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Harmonica Problem

Piers Plowman 21 Jul 10 - 02:18 AM
Splott Man 21 Jul 10 - 03:42 AM
Piers Plowman 21 Jul 10 - 07:05 AM
MickyMan 21 Jul 10 - 07:13 AM
Piers Plowman 21 Jul 10 - 07:36 AM
Old Vermin 21 Jul 10 - 07:52 AM
meself 21 Jul 10 - 11:01 AM
Piers Plowman 21 Jul 10 - 11:57 AM
Ernest 21 Jul 10 - 01:04 PM
Steve Shaw 21 Jul 10 - 02:26 PM
Tootler 21 Jul 10 - 07:48 PM
Artful Codger 21 Jul 10 - 08:54 PM
Steve Shaw 22 Jul 10 - 03:55 AM
Steve Shaw 22 Jul 10 - 03:57 AM
Piers Plowman 22 Jul 10 - 06:48 AM
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Subject: Harmonica Problem
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 02:18 AM

I've got a Hohner Chromonica 270 (II, I believe) in C that's about 20 years old, but in good condition. All of a sudden, something went wrong with the F at the 10th hole (without the slide) and started sounding more like an E. An F (or E#) is the blow note with the slide, so the harmonica was still playable, but that wasn't ideal.

So, I took it to my local music store. They have an arrangement with some workshop. They'd done a minor repair on it before when I couldn't get the slide assembly adjusted. It wasn't expensive and I was happy with the result.

This time, the harmonica came back with an F where the E should be and a very sharp Eb where the F should be (the notes without the slide)! So, instead of being fixed, it's worse than before and not really playable anymore.

Does anyone have any suggestions about what I could do? I've been told that sending it in to Hohner is usually too expensive to be worth it. I know a harmonica isn't a permanent instrument, and after 20 years this one doesn't owe me anything. However, I can't afford to replace it and it's otherwise in good condition. It's not perfectly in tune, but not badly out-of-tune, either.

Any advice would be much appreciated.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Splott Man
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 03:42 AM

You don't say which side of the pond you are, but if you are in the UK, try this fellow:

http://www.antonydannecker.com/

Splott Man


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 07:05 AM

I'm in Germany, so I don't think it would be practical, with customs documents, etc., but thank you anyway for the link. Maybe there's someone here who does the same thing.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: MickyMan
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 07:13 AM

It takes a long time, but 30 years ago Hohner had a program where they did good repairs by mail. I'm in the USA, but you should probably check their web site and see what's u[ for Germany.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 07:36 AM

Thank you for your response, but they told me at the music store that it usually doesn't pay to send them in to Hohner. I'll look into it again, though.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Old Vermin
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 07:52 AM

What with the EU, do you still need customs documents to post a harmonica from Germany to the UK and back?

Daft question, but what about taking it apart yourself?


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: meself
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 11:01 AM

Try posing your question(s) here: slidemeister. These guys love nothing more than to talk about the inner workings of the chromatic. They also know who's who, and may be able to put you onto a techie in Germany. Warning, though: some will try to persuade you to do the work yourself ....


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 11:57 AM

I'd be quite happy to do the work myself and in the long run, I think that's probably the only way to keep a harmonica in tune. I even have most of the tools I would need and like nothing better than buying new tools. The problem is, mine are nearly all packed up in boxes and I don't have anywhere where I can do woodworking, etc. Besides, I've reached the limits of my neighbours' tolerance by playing wind instruments (esp. the trumpet), so I try not to make too much noise otherwise. I dream of the day when I can have a workshop again (I used to have one).

Old Vermin: There was something on the website about a "customs docket" that you need to fill out, but one doesn't have to pay duty. A bit like a required customs form that says that a customs form isn't required.

"Daft question, but what about taking it apart yourself?"

Not a daft question at all. The problem with taking it apart is that I think the reeds are held by tacks or pins and I'm not sure whether they can be put back once they're removed. I suspect the reeds would need to be replaced and I don't know how one goes about getting them and tuning them once you've got them. I've read a little about this, but it wasn't very specific. I think the equipment for this is out of my price range at the moment.

meself: Thank you for the link. I'll have a look and probably post my question there.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Ernest
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 01:04 PM

When it comes to diatonics, Hohner does offer exchange parts (i.e. a brass plate with a full set of reeds). Haven`t seen this for Chromatics, but you could ask if they could send you one for yoour instrument (but be prepared that it might be almost as expensive as a new harmonica of a cheaper variety).

