If it ain't broke don't fix it...

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

If it ain't broke don't fix it...

Postby bosco » Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:53 pm

Most of you know that the Hohner Special 20 is my harp of choice. I still blow out an occasional harp (or they just wear out) but not nearly as many as I used to. Trusting your amplification and being able to hear yourself are key to preventing overplaying your harps.

Our band has some new songs and one is in Bb. I haven't played an Eb harp in several years since my previous band played a handful of songs in Bb. I dug out my Eb and found a D and F, all Hohner Golden Melodies. Mostly I have avoided the GM's because of their equal tuning, and all things considered the just intonation of the Special 20 is a better choice for blues to my ear.

I decided to get reaquainted with the GMs and put them in my case, kind of an A/B comparison with the 20s. Hohner bills the Golden Melody as an "especially airtight harmonica with a strong, full-bodied sound. The reeds are set closer to the mouthpiece to respond to the most subtle of commands." Going back to last Saturday's gig, through last night's rehearsal, I have blown out all three of the GM's, and ironically, the 4 draw on all three. I've probably only blown out three harps all year and went through that many GM's in nine days!

I guess the GM's must be a little too "airtight" for my current playing style which the more open 20s are more tolerant of. And I obviously failed to adjust my playing style and breath control as well. Anyway, the harp forum has been slow and I thought this little experiment may be of some interest to the dedicated harpers out there.

keep on harpin...

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Postby JakeyVimto » Tue Aug 07, 2007 3:08 pm

Speaking of trying different harps, special 20's are my preferred brand, but a local shop is selling Tombo folk blues for £17, or 35 dollars. Considering a SP20 is 50 dollars plus, it made me think and I picked up a couple, for 'spare' if nothing else. I cant fault them, they even kinda sound the way I want, but they just feel a bit different and I'm not sure I like it.

Do you think I'm resisting change here, or would concur twenties just feel that little bit better?

Going back to your experience, I had a golden melody a couple years ago and it doesn't feel as solid as th SP20, I did find myself being sorta careful instead of cutting loose.

Sorry for nearly hijacking your thread Bosco, but yeah, its been slow lately in here.


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Postby bosco » Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:00 pm

Sorry for nearly hijacking your thread Bosco

No worries, mate. Pleasure to have someone to talk harps with. Tombo is the parent company that manfacturers Lee Oskar harps, which are quality instruments known for their durability. A lot of blues players don't favor them because they have equal tuning like the GMs and a relatively bright tone. If the attention to quality on the Folk Blues is anywhere near the Oskar it should be a good value. I would be curious if they are equal or just tuned. No reference to that on the Tombo site-

http://www.tombo-m.co.jp/eng/10hole.html

At any rate, they appear to be only marketed outside the US.

I wouldn't worry about resisting change, Jakey. How else you gonna find out if they're a good harp for the money? For years I've commented on the comfort of the Spec 20 because the reedplates are recessed into the comb and don't project through the mouthpiece like the GM or Marine Band. But you know what? In my recent re-introduction to the Golden Melody, I barley noticed. My ear did pick up on the difference of the tuning though when playing with my band.

I should mention that I have four Lee Oskar harps, an E that someone gave me, and Am, Bm, and Gm because Oskar is the only company that manufactures Natural Minor tuned harps (designed to be played in the crossharp position.) Great fun to finally be able to join in on a tune that is in a minor key!

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Postby jeffl » Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:46 pm

One of the problems with playing harp is that it's difficult to "try out" different instruments for free, like you can if you play keyboards or guitar, or other non-wind instruments. I keep both equal and just tuned harps in my case, since IMO there are some tunes that I do no chording and the Lee Oskars can be great harps for single note leads. For anybody who never heard Lee Oskar play, his popular claim to fame was playing harp for the band "War", where he didn't even play blues leads; he mainly played single note horn accent parts and in many cases was just another voice in the horn section. He did almost no chording or partial chording with that band.
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Postby barbequebob » Tue Aug 07, 2007 8:50 pm

