A couple of newbie Q's

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

A couple of newbie Q's

Postby Little Sonny » Sat Dec 30, 2006 4:07 pm

Howdy folks,

I got my first harp as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. It was cool to get but far from the real McCoy. So the following day I went down to my local music store and picked up a couple of Hohner MB's. One in C & one in G.

I've been a blues guitar player all my life. Between my experience and some online harp tips, I'm picking up shuffles, bends etc... rather quickly.

Here's my Question. Do harps require any type of break-in?

It seems the 2 draw on my G harp has gone flat within a few hrs of playing it.

I'm wondering if I should take it easy and lay off the bends when I first get one.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Sonny
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Postby bosco » Sat Dec 30, 2006 4:55 pm

Here's my Question. Do harps require any type of break-in?

Sonny-

I've been harpin' for 35 years and gig in a working blues band, so there's my credentials. There are two schools of thought on that question, yes, break them in....and no, it doesn't matter.

I've tried it both ways and tend to lean towards the later sentiment. Here's why;

The break-them-in line of thinking goes something like this, "The reed's job is to vibrate, so a certain amount of constant low stress vibration will some how temper the metal to prepare it for later more stressful playing." I've tried that and can't honestly say that the harps lasted any longer. To me, metal fatigue is metal fatigue and you're just putting playing hours on the instrument's reeds, sometimes just more stressful than at other times.

Here's why I subscribe to the it-doesn't-matter school. A harmonica is not designed to have blues (ie; bent notes) played on it. The harmonica was designed to be a chorded mouth organ and bending notes was an accidental discovery. Playing one for a month without bending notes is not going to prepare it for the stress of a bent note when you finally do play one. You are still bending the note beyond it's intended pitch and asking the harp to do something beyond it's intended design.

My best advice is to not overplay and if you end up playing amplified, let your amplification do it's job. Playing too hard is the # 1 cause of blown out harps. It's still going to happen because you are asking the harp to do something it was not designed to do...but coaxing bent notes vs forcing them will help you to get the maximim life from your harps. It's all going to be trial and error at first, so error on the side of caution.

happy harpin'...

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Postby t bone bruce » Sat Dec 30, 2006 6:14 pm

Another common problem for beginners is that especially on the low keys they tend to accidently bend the draw 2 off pitch slightly until they learn good breath control.
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Postby Little Sonny » Sun Dec 31, 2006 12:54 am

Guys,

Thanks for your replies and Bosco, many thanks for your detailed explanation.

No doubt my technique needs to develop but I am certain I have blown out my G harp. Most likely from playing too hard. I get clean bends everywhere else on the harp and get super sweet clean bends from my draw 2 on the C harp.

I'm gonna take this one apart and check out the guts of it. I've never seen what the inside of a harmonica looks like :lol:

I'll pick up another G as well as a few more keys. I'd like to experiment with some different models/brands as well.

Thanks again... This is too much fun! 8)
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Postby Erikjr21 » Sun Dec 31, 2006 1:00 am

alot of musicians who are practicing like to only practice one half and hr a day they feel more is to much and less is to less. I think they dont want people getting burnt out or there insturments. I dont really always follow this but for somepart i do on average. I like to take it easy on new harps but have cheap ones i play as hard as i want and its alot of fun. When i was learning.... well starting to learn i had trouble breaking harps so i kept cheap ones around and it just became a good habbit for practicing around. Now i kind of think i have a feel for what they can take, I also think dispite the brands some just are not built the same.
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Postby Little Sonny » Sun Dec 31, 2006 1:25 am

Hmmm... Too much practice? I've never heard of such a thing :lol:

I have, however, discovered lip & tongue muscles I never knew I had!

I put in a couple hours per day, everyday, minimum. Atleast an hour on fundamentals and the rest of my time jammin'.

When I first started playing guitar as a kid, I would practice from the minute I got off the school bus. A quick break for dinner with the fam and to blow through my homework, then right back at it till my mother would yell at me to go to bed a few dozen times.

