Andrew's blog

Reed Replacement Screws and Washers

I'm now providing two types of screws for reed replacement in my reed replacement kit. I also include washers to make those reeds that just won't stand still behave.

All pieces are stainless steel and will never corrode. The Phillips head screw is 5mm long and easy to pick up with your fingers. You need to snip it off once it's in place. The flat head screw is much shorter and doesn't need to be trimmed - just set and forget. To make it easier to handle, you can dip the tip of your screwdriver in some Vaseline to make it stick!

An assortment of 75 pieces is included with the RRK. You can get more pieces here:

Extra Reed Replacement Screws

SilverWing 3-Space Reed Replacer System

I have been excited to try Michelle LeFree's new 3D-printed Reed Replacer System (RRS) for over a week - It's been sitting at the post office waiting for me.

It's excellent.

The functional part of the system uses a groove whereas other systems use a hole to accept the rivet head. The difference is irrelevant to the end result. The advantage of the RRS is that it makes the job easy, offering a stable platform where everything is lined up. You don't feel like you need an extra set of hands to accomplish the task.

Here is a quick video:

To order one:

Something to think about

Next update (#2) preview: Andrew's videos on USB

More videos to help unlock the mysteries of harmonica customization are coming! Here's a preview of one of the new videos which will be released as part of the next update. I am planning to release the update in October 2018.

Check out my USB videos here.

The Assessment

What makes a diatonic harmonica great?

Is it how loud it is? Is it Tone? How about how responsive it is?

Is it how fun it is to play? (and what does that even mean?)

Everyone has different criteria. Is there a way to measure how great a harp is without being biased?

I think so. I call it "The Assessment".

This test will not always produce the same numbers from person-to-person but the trend will be reproducible - the things that make a harp better will tend to make the numbers higher from person-to-person. When you can't rely on absolute numbers, trends are the next best way to go!

The Test:
Pick a standard riff from your repertoire. Make sure it uses bends in both holes 2 and 3 - these are the important holes to get set up right. If you use splits and chords often, pick a riff that includes them, too. As time goes by and you incorporate new styles of playing, your standard test riff should change too and reflect your style of playing.

- STEP 1: Play the riff at regular volume. Play it as many times as you need so that you can assign an score to the harp from 1 to 10 for tone and response.
1 is the worst harp ever and 10 is the best harp ever.
As a reference, most stock harps are a 5 at regular volume.

- STEP 2: Play it at the lowest possible volume. Play it as many times as you need so that you can assign an overall score to the harp for tone and response.
1 is the worst harp ever and 10 is the best harp ever.
As a reference, most stock harps are a 3 at low volume. **If you can't play this harp it at much lower volume than regular volume, the score is zero.

Add the two scores and divide by two.

Regular volume = 6
Quiet volume = 3

Total = 9/2 = a score of 4.5

Most performance-quality harps (not made in China) can be upgraded by one or two points with only a few minute's work.

Reproducibility: Everyone has different needs and tastes but the things you (or the factory) can do to make a harp get a higher score will mean that another person will tend to score the harp higher too. Players like a harp that responds well and sounds good.

The job of a harmonica reed is to turn breath into sound. Everyone likes a good return on the investment. We don't want to waste our breath and work too hard to achieve volume. For example, a reed with more mass or a thicker reed plate will create more volume but it also may require more work to play. It may play loud, but it may not be as responsive as another reed. It's more desirable for a reed to respond with ease and still produce lots of volume.

Also, a harp that is out-of-tune will always sounds bad, no matter now loud it can play.

Hohner reed plate serial numbers

Hohner is back to adding identifiers to their reed plates:

"We laser batch numbers on our reed plates, the number has no significant meaning."

i.A. Ciro Lenti
- Service Manager -
Hohner, Trossingen, Germany

In the past few years they had stopped using any identifier. Prior to that (Around 1998-2014) they stamped the date onto the plates like this:

I hope this clears things up!

Short Slot Golden Melody combs

Are you having trouble hitting the 10-hole half-step blow bend on high-key harps (like Eb or F)? It takes practice but it also helps to have a harp that's set up in your favor.

The forces of nature (i.e. resonance) can act against you if the chamber size has its own resonant frequency that is not compatible with the note you want to play.

I make combs with chambers that are adjusted for the top reeds of Hohner harps in the keys of Dd and up.

Stock Golden Melody combs only come in long-slot dimensions although the reed plates come in two sizes just like Marine Band harmonicas. Expect a big improvement over the stock comb with these custom combs.

I recommend standard thickness for my short-slot combs.

Order here:

Golden Melody combs

Custom comb for Steve Baker Special

The Marine Band 365 is a 14 hole mammoth harmonica.

The Steve Baker Special is a harp with an altered-tuning based on the 365 design. It has a bass octave on the bottom followed by Standard-Richter tuning from holes 4-13 and an extra hole which further extends the tuning.

To allow the extended range of this instrument, the reed lengths on the top end are quite short.

Using a standard comb, the forces of nature (i.e. resonance) may work against you when you play those high notes. Fortunately, I have a solution.

I have made a custom comb to allow you to overcome those resonant frequencies and allow your vocal tract to best connect with the reeds.

The channels are tapered to provide your mouth with the feel you expect while creating the right size space for optimal resonance for the whole range of reed lengths of this harp.

These combs are available. I only provide them in standard thickness (5.8mm) for best tone and response.

There's nothing like a well-playing harp!

To Tap or to Self-Tap?

Self-tapping screws are sometimes quite difficult to put into fresh reed plates. Here is a way to make the process a little easier using an M1.6 tap.

Video: Answer to the most common customizing question

"What do I REALLY need to do to get a diatonic harmonica to play well?"

I offer a lot of information on my website and USB videos.
Everybody is looking for the quickest way to get the best results and this is the most common question I get. I also cover a great way to practice these skills.


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