Hey all, I started harpin around back in the 70s, put it away, took it back out, and now, many moons later, I am taking it seriously. Finally playing in bands, bluegrass, gospel bluegrass and some blues). I still have most of my 70s vintage Golden Melodies - just replaced my G in those. Also have a Marine Band in my kit.
I am also surprised that my new G GM harp has quite a different sound to it than my old broken in G GM did. I know that GMs have changed, for one thing they have screws instead of nails. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, 30 years of break in is bound to change the sound to mellower and easier to draw. But some of my harps just don't feel that sprightly as I want them to feel. I guess responsive is a better word for that. Now that I am really giving it my all, naturally I want max responsive harps. I may start trying out other harps but for now, having real financial limitations at present, I am grateful to have a set to play with at all GMs in (C D E F G A Ab Bb).
I play at rehearsals now twice a week, jam with blue-grassers once a week and perform twice a month in church with added times here and there for blues, open mics, etc. I am practicing again cause I have a lot to learn to get better at catching up with guitar players who keep changing keys on me. I figure that, annoying as that is, once I get less rusty on my ear training i can follow-in faster so I will keep practicing instead of complaining.
Anyway ... point of this post is that, now that I am playing regularly I need to get back to good harp care. Used to be I was advised to run them under hot water and that did seem to help. Maybe that is what I need to do to mellow my new G GM? It worked before. Lots of mouth junk gets washed out and it also seems to soften the reeds a bit before playing them.
I have heard the use of denture tablets mentioned here and there for cleaning but have not tried this. Is there a brand of denture tablet to use, or to avoid using (cheap Walmart brand OK?)
And so, would appreciate hearing how some of you keep your harps happy?
Level: I don't have much in the line of an answer, but I want to thank you for bringing up the issue. Just your mention of running your harp under hot water should bring out some lively comments from around the country and the world. I know that by the age those harps must be wooden combs and lately there's been lots of talk about combs swelling and creating problems. I haven't tried the denture treatment yet (have to find a gummy friend) but might give the hot water shot a try first. Let us know what works the best for you. Good luck and good playing.
It's plastic comb, that is one of the reasons I went to the GM over the Blues harp and the Marine Band. Didn't have the internet back then and didn't hear of all the brands you hear of today. Not knocking the Marine band though. My current C key is a MB, has a great sound. Now that I am a better player it's less likely that I am going to overly slobber and swell the wood as I did when I was beginning to play.
For all I know, I need to replace others in my old GM stable and my playing will benefit from it. It's just been a long while since I worked at harp care and feeding.
When you rinse your harps, the water is not softening the reeds, but there definitely is a short term increase in their responsiveness.
What I believe is happening is that the residual water helps to seal up some of the edges where air leaks. A thin layer on the reedplate (again temporarily) slightly reduces the tolerance between the reedslot edge and the reed.
You can make your harps more responsive in a similar way by embossing and gapping the reeds. There are lots of good videos on youtube about both these processes. Choppajoe (Joe Spiers - a top harmonica technician and customiser) has some good ones:
That makes some sense. Brass reeds are not going to “soften” like a sax reed will. On the other hand, it’s also true that after playing a little while they get better too. I run HOT water over them, not just water. So the “awaking” of the sound probably also has to do with the brass warming up and getting ready to bend as it should.
I will definitely take your suggestion to heart as well and look into the blocking of the air. I was just looking into a site called overblow.com. It has lots more on it then I have had time to peruse, I saw one vid yesterday where the guy was using orthodontic wax to dampen the reed from overblow. But here I am thinking, I suppose I could use that same trick to block leaks - provided I keep off the reed (I know that was the point of the overblow dampening, I was just thinking it could also help seal any edge gaps)
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