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Any help for a new harmonica player?

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GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend 30 Mar 01 - 11:57 AM
Sorcha 30 Mar 01 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,Tom 30 Mar 01 - 12:18 PM
GUEST 30 Mar 01 - 12:19 PM
Noreen 30 Mar 01 - 12:49 PM
GUEST 30 Mar 01 - 01:11 PM
Noreen 30 Mar 01 - 01:22 PM
Les from Hull 30 Mar 01 - 01:46 PM
Matt_R 30 Mar 01 - 01:54 PM
GUEST,Tom 30 Mar 01 - 01:59 PM
GUEST,Tom 30 Mar 01 - 02:02 PM
Peter T. 30 Mar 01 - 02:09 PM
Ebbie 30 Mar 01 - 03:16 PM
Mr Red 30 Mar 01 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,Tom 30 Mar 01 - 03:52 PM
Ebbie 30 Mar 01 - 07:54 PM
GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend 01 Apr 01 - 10:25 AM
Mr Happy 01 Apr 08 - 10:15 AM
pavane 01 Apr 08 - 10:47 AM
Mark Ross 01 Apr 08 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Arnie at work 01 Apr 08 - 11:08 AM
Les from Hull 01 Apr 08 - 11:18 AM
Escapee 01 Apr 08 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Gramps 01 Apr 08 - 08:52 PM
Peace 01 Apr 08 - 09:07 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 01 Apr 08 - 09:48 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 01 Apr 08 - 09:51 PM
Peace 01 Apr 08 - 09:53 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 01 Apr 08 - 10:00 PM
The Fooles Troupe 01 Apr 08 - 10:03 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 01 Apr 08 - 10:11 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 01 Apr 08 - 10:45 PM
Lowden Jameswright 02 Apr 08 - 07:06 AM
Lowden Jameswright 02 Apr 08 - 07:24 AM
Steve Shaw 02 Apr 08 - 08:48 AM
pavane 02 Apr 08 - 09:04 AM
Mr Happy 02 Apr 08 - 11:09 AM
Mr Happy 02 Apr 08 - 11:32 AM
Steve Shaw 02 Apr 08 - 11:51 AM
Steve Shaw 02 Apr 08 - 11:52 AM
Mr Happy 02 Apr 08 - 11:53 AM
PoppaGator 02 Apr 08 - 12:00 PM
Mr Happy 02 Apr 08 - 12:03 PM
Mr Happy 02 Apr 08 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 02 Apr 08 - 12:16 PM
Lowden Jameswright 02 Apr 08 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 02 Apr 08 - 07:05 PM
pavane 03 Apr 08 - 05:44 AM
Mr Happy 23 Oct 08 - 07:01 AM
The Fooles Troupe 23 Oct 08 - 07:28 AM
David C. Carter 23 Oct 08 - 07:36 AM
Mr Happy 23 Oct 08 - 07:39 AM
pavane 23 Oct 08 - 07:45 AM
Mr Happy 23 Oct 08 - 08:43 AM
Lonesome EJ 23 Oct 08 - 11:03 AM
Mr Happy 23 Oct 08 - 11:08 AM
Amos 23 Oct 08 - 11:49 AM
Brian Hoskin 24 Oct 08 - 05:05 AM
Mr Happy 24 Oct 08 - 06:06 AM
GUEST 04 Nov 08 - 11:58 PM
Les from Hull 05 Nov 08 - 01:55 PM
meself 05 Nov 08 - 10:46 PM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 06 Nov 08 - 10:24 AM
Piers Plowman 09 Nov 08 - 09:44 AM
JohnInKansas 09 Nov 08 - 02:54 PM
JohnInKansas 09 Nov 08 - 03:24 PM
astro 09 Nov 08 - 03:59 PM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 02:55 AM
meself 10 Nov 08 - 03:14 AM
Steve Shaw 10 Nov 08 - 10:41 AM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 11:02 AM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 11:27 AM
Steve Shaw 10 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 01:43 PM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 01:51 PM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 01:56 PM
Piers Plowman 10 Nov 08 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,Mina 06 May 09 - 04:12 AM
Les from Hull 06 May 09 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 06 May 09 - 07:13 PM
Tigger the Tiger 21 Oct 11 - 08:04 AM
GUEST,blogward 21 Oct 11 - 08:36 AM
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The Sandman 21 Oct 11 - 09:16 AM
Steve Shaw 21 Oct 11 - 01:31 PM
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JohnInKansas 21 Oct 11 - 07:37 PM
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The Sandman 22 Oct 11 - 06:39 AM
The Sandman 22 Oct 11 - 07:01 AM
Steve Shaw 22 Oct 11 - 03:54 PM
The Sandman 22 Oct 11 - 04:49 PM
Tootler 22 Oct 11 - 05:38 PM
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Subject: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 11:57 AM

