Advice?

The lowdown on the Mississippi Sax. Just for Google, this section is about harmonicas.

Postby dcblues » Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:19 am

This has been an interesting thread, and I have some stuff to add.

First, whatever harps work best for you are what you should play. I generally prefer wood combed harps, and I mainly play Marine Bands. The only plastic harps I really like are the Big Rivers (and they're cheap and durable).

Lots of players swear by Special 20s. I bought one recently because I hadn't played one in years. The one I have doesn't do much for me - the response to my playing just isn't right.

Lee Oskars can last for years without going flat, but they also don't feel tight to me. Maybe it's the square holes or something (or the plastic combs). I have a set of Lee Oskars autographed by the man who created them in a nice case. I won them in a big music store's blues harp contest a few years ago. They were nice to have as backups, but they were never the harp for me. I'm planning to sell the set on Ebay one of these days (when I actually get an Ebay account and learn how to use it).

I love the way the Hering Vintage harps play, sound and feel, but they tend to go flat way too quick. I might buy some more some time soon and give them another chance.

The Marine Band Deluxe is a great harp, definitely worth the price. I have two and I'll probably buy some more. They are very close to the Filisko Marine Bands I have. One thing I don't like about them is the cover plates are pretty hard to put back on because of all the screws. Most custom harp builders use one screw on each side. I don't work on my harps much (except for simple retuning), but I plan to learn more about gapping and repair soon.

Phil Wiggins told me that he doesn't like rebuilt Marine Bands because of the sealed comb. He likes the natural wood of the stock Marine Band. Most players like custom wood combed harps and the Deluxe BECAUSE of the sealed comb (and other features). But that's just Phil. I won't repeat what he told me about Lee Oskars. :)

As far as cheap harps go, I have quite a few. I have a set of Piedmonts and I don't like them much because they are so light. But they do play okay. I actually used one in the studio when my regular (I think A) harp was shot (I keep my Piedmonts in the back of my Jeep for emergencies or just to have around). Hopefully nobody who hears the recording will know that I was using a cheap, Chinese made harp when I recorded. :) The case is very nice, and I know a great local player who uses the case to keep his regular gig harps in.

Charlie Sayles did a harp workshop at the DC Blues Festival years ago. He had some cheap clear plastic-bodied harp, and I still remember him saying in his New England accent, "This is a two dollah hahmonicah." He played that thing through the pa and sounded like Little Walter. I doubt he plays those cheap harps when he gigs, but that one sounded fine at the workshop.

The bottom line, I guess, is find what you like and play them
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Postby Little Mickey » Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:32 pm

Well said Dc! I honestly didn't think this thread was gonna provoke so much discussion, but I'm really glad it did. I've certainly learned a thing or two, and it's nice to hear people's opinions on things.
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Postby luke » Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:25 am

Hi all this is my first post hear.Not a bad topic to start with Iam not rolling in cash and harps are getting expensive. In Australia a special 20 cost around $48 same for Lee Oskars I don't mind them and i like the special 20 have a couple of pro harps too i had a couple of the wood comb blues
Harps that i loved but the of the shelf Marine band in the 80's was so hard for me to play i kinda never gone back.Back in those days mybe the Quality control was not up to srcatch perhaps hohner have got it better now although about 3 years ago i had a pro harp reed break off and i neally swollowed it, that was a shock never happened in many years of playing.
I don't play enough good paying gigs to warrent custom made stuff but would love to try one day.In closing if you can play you should sound ok on a cheap one.I have used a cheap one hear called a folkmaster ok for the price and a hohner silver bullit a cheap model looks like the folkmaster and proberly the same Chinese factory.They have got me through a gig.It's kinda like the talk on amps,mikes etc often the guy with the best gear can't play to well at all, and has a lot to learn about when not to play and so on.
He is trying to get a partickular sound but often its how you play, thats going to influence your sound.But a good air tight harp helps for sure.
Cheers Luke

Ps If you play Harp long engouth you can't spell to well :shock:
Last edited by luke on Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby t bone bruce » Wed Jun 07, 2006 2:03 pm

