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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:47 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:06 pm
Posts: 14
New to the board but been playing for a couple of years. Played mostly on a special 20 in C the first year but have switched to an A after that to use Portnoys Masterclass CD's to learn more stuff. In the last 3 months I have replaced 3 harps. Don't remember which note went bad on the first one, the second one was the 7 draw and the third was the 5 draw which went flat today ( the 5 draw sounded almost the same as the 5 blow). I clean my harps almost every time I have a serious practice session by filling a glass with warm water and placing the harp in it for 10 or 15 minutes, then I gently swish it around a little and then shake the water out on a towel. About once a week I soak it in efferdent (denture cleaning tablets in water) which I read somewhere on harp care. I don't think I am doing anything wrong there because they play when I am done cleaning. I do take them apart when I have a problem and clean the bad reed with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol but this hasn't cured any of the problems and i really can't see anything stuck to the reed. I have attempted repair but so far haven't been able to fix any of them. I played the C harps forever and only replaced once, my first A harp lasted a long time also. I am getting to a point where I am trying to play some blues songs where I hit some bends pretty hard and maybe some of the other notes harder than I used to, does this have anything to do with it. At 35 bucks a pop I hope this isn't the norm on Special 20's, I have discovered Hohner now sells reed plates for Special 20's for 22 dollars plus frt. and am going to order a couple of sets tomorrow. But if anyone has any advice or input on this problem it would be appreciated. I have tried a Lee Oskar in the past and have read that they last better but I dug it out before I posted this and I just prefer the special 20. Thanks for reading. PO


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:19 pm 
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The first thing I would ask is why do you clean your harmonicas so often? Other than a quick wipe after playing, I clean my harps maybe once a year with a denture tablet - I'm not sure what a weekly cleaning regime like yours does to a harp, but I really don't think it's necessary. The thing with the rubbing alcohol and Q tip seems, bearing in mind all the other cleaning you're doing, wholly unnecessary too and possibly damaging to the reed. The reed is sounding odd because it is cracked, not because it is dirty.

The second point is that you mention you've turned a corner in your playing, hitting bends and playing hard. Therein lies the real cause of your problem.

Hohner reeds are made of soft brass. Like any other metal/alloy, brass is subject to metal fatigue. With repeated flexing, microfractures build up inside the metal. eventually the structure fails and the springy metal loses its elasticity. The reed no longer flexes properly and drops significantly in pitch.

Interestingly you mention the 5 draw and the 7 draw. Neither of these notes can be bent to more than a quarter tone flat - trying to bend them further can put excessive strain on reeds and is a big cause of reed failure. Same can be said for any excessively hard bends and playing too hard.

Bending, as a technique should require no more breath force than regular playing, it's about subtle changes in your mouth and tongue shape and the open-ness of your throat. Fine tuning your technique should be your immediate priority otherwise you'll be blowing out harps regularly for a long time to come. If you are trying to bend 5 and 7 - forget it now, it'll just add to your frustration!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:52 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:50 pm
Posts: 700
Howdy PO from MO!

Methinks in your case there could be such a thing as 'over cleaning'!

Water is the earth's dissolving agent. It will eat through everything from iron to rock, save perhaps gold and diamonds.

Simply dunking whole harps into water and then merely shaking them out -- Well, you can't guarantee me that some residiual water, evern your saliva, could be doing more harm than good on the much less denser and thinner brass reeds and plates.

Even if you take them apart and go the denture tab soft tooth brush cleaning route -- Sometimes, no matter how much care is taken, even brushing a reed can knock it out of whack.

If germs and such are your main concern, I believe using rubbing alcohol is a much better cleaning agent than water. And you would use this with a dismantled harp in a soaking dish or something similar. Then you can lightly rinse the alcohol off with a little water. Drying the main parts - including comb and covers - with a blow dryer set on low helps speeds up the process.

Also, for the times in-between these bigger cleanings, an ozone sanitizer or other cleaning product as offered by turboharp is a good investment too: http://www.turboharp.com/Products.asp?tid=3

{I have an ozone sanitizer; and use it frequently. If you're not familiar with ozone - a safe natural non-toxic gas and cleaning element - it may take a few times to get used to it. But after using it on harps or whatever, a half hour or so in the open air will dissipate any ozone remnants. Be that as it may...}

One final note is it usually will take a lot of beating for harmonica reeds like those on the Spec20s to go bad. As in cracked or broken.

Simply one or more reeds going 'sharp' or 'flat' from the time it came out of the box to when you hear/feel it change is not a good reason to scrap the harp entirely. It's the nature of the beast. You can tune a guitar; you can tune a piano; you can even tuna fish -- Hehehe! Sorry, couldn't resist!

More importantly, you can tune a harmonica; and over the course of its lifetime, it will probably have to be done.