Well, after growing up listening to my Grandad play harmonica by ear to any tune he heard, adding effects with his hands or a glass, I've always loved the sound. So, when I was working in the USA for a week a while back & saw The Discovery Store selling Hohners at $6, I had to buy one. Now all I have to do is learn to play it! There's some great links out there, giving tabs for songs with the numbers you see on the case. I can now play all sorts of stuff - By the banks of the Ohio, Oh Suzannah, etc... AS LONG AS I keep the piece of paper in sight! Sometimes, I don't even spend 5 mins gasping for breath afterwards, too. But, sadly it's proved that I can't just play be ear as Grandad can... I NEED those tabs. But what I'd really like to do is play some basic blues, and I can't seem to find any tabs for that kind of thing. Anyone know of any very basic stuff around, or have any other advice?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Sorcha
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 12:01 PM

Try this site.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 12:18 PM

Tracey, There are a number of instructional videos that could be of good use. Homespun tapes has a few. Although, I haven't seen it, the one's by Peter "Madcat" Ruth I would bet are very good. I have seen him play many times and he is incredible. Also, Jerry Potnoy who played with Muddy Waters amoung others has a very good box set of instructional CD's. I bought this and have learned a lot. He covers all aspects of how to produce the blues sounds your after. From very basic to advanced "tricks". It is a bit on the pricey side though, I paid about $60.00 US dollars. I would also try to avoid learning just by tabs, cause if your like me and it sounds like you are a bit. Once I learn from a tab I always seem to need it. But if I learn from ear than I can play it at any time. And who wants to drag around a bunch of tab sheets? The beauty of the harp is that it's so portable. Just don't put it in your back pants pocket! It's hard to play a flatted harp. Try these sites: www.harpmaster.com www.homspuntapes.com Type in harmonicas in Yahoo etc. and you'll get all kinds of good sites. Good luck. Tom


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 12:19 PM

Click here for a site that purports to give some basic instruction in blues harp playing. I don't play harp, and I didn't give the site a thorough going over, but it sounds promising.

Typing something like "Blues harmonica tab instruction" (without the quotation marks) into the search engine of your choice will yield this site and others that may even be of more use to you. Best of luck.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Noreen
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 12:49 PM

And why is it called a harp? I've only heard this recently and found it confusing...

Noreen
easilyconfusedattimes


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 01:11 PM

Click here for one explanation. There may be others.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Noreen
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 01:22 PM

Thanks, Guest, interesting! French Harps made in Germany, and harmonica being too long a word... But wasn't harmonica a trade name originally, and 'mouth organ' the accepted name?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 01:46 PM

Hi Tracey

If you want to learn more about playing by ear, you need to discard the tab as soon as you can. Think of the simplest tunes you know (three blind mice?) and play them without your cribsheet. It doesn't matter how slow or how many mistakes you make.

When you can do this well enough, go back to Oh Suzannah and such and play them without the cribsheet. Then start to just play, sort of making up tunes as you go along. You'll sound find that your mouth and hands know where the notes are without your brain interfering too much.

Always keep your harmonica handy. You can play it anytime you have a spare minute or two.

Blues is a bit different. Most players play what they call 'cross harp', which is playing a harmonica in a different key to the key of the song. So if you have a guitar player playing in E (which they often do, being the easiest guitar key for blues) you'll need a harmonica in A. This makes the most important notes into 'suck' notes, which are the easiest to bend.

Now bending notes is something that's hard to explain without someone having a glass mouth - you need to see what's going on in there! But try a suck note on say hole 4, keep sucking and then imagine it's not a harmonica but a lemon! You purse you lips more and tighten the inside of your mouth and the note starts to bend slightly down. When you can connect what you are doing with your mouth with what your ears are hearing, your playing the blues!

I wish you the best of luck, I've had a lot of fut playing harmonica - it's a very underrated instrument.

