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.
Over the past few years, I've posted a lot of harmonica-repair and customization information on my site and on YouTube. With over SIX HOURS of video in the past three years, there is a lot of material to sort through!
I'm going to make this easier. I will be offering a USB drive with my uploaded videos - along with some premium (never published before) videos - and printed documentation. I will re-mix some of the uploaded videos to increase video and sound quality.
I will break down the content into two sections, Beginner and Advanced.
The Beginner section will feature quick-and easy solutions for folks who want results fast:
- Basic harmonica care
- Tuning repair
- Thirty-second reed work
- The "Magic Bullet" to improve significantly almost any harmonica in 60 seconds.
The Advanced section will zoom in on the fine details we all love to hate!
UPGRADES: As I make new videos, they will be added to the USB drive. With the purchase of the drive, you get free upgrades - I will give you access to newly-made Premium videos.
I cleaned Hohner out of their harmonica-shaped drives. I have had to get some custom USB drives made. They are a little less exciting but I like them a lot!
If everything goes right, I predict these will go live on August 21st. Stay tuned!
Hohner reed plates are "Long-slot" in keys up to and including C. Keys of Dd and higher are "Short-Slot" meaning the reeds are shorter.
Marine Band combs for these keys have shorted channels.
On the highest pitched harps, you may start to run into trouble getting the 10 blow half-step bend. It may sink into the full step bend offering you very little control. The trouble here is not only a matter of technique - although you do need to master fine motor control.
The trouble is mostly a matter of physics.
The acoustics of the reed chamber can interfere with the resonance of the 10-hole half step blow bend. Short-Slot Hohner Marine Band combs try to compensate for this. I've taken it a few steps further.
My solution has been to change the shape of the chamber so that the acoustics cooperate with the resonance you create as you play.
Until now, I have only offered this innovation in my custom harps.
Starting today, I will offer this design on all Short-Slot Hohner Marine Band and Golden Melody combs I make.
Here is a Factory Short-Slot Marine Band comb compared to my Short-Slot comb:
Have you every tried to give a reed a little more snap but nothing seemed to work? It plays "fine" (adequately) but everything you do to improve tone and response has no effect?
"What am I doing wrong?" you ask yourself.
If your harp is airtight and the reed has a decent shape, you should see results. If that's not the case, you have fallen victim to a subtle defect.
There are a few subtle defects that can cause you grief. The best way to deal with them is to learn how to spot them and correct them before they can affect your work.
Base centering is one of these subtle defects. The worst thing about this one is that the reed shows no clue there is anything wrong until you try to work on it: It plays adequately out of the box.
Once you master this technique, you can center the base of a reed in about 90 seconds.
Difficulty level: Advanced. Practice on an entire reed plate of a proper (scrap) harp. Shift the base of every reed in different directions to learn how to control where the base ends up when you are done.
Often, shifting it to one side will affect the reed curvature. Once the reed's base is centered, it's important to check and correct the reed shape. It's important to check and correct the reed base centering before you start to customize a harp to avoid undoing your hard-earned progress.
I strongly recommend you obtain and use The Flatness Tool™ and Reed Plate Claws™ 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 recommend the ones with riveted reeds. There is no advantage to spot-welding reeds unless they are put on perfectly centred at the base from the factory. They are not. Riveted reeds can more easily be centred at the base than spot-welded ones.
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.