If life hadn't interrupted me, I would still be playing 10 or 12 hours per day.
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Postby bosco » Sun Dec 31, 2006 3:09 am

Hmmm... Too much practice? I've never heard of such a thing :lol:

Actually, there probably is a point of diminishing returns, but I'd like to address another point as it relates to playing hours on your harps-

I have two complete sets of harps in all of the keys I play in...in theory, a gigging set and a backup set. For years, I rehearsed with the band and privately practiced exclusively with the backups, saving "my good harps" for the gigs. Over time, I gradually changed the way I looked at the situation. I could pile tons of hours on my backups and never be aware that one of my main harps was about to blow... until it did...during a gig... exactly when I didn't want it to happen and actually creating the situation I was trying to avoid.

These days I gig and practice with the main set, and the backups are exactly that...backups. If a main harp blows, or is about to blow, I'd rather find about it during rehearsal, not a gig. When one does blow, I have a fresh backup with low to no hours on it at the ready.

Realizing the average player might not put this much thought into the process, I only mention this method as something that evolved from experience since the topic already related to breaking in/playing hours on harmonicas.

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Re: A couple of newbie Q's

Postby Butchie Boy Olmstead » Sun Dec 31, 2006 4:33 am

Hi Sonny -

Sometimes its just spit! Too much "wet" loaded-up under a reed and it wants to float and sounds dead. I just knock it ( blow-holes-down ) against my knee or palm to shake stuff loose. 'G's' a real fat harp anyway. Great rich, deep resonation- but not as given to bends as most.

Harp types mean something too. At the risk of rilin' up diehard Hohner MB players... ( and they ARE good harps mind you! )- have you blown any Lee Oskar's... or an Antony Dannecker blues harp? That pretty much all I play anymore. The L.O.'s are quite fine... and the cool thing too is that dead reeds can be changed-out! No more having to trash awhole harp on account of one hole! A bit more more pricey at 30 to 40 bucks a hit or more... but MORE than worth it in sound! Danneckers are the Cadillac's of blues harps- and one of Charlie Musslewhites most loved harps. I get mine straight from Antony Dannecker's shop in the UK... and they DO cost a lot at 75lb's ( about 149 U.S. bucks )- but worth every penny, or pence as it were!! Just holding one in your hand and looking at it is almost its worth ( they weigh-out like a hand-gun with a full nickle-steel body and chromed hole dividers! ) - but the sound will bring tears to your eyes... I aint lyin!!! But like the rest of us- you have to judge what plays best for you amigo. . . so mucho blessings and sweet notes Sonny!

Lord hug you tight... - Butchie

Little Sonny wrote:Howdy folks,

I got my first harp as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. It was cool to get but far from the real McCoy. So the following day I went down to my local music store and picked up a couple of Hohner MB's. One in C & one in G.

I've been a blues guitar player all my life. Between my experience and some online harp tips, I'm picking up shuffles, bends etc... rather quickly.

Here's my Question. Do harps require any type of break-in?

It seems the 2 draw on my G harp has gone flat within a few hrs of playing it.

I'm wondering if I should take it easy and lay off the bends when I first get one.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Sonny
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Postby Little Sonny » Sun Dec 31, 2006 8:44 pm

Bosco, That makes perfect sense. Thanks for passing on your knowledge! Who knows where my harp playing will take me. As of now, I'm really leaning towards the acoustic thing. I just favor the sound unamplified or through a vocal mic. I've got a ways to go on the harp but it's so refreshing after playing the guitar all these years. I've always had a taste for them and can't belive it took me this long to explore them.

Butchie, Thanks for your tips as well! I chose to pick up the G because I was after that deep downhome woody tone. My taste is the same with my guitars. Although I've owned strats and telecasters over the years, I've been a Gibson semi-hollow and archtop guy for atleast the past decade. Played through a high-end boutique amp or a Fender twin, the tone is untouchable and simply delicious.

I intend on checking out the Lee Oskar's and an SP20 for my next harps. Oh, and many thanks for turning me on to the Danneckers! I checked out his website and all his harps. Wow! They are indeed the Cadillac (perhaps even the Rolls Royce) of harps.

When I get my chops together and am worthy of the purchase they are exactly what I'd be looking for. The tones of those beauties are magnificent! I'd be very interested in trying his tuned MB Deluxe harps and his Cross Harp MS. The gold comb with the black satin cover plate makes my mouth water just looking at it... what a beauty! Then to step up to his signiture blues!!

If I were at the level, I'd make the investment on a full set for sure. Lord knows, I've spent many thousands of dollars on my guitars and tube amps over the years.

Anyhow, thanks again guys... I dig talkin' harps! 8)

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Sonny
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