And Noreen - they're also called gob-iron and tin sandwich.

Les


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Matt_R
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 01:54 PM

And Scots call it a "mouthie"! THE SWAMP SONG is insanely hard to play...almost every note is a sucking bend. You have to take big breaths after each riff so you have enough air to hold out for those sucks!


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 01:59 PM

Les made a good point about the "cross" harp. Below is a reference of some common guitar or song keys and the corresponding harp key to play in.

  Song Key      Harp key
A..............D
G..............C
E..............A
C..............F
D..............G
B..............E

Tom


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 02:02 PM

Well, that's not quite how I layed out the pattern in my message but it will do I guess. The first letter is the song key and the second letter is the "cross"harp key to play in. Tom


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Peter T.
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 02:09 PM

Anyone know a site for the kind of harmonica they play in Quebec/Cajun? It looks like a bass harmonica, but is obviously structured differently. Rick Fielding had me play one last night. Never seen one before.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Ebbie
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 03:16 PM

Tom, I'm missing something here- what is the pattern in cross harp keys? For instance, from A to E is 4 1/2 steps; from D to G is 3 1/2 steps; from G to B is 3 steps... How does one know which harp a key calls for?

Eb


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Red
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 03:27 PM

I bought the seminal work on the subject
"Country & Blues HARMONICA for the musically hopeless"
and failed 15 years ago.
but the good news is I never really gave it a go. The book(let) comes complete with Harp, is by John Gindick, Klutz press, ISBN 0-932592-08-2. And if it is out of print I know where there is an unused copy.......
It maybe why I am a drummer!!!


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 03:52 PM

Ebbie, It does look confusing the way it got laid out let me try again. The cross harp is a fourth from the root chord. Or, in a I IV V blues pattern the cross harp key is the second chord you play. Hope that's clearer.

Song Key. Harp Key. A..............D. B..............E. C..............F. D..............G. E..............A.

How do shut up a harp player? Ask him what notes he just played.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Ebbie
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 07:54 PM

Thanks, Tom!

Eb


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 10:25 AM

Thanks to all of you! I really appreciate all your help...


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 10:15 AM

Anyone have any tips for when they get 'bunged up'?

Is it feasible to wash them to clean out gunk or will this damage them further?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: pavane
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 10:47 AM

Never did manage to clean them successfully, even if I dismantled the whole thing and tried to clean just the reeds.

On the subject of playing by ear:

I find that if I learn anything from written music (Notes, tab), it is MUCH more difficult to remember than if I learn by ear.

I think this is related to different memory areas in the brain.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 11:06 AM

The easiest instrument to play, the hardest to teach.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Arnie at work
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 11:08 AM

A useful tip regarding cleaning is to tap out the harmonica on your knee after every play. This stops excess moisture building up on the reeds and keeps it useable for a bit longer. I learned to play a 'gob-iron' from my father and I think my first real tune was 'Oh when the Saints come marching in' which is reasonably easy in either G or C. Some guitars players accompany themselves on a harp using a neck brace but this does mean that you can't use your hands to get the 'wow wow' effect. However, that's for the future Tracey!

Good luck

Arnie


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 11:18 AM

Harmonica maintenance (sensitive people read no further!)

You can clean out the mouth gunk that gathers around the holes with a pin. But to get the stuff that collects near the reeds you really have to open them up. Sometimes a sharp tap on your leg will work (with the gob-iron, this is not a plumbing joke). You can get a tool kit from Lee Oskar Harmonicas with good instructions, which are reprinted here Lee Oskars (and possibly others) also sell replacement reed plates.

On the subject of washing /soaking - with the older wooden bodied instruments it was often used to tighten up the instrument and make it more airtight. Some of the old blues players would only play them wet. But it doesn't really do the instrument any good. I don't play the wooden bodied ones any more - the comb swells beyond the reed plate and tends to act as a wood plane on your lips!

So you can wash your instruments under the tap, but only use water. Anything else will be going down you lungs when you play next! And shake and tap them to get them dry.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Escapee
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 06:38 PM

I soak them briefly in hot soapy water and rinse them well. I dry them with a hair dryer, but try not to get them so dry they shrink or crack. Sometimes you have to give up and replace it.
SKP


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Gramps
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 08:52 PM

Advice to harmonica player:

Remember, you don't suck completely.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Peace
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 09:07 PM

"Any help for a new harmonica player?"