Contact adress can be found here:

http://www.hohner.eu/index.php5?1393

Good luck!
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 02:26 PM

Why did the workshop muck about with two reeds? Assuming they actually replaced the faulty reed (which from your description was totally knackered) and it isn't still in there, you could try retuning the reeds, provided you have the right tools (such as the ones that come in Lee Oskar maintenance kits for example). You need to tune down the "F where an E should be" by a semitone, by removing material from the surface of the reed near the rivet. Then (trickier) you need to tune up the "very sharp Eb where the F should be" by more than a semitone, which will involve removing a fair amount of metal from the surface of the reed at the free end (I use a little rotary drill with a carborundum-tipped bit for this, but you can just use a file or the repair-kit chisel). Note that under no circumstances do you actually shorten the reed.   You'll need to remove then later replace the windsaver valves (spot of superglue) to get at the reeds properly. If you've never retuned reeds before the odds are you'll screw it up, but if you've had a go with some success several times before I'd say it was worth having a go. You'll have be especially careful as you're working on those tinier, high-pitched reeds. The other issue with dismantling 270s is those pesky nails that hold the reed-plates to the wooden comb. You have to be very careful not to damage the holes in the wood. If you know what you're doing, have a go. If not, I reckon you should hang it up on the wall if it has sentimental value and buy a new one!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Tootler
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 07:48 PM

I contacted Antony Dannecker recently about repairing a Chromonica 260 I have. His reply was to the effect that he currently has more work than he can handle and is not taking on any new work on Chromatics at the moment so I think you can forget that option for the time being.

I can understand Steve Shaw's suggestion of replacing the instrument, and the cost difference between repair and replace are relatively small, but somehow replacing a potentially serviceable instrument goes against the grain.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 08:54 PM

If a note "suddenly" goes flat, it doesn't sound to me as if wear/stress is the cause; rather, I'd suspect debris lodging on the reed, or possibly a sticky valve (though I'd expect this to manifest in another way). In short, the solution should only involve cleaning, not retuning.

The store tech obviously muffed the job, since he should never have touched the paired reed. It sounds like the draw reed was left flat (the original problem) while the tech worked on the wrong plate! Consequently, the store should be responsible to replace the blow reed (NOT merely retune it, as there was nothing wrong with it, and retuning would leave it weakened in two spots) as well as fixing the correct reed (the service you paid for). If their workshop doesn't have sufficient experience with chromatics to do the job properly, they shouldn't have taken it on; they should either pay for a proper outfit to repair it or replace the instrument. Review recent sales on E-bay to determine a suitable replacement cost for instruments of equivalent age and condition.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 22 Jul 10 - 03:55 AM

I have to beg to differ (having had many harmonica reeds go flat on me over the decades). If a reed suddenly goes flat to the degree described it has almost certainly fatigued. It's always worth having a look, of course, and having a go at tuning it back up before spending dough, but debris affecting the reed is far more likely to stop the reed sounding properly, or at all, than to make it play very flat.

I would also advocate extreme caution when it comes to buying second-hand harps from eBay, especially chromatics, and even more especially those chromatics with wooden combs. In the latter case "you really don't know where it's been," do you, and cleaning such a harp is a considerable undertaking involving comprehensive dismantling and reassembly. On top of that it's very likely to have a few reed/valve/slide problems of its own, and you're unlikely to have any comeback if you're disappointed. Buy 'em cheap for spare parts only, otherwise buy a new harp. No advice is good advice, of course, but I have been there...


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 22 Jul 10 - 03:57 AM

Having re-read your post I'm now not at all sure that you were advocating buying second-hand harps, in which case I apologise!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica Problem
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 22 Jul 10 - 06:48 AM

Thanks to all for the responses!

I don't think it's debris or dirt, or a problem with the valves. I took off the top and bottom plates and had as thorough a look as I could. I always brush my teeth before playing any wind instruments, unless I'm sure that there are no crumbs or such-like in my mouth, and am otherwise careful about keeping them clean and dry.

I wasn't really sure that it was possible for a reed to suddenly go flat like that; I thought maybe somehow the wrong reed was being sounded, so I tested this carefully. Thank you for the confirmation that it is possible, Steve. Fatigue sounds like the most plausible explanation to me.

I agree that the workshop botched the job. It's a pretty good music store, but they're not really experts. I didn't have to pay for the attempt at repair. I'm a bit annoyed that it is now unplayable whereas it was at least somewhat playable before. Since they did botch the job, I'm not that eager to take it back, and it's not worth getting into a fight with the music store. They're friendly, and if they're not really experts, they are at least in town, which is something, these days. I've had my share of experiences with music stores and they are a mixed bag. I think I'll just go and talk it over with them and see if they'll give it another go. At worst, I'll have an unplayable harmonica, which is what I've got now.

The chrome is wearing off the faceplate and, to paraphrase Ira Gershwin and DuBose Hayward, a harmonica is a sometime thing. Thanks again for all the suggestions; one of them will either work out or else maybe I'll be able to fix it myself or replace it when I've got the money and/or place to work on it. I love shop-talk, anyway, though not as much as having functioning instruments.


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