The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #152573   Message #3568743
Posted By: Big Ballad Singer
22-Oct-13 - 01:33 AM
Thread Name: A tricky question for paid players
Subject: RE: A tricky question for paid players
Ebbie, I was absolutely floored when I saw an advertisement about two years ago for the Hohner Bluesband in a set of seven different keys for around $40! I couldn't believe that I could have some cheap, but sturdy enough harps for that low of a price.

I was right. It's unbelievable how much more cheaply the Chinese Bluesband harps are made now.

The cheapest harp I would buy from Hohner these days runs about 20 dollars. That's about what a Hohner Marine Band (a VERY popular model and the one almost all the old Chicago players used) cost when I started seriously playing. The Marine Band now costs close to FIFTY dollars.

John Phillip Sousa encouraged young people to learn the harmonica, as it was a reed/wind instrument that one could play his marches on. Hohner responded by issuing the Marine Band 1896 and putting Sousa's name and face on the packaging.

I honestly think Hohner got their arses handed to them in the 80s when Tombo really started getting noticed because their Lee Oskar harmonica was used by several very popular veteran players, like the late Junior Wells. Tombo also pioneered the RETAIL sale of replacement reeds, plates, etc. Hohner had those things available for years before Tombo, but never in stores. You had to write or call Hohner and order parts, and for years it was a chore unless you were a dealer.

Once Tombo's quality, tone and ease of maintenance became really popular, Hohner got caught in second place. By the late 90s... voila! Hohner replacement parts! Hohner advertising how simple it would be to maintain your harmonicas!

The downside to that is that Hohner began diversifying, selling harps at every conceivable price-point and lowering the quality of the materials they used. They were trying to make up revenue by flooding the market and playing on their name recognition.

Now most big-chain music stores have Hohner harmonicas. You just have to pay stupid inflated prices for their junk.

Tombo, Seydel (another German company like Hohner) and other better manufacturers have taken advantage of Hohner's decline in quality by raising their prices by 20% or more over the last 10 years or so, because they know if you don't want Hohner's cheap plastic and weak reeds, but you don't want to spend 50 bucks on a Marine Band, you have to look to one of these other makers instead. Instant profits!