I stumbled 'cross this thread quite by accident. I couldn't help but think that anyone who's taken up the harmonica is either a relapsed banjo player or a frustrated tuba player. I regret to mention that by the time a soul has turned to harmonica, well, he's far beyond our humble means to rejuvenate or reintroduce to society.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 09:48 PM

Start here: Larry Adler & Itzhak Perlman...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmC4SJ42Z-s&feature=related

bob


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 09:51 PM

Then. You go NUTS! Harmonicats - Jerry Murad...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw0J6lICTQQ


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Peace
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 09:53 PM

LOL


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 10:00 PM

After you've been WORKIN' it......You boldly go where no man has gone before, and you ask to sit in with TOOTS & STEVIE!.........
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtSJH8iVdJg


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 10:03 PM

Actually, I am tempted to say that there isn't any help for an old harmonica player, either...


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 10:11 PM

And then, when you have it all figured out....You challenge BUDDY to a "winner take all" right in the middle of the street. Like Doc Holliday meets Johnny Ringo at High Noon...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfLhnkme2mE
And if you win, you can quit your day job...
bob


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 01 Apr 08 - 10:45 PM

And just when it's time to go to that big Marine Band in the sky, if you've been really good,
perhaps your destiny will take you to "Harmonica Heaven"...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtlWhDZIgOg

I just couldn't forget Borrah Minevitch and his Harmonica Rascals w/Johnny Puleo.
Brings me back to my first harmonica that I got when I was 8...

I wish you all the best and much success with this incredible instrument...bob


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 07:06 AM

I have to say Tracey that Mudcat is a wonderful resource, but sometimes you have to trawl through a load of guff too! If you want to learn to play the harmonica properly, start from the basics and do it right. That means learning how to play clean individual notes and starting by learning to play up and down the scale and playing simple tunes. You CAN learn by ear, but you need to start with proper "building blocks" - starting with your scale notes starting from hole number 4 on a 10 hole Diatonic harmonica.

Learn the "tongue blocking" method by which you place the tip of your tongue in hole No 2 and slightly press your tongue onto holes 1 and 3, leaving a gap between your tongue and the right hand edge of your mouth to blow a clean note in hole 4 to get the 1st note of the scale. The 2nd note of the scale is a draw (or suck) note in hole 4 and then as follows:

3rd note - 5th hole blow
4th note - 5th hole draw
5th note - 6th hole blow
6th note - 6th hole draw
7th note - 7th hole DRAW
8th note - 7th hole BLOW

Once you can play up and down all 10 holes and creating clean individual notes you are well prepared to progress quickly on to the many techniques that enhance your sound. Those techniques include cross harp blues playing using the "lip pucker" method, but beware of advice from anyone trying to tell you how to play blues from scratch (without learning the basics) - too many of them are "random note and chord chuckers" who have tried to short circuit the process. OK - some of them are able to achieve a workmanlike sound, but it is impossible to get the best out of the instrument going down that route.

There are many good books available on learning the harmonica - and there are some excellent CD's, but there is no substitute for GOOD practice.

Good luck


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 07:24 AM

For blues harmonica technique, this guy seems to know what he's doing and is probably as good as it gets for free tuition.... but my advice is to leave the blues technique well alone until you have learned how to play straight harp with competence and confidence:


http://www.youtube.com/user/KudzuRunner


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 08:48 AM

Ive written about hygiene and cleaning harmonicas here: http://harmonicapics.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk (page three is wher it's at!) Also, this chap knows a thing or three about cleaning chromatics: http://www.angelfire.com/music/HarpOn (dig around -you'll find it!)

