Using Your New Harmonica

 

Thank you for purchasing your new harmonica from us. Here are some hints and suggestions to help you get the most out of your instrument when you get it and to help you get the most life out of your harmonica for the long term:


1.       Do a thorough physical inspection of it to make sure it wasn’t damaged in shipping.  No matter how well we pack an item, sometimes it gets damaged in shipping. If your harmonica has physical damage from shipping , contact us immediately and we will make it right.


2.       Remember that due to health laws, we cannot ,do not, and will not pre play any harmonica so we will not physically test your harmonica before we ship it.


More expensive German made guitars are hand adjusted before shipping and are generally perfectly set when you get them. Chinese made harmonicas are 100% made by machine and are usually fine but may sometimes need adjustment.


German made harmonicas generally cost $40.00 and up and the quality is generally great and they will generally last for many years.


If you buy a harmonica for under $20.00 it is generally made in Asia and it is something we paid under $13.00 for at wholesale that we had to ship at a cost to us of around $3.00. If you bought a harmonica for under $10.00 it still cost us $3.00 to ship to you which means we paid around $4.00 for it. Heck, we even sell some name brand harmonicas for $6.95 delivered. They still cost us $3.00 to ship so what do you suppose we pay for them?  Anyway, like with anything else, you get what you pay for.  While we will stand behind any product we sell and while we go out of our way to not carry any product that is junk, we cannot turn a $6.95 harmonica into something you can play professionally.


Luckily, no matter what the price, a harmonica of any price can be adjusted to play decently . Almost any adjustment can be made with a simple toothpick, even on a cheap harmonica. Here is a link to a great Youtube video on basic harmonica repair, but there are many more available


Whether a harmonica plays or not is also heavily affected by how it is played. Here is an example from the Hohner harmonica website:


A harmonica player named Walter approached a Hohner technician at a recent road show. He had a Blues Harp in new condition but the draw reeds made no sound. The technician tried the harmonica and the reeds played smooth, clear and effortless throughout. Puzzled, the tech handed the harmonica back to Walter and asked for a demonstration. Walter wailed away, attacking the reeds with very hard pressure and restricted throat muscles. Under such aggressive technique the reeds could not initiate — they were being choked.


The tech mentioned to Walter that an easier blowing technique would result in a more consistent sound. “I don’t know about technique and stuff,” Walter said, “I just know my harmonica shouldn’t be like this. It should respond to me.”


For the player, response is a term used to describe how quickly and effortlessly a reed sounds when air (breath) has been introduced. If the note sounds clearly and immediately it is “good” response. If the reed makes no sound or a weak sound, it is “bad” response.


Often all that a player should do on an otherwise well set up harmonica is adjust their breath pressure to find the optimum response point for a harmonica. However many players prefer not to adjust their well-practiced and personal technique.


When changing technique is not an option, adjustments to personalize response are made to the harmonica itself.


In terms of harmonica function, response is determined by how well a reed travels through a reed slot when a given amount of air pressure is applied. For good response the entirety of the reed should enter the slot all at once or at least rivet side slightly before the tip. If the tip of the reed is the first to enter the slot, the response will be poor.


Optimizing reed travel to match a player’s personal technique involves adjusting a reed’s gap and curve.


A gap, also called an offset, is the distance between the tip of a reed and the reed slot when the reed is at rest. Every reed needs some gap. If the reed is flush or almost flush with the reed slot, chances are it will not sound at all.


On any particular harmonica, the gap varies from reed to reed. As a general rule, the thickness of any particular reed at the tip determines the proper offset between that reed and the reed plate. Therefore, the lower pitched, thicker reeds need more offset. Gradually, as reeds get thinner and the pitches get higher, the gap diminishes.


The folks at Butler Music want you to enjoy your new harmonica , no matter what the price. If you have any issues with your harmonica, if you need to buy harmonicas in additional keys or configurations, or if you need a harmonica case, or a neck rack to hold your harmonica, or anything harmonica related, please call us at 816-925-4686 or email us at sales@butlermusicstore.com.