I got a Hering "Black Blues" by mail order today. Thought I'd give it a try- a harp in "just" intonation, and with black chrome coverplates: It just had to be done.
First impressions:
I'm not that impressed with the finish on it.. It's a dark brown "black" chrome, but only on the outside of the coverplates. I think the plates are stampted from a sheet coated on one side, as you can see machine marks where the sides have been folded. The "Black Blues" lettering hasn't been stamped entirely straight either.
OK, so don't judge a harp on looks alone. But it's not as nice looking as a LO or even a Hohner MS series.
The harp is quite heavy though. The comb is the same size as the LO, but the whole harp is heavier even than my SP20. It feels nice and airtight. and plays nicely, bends seem no harder than the LO in the same key. The tuning seems to be around 442-444Hz as A. I notice the just intonation more than I thought I would, although the difference still seems subtle to my ears. We'll just have to see how long it lasts.
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Advice.....

Postby qtheblues » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:57 pm

The trouble with buying Bushman in the UK is the fact that you can't get reed plates for them. That makes 'em kinda expensive in the long run.
If you like Seydel harps (they make them for Bushman) you could try one of their own, like the Soloist, and I'm assured by my on-line supplier that you CAN get reedplates for them.

This post keeps running, wow!
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Postby popcorn » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:36 pm

I own some Jambopnes. Among the real cheapo's, they're about as good as you'll find. (If you want a really bad cheapo, try a Johnson). I bought a set of 12 Jambones just so I'd have all keys. The ones for the most-used keys I used as back-ups for awhile and they're long gone. They take a little more wind to play, but they'll get you through when the #3 draw reed on the main machine goes south on stage. They are real handy when some sweet young vocalist says her voice is "not quite up to it tonight, so let's do that in Db instead of D." For my main machine harps, I use Big Rivers plus some Blues Harps that I got on special, and I still have a Special 20 or two that I still have around from before Curtis Salgado and Paul DeLay clued me in to the Big River. (same reeds as the Blues Harp and Pro, but you can chisel the price down to about 12 bucks if you're good)
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Postby Erikjr21 » Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:01 am

I buaght a case of harmonicas with the intention of replacing all the plastic bull crap ones with nice ones..... still working on it. 8)
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Postby Erikjr21 » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:04 am

p.s The cheap harps i mentioned were peidmonts, there scatered all over my house i dont really care about them, unlike the mb i have i constintly am looking for. My son loves those cheap ones so it wasnt a waste of money, I also noticed only a couple of them work, also on a side not there wierd sound can be fun to mess around with. :) I bet if you struggled with them enough you could probably pass it off
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Postby bosco » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:57 pm

The bottom line, I guess, is find what you like and play them.

Back in the spring, our lead guitar player was moonlighting in a country band. The rest of our blues band went to hear them one night in a small Honky Tonk that was absolutely packed on a Friday night. The owner expressed a desire to hear our band with the likelyhood of booking us there.

I usually travel with some harps, but had forgotten them this time. I went out to my van and found one old harp.....the oldest one I own that I still play. It's a Hohner Hot Metal in the key of C, the first plastic combed harp I ever owned. I bought it around 1985 for about four dollars. It's a bit worse for wear and has a couple reeds that hesitate on the high end.

When I told the guys I only had one harp and that I really didn't want to play with it, I could see the disappoinment in their eyes. I said "all right, what the hell." We had to transpose a couple of songs, but we got up and played a six song set all in the key of G and we brought the house down. Ended up getting a gig out of it as well.

As the Ad says, "Just do it"

8)
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Postby t bone bruce » Wed Sep 27, 2006 7:43 pm

If you'd been playing country music there would be no problem. 90% of country songs are in G aren't they? Leastways I can't ever recall playing on a country song that wasn't.
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Postby Erikjr21 » Thu Sep 28, 2006 2:31 am

I like playing to country from time to time, Im not the biggest fan of the music but its fun to try and see what you can make out of it with the harp. For practice i used to watch cmt and play along with it.
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Postby dcblues » Thu Sep 28, 2006 3:35 am

I've played country in many keys. My acoustic band does some Hank Williams songs in C and E.
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Postby t bone bruce » Thu Sep 28, 2006 8:18 pm

I'm just being flippant I guess. I'll try playing with all sorts of music, although Blues is obviously my favourite. I can't say I'm a big country fan, although there's some stuff I like. I sat in for a couple of numbers with a rockabilly band recently, that was good fun.
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