Basically, make sure your mouth is clean before playing. I play all night in pub sessions and my downfall comes when the landlord brings us a big plate of chips half-way through. Do whatever you have to to get your mouth food-free before recommencing, and only play non-valved, plastic-bodied harps for a while afterwards - they're the easiest to clean! The worst things are sweet drinks, peanuts and crisps. Never use Vaseline or similar as this will accumulate rapidly and disgustingly in the holes and it is well-nigh insoluble. You can use a thin, water-based lip cream (unscented) such as Cymex if you must have lip lube. After a fair bit of playing (e.g. a long night in the pub session) I clean my harps as follows. Plastic-bodied blues harps with no valves (Lee Oskars, Special 20s and the like) get a good wash-out under a stream of tepid water, fore and aft. Tap out the excess water and leave out to dry overnight. Similar but wood-bodied harps: you're not supposed to, but I do the same to some of these as well. I would never do it to the old, nailed blues harps or any Marine Band because they have wood that swells, but it doesn't seem to hurt the MS blues harps. Echo tremolos have very delicate wood bodies, and you can wreck the harp with a single immersion in water. I've done it so I know! Harps like these that can't be washed (including any with plastic valves), just clean off the covers and mouthpieces and resort to very occasional dismantling to clean if necessary. Do this with chromatics too, dismantling only when absolutely necessary. A very useful way of preventing a sticking slide is to get a dinner plate and fill it with a shallow layer of hot water. Hold the crom upside-down (mouthpiece down) in the water and work the slide rapidly back and forth for a minute. Remove the harp still facing downwards (the harp, not you) and tap out before lying it down to dry overnight. If you really must dismantle for cleaning (e.g. a second-hand harp you've inherited) you can soak all metal and plastic parts in denture cleaner (or Fairy liquid) and clean carefully with a toothbrush. A safe solvent and bug-killer is isoproyl alcohol. It's that stuff in little plastic bottles that used to be used for cleaning cassette player heads, etc. Not valved reedplates though (valves are those white plasticky bits). Stroke reeds with the brush only from the rivet upwards, otherwise you've wrecked the harp.   With the best will in the world there will be the occasional moustache hair or other thread-like object that gets itself wedged under a reed and stops it working. Don't just go poking blindly down the holes. Remove cover, investigate and gently ease the offending object away.   If your harmonica bungs up frequently with saliva, cut down on drinks other than water and angle the harp slightly up when you play it. Tap out at the end of every tune. Trouser legs have nothing to do with keeping legs warm - they were invented so that you'd have someting to tap the harp out on. Unlike some websites that offer similar advice, I would never recommend that harmonica players should avoid alcoholic drinks. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: pavane
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 09:04 AM

And don't forget - once you can play Harmonica, it will be easy to pick up Melodeon (which is just a harmonica with a bellows to blow it, so it doesn't get clogged up with gunge).

Then someone will point you to the local Morris side, and you will be on the downhill path....

(Pavane, ex Morris dancer)


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 11:09 AM

pavane,

Been there.........done that!!

************

Steve Shaw,

Thanks for tips, I'll try 'em, Cheers


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 11:32 AM

Steve,

Just had a peek at your site http://harmonicapics.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk
good stuff!


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 11:51 AM

The main one is here though:
http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/trad_irish_harmonica

Thanks!

Steve


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 11:52 AM

http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/trad_irish_harmonica/index.jhtml

Does that work? I'm useless at this!


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 11:53 AM

http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/trad_irish_harmonica


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 12:00 PM

I'm amazed that this thread sat idle for exactly seven years, from 01 Apr 01 to 01 Apr 08.

Could this curious development have anything to do with April Fools?

..................

"...I couldn't help but think that anyone who's taken up the harmonica is either a relapsed banjo player or a frustrated tuba player. I regret to mention that by the time a soul has turned to harmonica, well, he's far beyond our humble means to rejuvenate or reintroduce to society."

Geez, Bruce, lighten up! My arthritis is getting so bad that I may have to abandon the guitar someday sonn, and if that happens, I just might take up the mouth harp. If it comes to that, I'm gonna be really really sensitive about nasty jokes like yours there. That crap may be OK for banjo players and squeezeboxers, but it's in very bad taste for the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Paul Butterfield, Junior Wells, Toots Thielman, and perhaps my own future self as well!