To learn how to do all this, just use the Search function on this forum to find the many discussions/topics on the subject. As well as many YouTube vids are available. And investing in a Lee Oskar or Richard Sleigh maintenance kit will pay you more dividends than merely shelling out the cost of buying a new harp everytime you think the one you're using now is/went bad!

Hope this helps!

Smiles

Keep On Harpin'! 8)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:03 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:50 pm
Posts: 700
Just read through FJ's response -- Apparently we were answering your post simultaneously.

All good stuff, PO from MO!

So again, hope this all helps.

BTW: I have upwards of 50 or more harps in my collection; am sure FJ has plenty as well. When it comes to cleaning/tuning etc. -- I really have to set major time aside to do them all. By your accounts, you have only a handful. By comparison, I (and FJ) have many more.

Yet by comparison as well -- If you're spending more time cleaning your harps than playing them, what real fun is in that?!

Am just saying...

Keep On Harpin'! 8)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 5:12 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:06 pm
Posts: 14
Thank you for all the response and advice. I didn't use to clean my harps this much but I have been working a lot on tongue blocking, slaps, octaves and I tend to get a lot of saliva in my harp when I do this. I only take them apart and do the q-tip thing when there is a problem. I am not really trying to bend the 5 and 7 except maybe the 5 in a warble and yes I know I need to work on technique. I have finally reached a point where I can play some of the practice tracks on Portnoy's CD's and I don't have the control yet to do the them with exactly the right pressure as sometimes things are happening pretty fast for someone at my level. I checked out the ozone cleaner and will probably make the investment. I do have a repair kit and will check the archives of the board for the proper way to do things. Thanks again FJ and SPD for taking the time to respond. It's is appreciated, see you on the board. PO


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 2:15 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:50 pm
Posts: 700
Howdy PO from MO!

I know there's a lot of harmonica instruction out there ignoring the 5 Draw Bend. But I do have a book and cassette tape by an old harmonica player from the UK. And he gives examples of using the 5 and 6 Draw bends in various riffs and little easy to play blues tunes.

I also have Jerry Portnoy's Blues Harmonica Master Class CD instruction package. Got it from coast to coast music last year as a curiousity. Honestly, truthfully, although interesting, I did find it kind of difficult to follow. So I wasn't all that much of a Jerry Portnoy fan.

However, since discovering his newly established website and signing up, I'm very impressed and have now become a bigger follower and fan because of it.

Check it out if you haven't done so already: http://harpjunction.com/

Smiles!

Keep On Harpin'! 8)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:44 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:06 pm
Posts: 14
Thanks for the reply, SPD, I think the Portnoy CD's are a good start on establishing some of the fundamentals for playing the harp. I still do a lot of the drills on things I am not good at and mastering the play alongs at the end i know will improve my playing. Still got a long way to go, but one step at a time. Thanks for the tip on the website, bookmarked it already and will check it out when I get time. PO


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:46 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2011 11:45 am
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I have to say that from my expereince the Hohner Special 20 is known for reeds going bad more than any other harp.

They are also probably the EASIEST harp to play, bend the best, and are very expressive, and THAT, is where the trade-off is, I believe.

Those harps have been MADE to bend easy, and the only way you can do that is to use thinner, and therebye more sensitive, reeds.

A more extreme example of this would be cheap chinese Swan harmonicas, which have VERY thin reeds, and are really very easy to bend, but they only last 5 minutes!

You pays yer money...and you takes yer choice with harps I believe.

There is a compromise though, and I beleive that that is the Suzuki Harpmaster and Suzuki Bluesmaster.

I have all three types of harp (SP20 and the Suzuki's) and I have to say that the Harpmaster and Bluesmaster FEEL very similar to the SP20 to play, and sound just as good, but they have Suzuki long-life phospher bronze reeds in them which will last a VERY long time.

Give one a try and I guarantee you will be impressed

For the record, the Harpmaster is Louder, and the Bluesmaster is more "sultry", but both are great harps.

(...and NO!...I DON'T work for Suzuki!...and I like Seydels just as much!) :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:32 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:06 pm
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Thanks UK, I kind of suspected what you said. I actually started out on a Suzuki, I believe i had the Promaster, been a while. When I got some Jon Gindick CD's I thought I would try the special 20 and really liked the shape better and how it felt while playing. I have played the S20'S a lot and just started having this problem. Maybe they are having a problem with quality control. I know the last two harps have had a problem on the 4 blow right out of the box. The reed gap was not wide enough and it took a little too much pressure to break free and play. Annoying enough that after about 30 minutes of trying to practice the tools came out and the adjustment was made. Anyway, I appreciate the reply and if the problems continue I might go back and try the suzuki's again, probably the Harpmaster, I like loud. PO


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