- If one octave's chord is much better than the others use it as a reference. If all the chords are bad, break down the 456 chord by intervals (tonic octave - 1-4 blow, thirds - 4-5 blow, and fifths - 4-6 blow). Consider what reed in the 456 you need to change to make it sound nice. Use a piece of paper to write down your plan.
- Play a melody in the middle octave and try to notice if any notes sound off. If you can accompany yourself using a jam track, do so.
If you are in the habit of playing in positions other than First, Second or Third, play a melody in that position and listen to what notes sound out of tune. Compare the same melody in another octave (use the same position.)
- Decide which problem is worse: Do I need to fix chords? or Do I need to fix individual notes?
- Play all the octaves on the blow plate and find the ones that are our of tune.
You have already determined what reed(s) are the culprit in the earlier steps. Example, if the 1-4 octave sounds bad, but you like all the notes of the 456 chord, then tune the 1 reed to agree with the 4.
- Pick the one or two worst reeds on the plate and fix them. Don't aim for perfection, just make things sound good.
Remember: "Better" is the enemy of "Good". If the tuning is "good", move on and forget about making it "better".
- The process is almost the same for the draw plate. Focus on the 234 draw chord; do not consider any other chords on the draw plate. Play the chord and play a melody. Identify whether the chord or the individual notes are out-of-tune. Adjust individual reeds by using the following octaves:
Would you like me to make a video about your "best" mistake? Contact me and let me know your ideas!