Years ago, I had thoughts of taking up the harmonica and carried one around for a couple of years (an "A" harp, to play blues in E). I never got beyond using it as a pitch piipe for tuning my guitar, and occasionally loaning it others so they could jam with me. I even owned a neck rack for a while, but never learned well enough to become a real player. I just didn't apply myself and practice ~ whenever I felt the motivation to play music, I'd always fall back on the instrument I already knew, the guitar.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 12:03 PM

Not April Fool - I generally don't want to start a new thread if there's one existing already, which is why I revived this one with my related query.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 12:04 PM

BTW,

I've a neck rack too, tried it once, then never used it - tips?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 12:16 PM

Hi Tracey: Your request for help got me inspired to bring you the list of vids on some of the great harmonica players of our time. So many were left out. It was fun to do and I hope YOU got inspired....People who tell you you need a regimented approach To "learn to play the harmonica properly" don't know what they're talking about. So many of the great players came right off the street, Sonny Terry, Stevie Wonder, Paul Butterfield, etc. Through trial and error, they developed unique styles.
I can tell you that I learned to play the guitar by pure desire. Sometimes just hitting loose strings that I did not know how to tune. Then came tuning & chords from a friend. Then came the Coffehouses and Concerts. After that,
Berklee(Boston). I am still learning today... Joni Mitchell developed her own chordal methods and created some great music. Because, it's all about MUSIC. I could go on with people like Jeff Healey, who played with the guitar on his lap...Jimi Hendrix. Incorporating feedback and whammy bar techniques he created music never heard before. These people are now legends. So there is no "PROPER" way to learn an instrument.
You could take this into the world of film with people like Alfred Hitchcock, Ingemar Bergman, Quentin Tarantino, etc.
I once walked the streets of Montreal with John Hammond(Bluesman), and asked him how he got those incredible vibratos. He told me, "Just keep trying to do it, and it will come." He did NOT refer me to a book. I couldn't understand at first, but then it came. And in my own unique way. I also had the opportunity to jam with George Benson(Jazz Master), who taught me to be able to sing what I could play, and vice versa...No book. All FEEL...George admitted at the Musician's Union where he was giving a seminar, that he knew little about music.LOL. But that he learned to play by "searching for the notes" as he moved his hand up and down the neck. A Great Memory...
I was with Howard Roberts(L.A.Session Ace/Jazz Master) who told me he won "1958 DownBeat's Jazz Guitarist of the Year," with ONE SCALE. LOL. The notes are all there, it's how you put them together that counts.
I had friends who would endlessly copy, note for note, licks off of records, and yes, they were able to play some complex things. But something was missing. That something was A UNIQUE STYLE. They sounded like everybody else. Music is NOT about being a ROBOT...
So, in my view, there are as many ways to approaching learning to play an instrument as there are people...Some do it by books, others take a more direct approach.
You will find your own way...
I was thinking how cool it would be to take the harmonica and incorporate the use of Synths...So I found this guy...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5pQxLlRnw0
I wish you "Happy Harmonica" and a pleasant journey in Music...Let your Spirit guide you..Just keep trying to do it, and it will come...bob


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 02:32 PM

... and for every Jimi Hendrix there's a thousand would-be guitarists who sold their guitars out of frustration, and for every Sonny Terry another thousand who threw their harmonicas in the bin. So just learn to play by trial and error and you'll magic-up some new inspired way of playing. If learning to drive just go out on the highway and "play it by ear" and you'll end up a top F1 driver - or dead.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 02 Apr 08 - 07:05 PM

For all you harmoniacs out there...Another great one...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YHCiC7IIg8&feature=related
I wonder if anybody out there is doing this kind of stuff these days?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: pavane
Date: 03 Apr 08 - 05:44 AM

Detractors may wish to note that the (chromatic) Harmonica is the ONLY free-reed instrument to be admitted to the classical Orchestra.

No Concertinas, accordions, melodeons, harmoniums allowed.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 07:01 AM

Hi again folks!

I've a cross harp equivalence chart for most keys.

The one I don't have is for B#, anyone have the equivalent?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 07:28 AM

"Detractors may wish to note that the (chromatic) Harmonica is the ONLY free-reed instrument to be admitted to the classical Orchestra."

This is simply not true. Indeed the reverse is the case.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: David C. Carter
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 07:36 AM

Mr Happy,   would that not be C F Bb?

I too use a rack.It requires a bit of "nose work".

Like trying to pinch your nose without using your fingers!

Wish I hadn't bothered trying to explain this!

I'll get me coat.

David


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 07:39 AM

Harmonica: Cross Harp Guide

Harp D = Cross A

Harp E = Cross B

Harp F = Cross C        

Harp G = Cross D

Harp A = Cross E

Harp B = Cross F#

Harp C = Cross G

Harp B# = Cross ?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: pavane
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 07:45 AM

B# = C (Enharmonic equivalent)
therefore G

(Where do you get a B# harp anyway?)