You also need to remember that Sp20's are tuned to a comprimised just intonation and the GM's are tuned to 12TET, and chording (with sustained holds on the chords) may sound harsh. I'm not fond of the sound of the stock Eb's, and so I much prefer using a low Eb, which is tuned an octave lower, so that when you're playing horn parts, they tend to blend in better (giving a more sax like feel, sometimes almost a baritone sax feel), wheras the stock ones tend to be too shrill for my taste. I rarely ever use the stock Eb's and much prefer the low ones.
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Postby jeffl » Tue Aug 07, 2007 9:45 pm

BBQBob, thanks for the heads up on that low Eb harp. That's a very useful tip. I just got that harp out last week, on a bastardized version of "Blow Gabriel" (Rev. Gary Davis) that I do with a longtime guitar playing music buddy of mine. I think on that tune I would have to use both higher and lower harp though, 'cuz of the intro we use, but it should be a useful switch. I'd have to say that I probably don't switch harps during tunes enough, out of convenience, and should consider doing it more. I noticed once that Rod Piazza switches harps during tunes alot (when I caught him live last year).
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Postby dcblues » Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:43 am

I never considered using a low Eb before. I like the low D and low F (which I now use much more often than the regular F). I use the regular Eb on "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," and I like how it sounds and feels on that song. I might buy a low Eb and try it one of these days.
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Postby bosco » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:14 am

I never considered using a low Eb before

Me neither, but then again I haven't had the opportunity to use my regular Eb for a while either. I do have a low F that I really like, If we pick up a couple more songs in Bb, I'll look into the low Eb.

Good thread.

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Postby barbequebob » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:30 pm

I do a fair amount of jump and swing stuff and the low Eb's are killer for this stuff. I get the feel of combining the sounds of jump sax players like Red Prysock, Joe Houston, Big Jay McNeely, Gator Tail Jackson, Illinois Jacquet, Hal singer with the jump blues guitar styles of guys like T-Bone Walker and Tiny Grimes. For both solos and backup, especially doing horn parts, it's an awesome harp. You may need to take time breaking these in a bit and/or making some gap adjustments as needed. If you spend money on custom harps, youi definitely want one of these. The next best thing for me to a custom low Eb was using an MS combination of Low Eb Cross Harp reed plates (that I tuned to 7 limit just intonation), the wood comb used in the MS Blues Harp, and the Big River cover plates. However, the best wood comb for these are the bees wax sealed maple combs from Dave Lavoie.

For some country or jazz oriented stuff, you may want to consider having one of these withe the 5 draw tuned a half step sharp, which is what country tuning is, so that you have the major 7th in the draw chord, and you frequently use this in jazz. It's also pretty cool when you're playing in a satting backing up a doowop tune.
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Postby bosco » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:41 pm

Oskar is the only company that manufactures Natural Minor tuned harps (designed to be played in the crossharp position.)

I sit corrected. Well, for a long time they were the only company that made them. In the Minor harps thread, 601 mentioned that Bushman made Natural Minors, and sure enough they do. If there are any more minor options out there, please post in the Minor thread.

Just wanted to set the record straight.

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Postby JakeyVimto » Fri Aug 10, 2007 3:18 pm

I got lost on the way home yesterday and found my way (where else) at the folk music store that sells LO's.

I'm not springing for a set of minors yet, but I picked up a Low F. I kinda like Lee Oscars so far, and I def appreciate having an F harp that isn't a poxy wee squeaker.

I may have to look out for more low harps, they seem to agree with me.

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Postby steel1953 » Mon Aug 13, 2007 4:19 am

TINY GRIMES?! Did I hear someone ( Bob ) mention Tiny Grimes? That guy was awesome. You talk about swinging hard.........great stuff, period. All us harp players could stand to listen/learn some of that stuff!
Thanks for making me think about other keys of low harps Bob. I already use my low harps AND their higher counterparts in the same songs for dynamics. I sit in at a jam session occasionally where they have a couple of horns ( alto and bari ) and they do Eb ( Bb ). I'll have to get me one!...........
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