Ok, I know, "Don't buy cheap harmonicas", been there, done that, got the T shirt,LOL. Yep, it's true, cheap harps are pretty much junk BUT from what I've been reading about Swan the "cheap" part is probably in what they're paying their workers more then in the quality of the harp. Just heard a guy play "Midnight Cowboy" on a Swan 1248 Chromatic and it totally blew me away. He's saying it compares closely to his Suzuki Chromatic. So, does anyone have any direct experience with Swan harps and what did you think about them? Not just looking for "good for the money" but more like "good for any amount of money". LOL.
I've got three Swans. I use them to 'test the waters' in areas I'm interested in, but don't want to invest too much. I've got a Mini (4 hole, 8 note diatonic), a 48 Chord Compact and a Bass. The Mini is more of a toy, but it plays a full octave - it's holes 4 - 7 of a normal diatonic. I can't tongue block - the holes are too small, but it bends ok.
The Bass (29 holes in rows of 14 (black keys + filled gaps) and 15 (white keys), 2 octaves C to C, all blow) is the least sturdy of the three, but it functions OK and I use it for gigs as a novelty for a song or two (same with the mini). Has to be amplified (and you must use a mic on a stand) in anything but the smallest, quietest of rooms.
The 48 Chord Compact is very sturdy. While it lacks the two octaves of the Hohner/Suzuki equivalents (it has 4 reeds/notes per chord whereas the other two have 8 - 2 lots of four an octave apart) it cost less than 10% of the Hohner in Australia ($190 versus $2540). The main issue I have is not related to the brand - the layout of the chords is the same as the Hohner and I find it very unintuitive. It has been 'parked' as a future project to learn how to drive it properly. It does occassionally get dragged out at a gig - usually just to impress with its size. I can play a couple of 3 chord songs if I have to. This has to be amplified too.
I wouldn't recommend Swan to anyone who wants to play blues on diatonics - a Lee Oskar (I've got 17 over 13 keys) or SP20 or similar would be more appropriate. But if you've already got diatonics and want to try something a bit different without excessive investment, the Swans aren't a bad place to start.
And yes, I do have a Swan 16 hole chromatic on my eBay watch list. They're all 'Buy It Now', but one day they might have an auction starting at 99c and I'll get my chance to try out chromatics on the cheap.
And just to fill in the collection, I have a (cheap) Mississippi tremolo, which gets used at fair bit at gigs, particularly when playing with ukulele dudes!
Wow, that's quite a cleaning process. For a plastic comb harp I normally just pull off the covers and set them aside. Pull the reed plates off of the comb and then put the reed plates and comb into boiling water for a couple minutes hanging from a stainless wire so they don't touch the bottom of the pan. Then I take them out and put them onto a few layers of paper towel and blot off the excess water. The heat dries them the rest of the way out then I clean the cover plates with a paper towel and some alcohol(rubbing, not good bourbon or vodka,LOL) then reassemble everything. I'm a fairly dry player and I always brush my teeth before I play so I won't have to worry about food particals getting into the harp. The mouthwash idea does sound like a good one though, it'd probably keep my harps minty fresh.
I also don't think my boiling water method would be good for the Chromatic since it'd probably mess up the valves so I'll use your method on it being very careful around the valves. I'm sure I'll learn a few ways to clean up harps as I read and learn more about it. Thanks for the post.
I would never use boiling water. ABS plastic loses rigidity around 85 degrees Centigrade. Too hot and you risk warping the comb. I suspect repeated heat expansion of rivets could lead to loose reeds too.
Lukewarm water + denture tablet, rinse and a long air-dry works a treat.
I did not know that. Boiling water probably isn't the best way then. Does rubbing alcohol have any bad effects on ABS plastic? It may just be better to pull the harp apart and use a soft tooth brush and some alcohol as long as the alcohol won't mess anything up. Then a short soak in mouthwash to freshen things up so it'll taste good and that should kill all the germs and clean out all the harmonicus stuff that builds up. Just the smell of dish soap makes me gag, I'd not want to taste it too.LOL.
I'm not too OCD about cleaning my harps; it's only an issue when someone else plays them. Bacteria and sterility are a modern obsession. Any bacteria on my harps came from my mouth in the first place, so they aren't a problem.
Also, wouldn't most germs die off after a couple days in a dry environment? Either way, I think a good scrubbing with a soft tooth brush and some alcohol(or even mouth wash with alcohol in it) would go a long way to giving one some peace of mind that he's not getting someone else's spit in his/her mouth,LOL. Only thing I'm really OCD about is keeping my truck clean and in neat order and getting sets of things. Probably some other things that I don't notice but that others would say I was OCD about too but since I don't notice them I can't tell ya'll about em'. LOL.
With that in mind, I do not play immediately after eating and I do brush and rinse my mouth out first. Still, the harps need to be cleaned on occasion. A simple rinse under warm water and a few taps on the palm of my hand and the harps are ready to go.
I have owned a Hohner Chromatica for 30 years and have never had as much fun with it as I have had with my diatonics -- mostly Special 20s and Blues Harps.
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