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 08:43 AM

Sorry, just realised, I meant Bb


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 11:03 AM

Advice for new players : Play very quietly.
No, MORE quietly.
Ssh,I can still hear you.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 11:08 AM

Harmonica: Cross Harp Guide

Harp D = Cross A

Harp E = Cross B

Harp F = Cross C      

Harp G = Cross D

Harp A = Cross E

Harp B = Cross F#

Harp C = Cross G

Harp Bb = Cross ?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Amos
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 11:49 AM

The hidden mystery behind cross harp is that the harp that is played "cross" is the subdominant of the resultant key in question.

Example: the scale of G has a tonic (G) a subdominant (C) and a dominant (D). To play blues in G, you play cross-harp on a C harp. (C is the subdominant of the key G). To play blues in E you play cross on an A harp. (A is the subdominant of the key E).

The subdominant is also known as the fourth:

1 2 3 4
C D E F
G A B C
E F# G# A
F G A Bb
A B C# D
etc. (These are in your classic Western octave, do-re-mi-fa).

The distance in half-tones (frets) from the tonic to the subdominant is 2+2+1=5.

Hope this helps.

A


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 24 Oct 08 - 05:05 AM

F


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 24 Oct 08 - 06:06 AM

To all above, thanks!


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 11:58 PM

Just found this place, first thing I see is, ""...I couldn't help but think that anyone who's taken up the harmonica is either a relapsed banjo player or a frustrated tuba player. I regret to mention that by the time a soul has turned to harmonica, well, he's far beyond our humble means to rejuvenate or reintroduce to society."

and damn, if I haven't been frustrated these last 30 years without a tuba!

Otherwise, any suggestions for avoiding the painful capture of sensitive though aescetically very necessary moustache hairs in one's harp? It's a killer when you're buskin and they see the way your eyes tear and all semblance of rhythm falls on it's face!
Thanks,
Carolina Shalom in the Middle of the Midde East


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 01:55 PM

Well it hasn't really happened to me since I stopped playing Hohners. Lee Oskars and Suzukis don't seem to cause this so often.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: meself
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 10:46 PM

Hasn't really happened to me since I shaved off the ol' 'stache. Actually, I never did find it a great problem - even though I play Hohners.

I'll lay you fifteen to one that Steve Shaw will have some vivid words to say on the subject, though ...


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 10:24 AM

I rarely have problems with catching hairs in a diatonic harmonica. Chromatic, that's a different story.. That's one good reason why I prefer Herings (which have a much longer mouthpiece) to Hohners.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 09 Nov 08 - 09:44 AM

From: Amos - PM
Date: 23 Oct 08 - 11:49 AM

'The hidden mystery behind cross harp is that the harp that is played "cross" is the subdominant of the resultant key in question. [...]'

This is, of course, correct, but if no one minds my putting in my two cents, it might be helpful to to think of it the other way around, too:

If I have a diatonic harmonica in, say, C, then I can play blues in the key of the fifth or dominant; in this case G. The reason is that the notes of the major scale played using the fifth as the root is the Mixolydian mode. G Mixolydian = G A B C D E F G

The difference between the Mixolydian mode and the major scale is the seventh: F# in G maj. and F in G mix. So, if you play in G, you've got the dominant seventh of the tonic, i.e., G7, which is one thing one needs to play blues.

In a typical blues, the chords are I7, IV7 and V7, e.g., G7, C7 and D7 in G, whereby the IV7 and V7 are the subdominant and the dominant, respectively. Using harmonies built on the major scale, one would have IV maj.7 and V 7, which in G would be C maj. 7 and D 7.

C7 is C E G Bb and D7 is D F# A C.

Using a harmonica in C, we need the Bb for C7 and the F# for D. Another "blue note" is the flatted fifth of G, namely Db.

One could work out the notes of the blues scale for each of the chords to see which are present and which are missing. I don't know this off the top of my head. There are some typical idioms that are used in blues harmonica and some people can play it amazingly well, but some things are just not playable. Like any instrument, it has its limitations.

These are the notes on typical diatonic harmonica in C:

Suck:_D_G_B_D_F_A_B_D_F_A
Blow:_C_E_G_C_E_G_C_E_G_C
______1_2_3_4_5_6_7_8_9_10

Some people, notably Howard Levy, are said to be able to bend notes on a diatonic harmonica in such a way as to be able to play chromatically. I can't. The "sucked" notes can be bent down a half-step (or thereabouts), so one can get a Bb from the Bs from the third and seventh holes and the Db from the 1st, 4th and 8th holes. (I'm not sure how often this is done on the 1st hole. I don't think I do this very often, but I don't usually play blues.) The G on 2 can be bent down to F#, but it's quite low.

This is just some background information; the most important thing is to just try to get the sounds one wants.

The frustrating thing about a diatonic harmonica for me is the missing notes. There is only one full octave (the middle one). The low octave of a C diatonic harmonica is missing the F and the A (fourth and sixth in C and seventh and second or ninth in G) and the upper octave is missing the B (maj. seventh in C and third in G).

A chromatic harmonica is a similar arrangement of the notes, but not quite the same and there are none missing.

I hope someone finds this helpful.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 09 Nov 08 - 02:54 PM

Anyone making music should be aware of the "circle of fifths" (or if you go around the circle backward, the "circle of fourths").

In the major key of C, there are no sharps or flats.
In the major key of G, there is one sharp.
In the major key of D, there are two sharps.

The "rememberer" I was taught as a 4th grader was

"Go Down And Eat Breakfast"

G: 1#, D: 2#, A: 3#, E: 4#, B: 5# in the "key signature" on the music score.

Going the "other way" into "flat keys" -

Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings

F: 1 flat, Bb: 2 flats, Eb: 3 flats, Ab: 4 flats, Db: 5 flats

If the sequence for the "keys with flats" is reversed, and a couple of keys are added to fill in the few keys with "ridiculously many sharps or flats" a well known sequence emerges that, if laid out on a circle repeats itself (sort of) indefinitely.

Db = 5 flats in the "key signature"
Ab = 4 flats
Eb = 3 flats
Bb = 2 flats
F : := 1 flat
C : := no sharps or flats
G : := 1 sharp
D : := 2 sharps
A : := 3 sharps
E : := 4 sharps
B : := 5 sharps
F# = 6 sharps is enharmonic with Gb (6 flats)
C# = 7 sharps is enharmonic with Db (5 flats)
G# = 8 sharps is enharmonic with Ab (4 flats)

Note that the bottom few "keys" are the same as the top few (enharmonically) so you've "closed the circle."

If the "keys" of the harps are listed in this order, to pick the harp key for "cross harp" playing of a tune in any key, just "move up one" (i.e. pick the harp key with one flat more, or one sharp fewer, than what's shown for the "key signature of the tune."

A quick Google for "circle of fifths" should find many sites with pretty pictures of the "key progressions" laid out in circles that may make things clearer. Just pick whichever one is best suited to your personal fancy and learn the sequence for the range of keys that interest you.

Note that the key of C Major has the same "key signature" (no sharps or flats) as A Minor. The "circle" for Minor keys is identical to the one for Major keys, just starting in a different place.

John


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 09 Nov 08 - 03:24 PM

A harmonica reed has a particular pitch, and if blown (or sucked) without "adding a little something" that's the note you get.

Note that a clarinet reed also has a "particular pitch" but the clarinet plays many notes with one reed.

This is because coupling a reed to an air volume that resonates at a different frequency forces the reed to vibrate at the frequency of the air volume rather than at its own "natural" pitch.

For the clarinet, opening and closing keys on the instrument changes the "exit volume" of the instrument - the air space into which the blown air is moving after it passes the reed. Also, for the clarinet, changing lip pressure on the reed can "curl the reed" down onto the mouthpiece to change the free length of the reed, and hence its "natural frequency." In addition, for the clarinet, changing the shape of the mouth and throat provides an "entry volume" that can be tuned to match the note being played.

A skilled clarinetist will "coordinate" the playing so that entry volume, free reed pitch, and exit volume are all "somewhat matched." Failure to control any of the three may get the pitch, but for good "tonal quality" all three are required.

In a harmonica, one has no control over the "fine tuning" of the reed once the hole has been picked. Changing the "mouth volume" or the "hand cup volume" (volumes in cubic cm, not loudness) can "pull" the pitch of the reed.

Most people find that it's easiest to "bend" the suck notes, where the mouth is the "exit volume" for the reed. For blown notes, the hands, cupped around the harp, are the exit volume, and with practice can be used to "bend the blown notes." The main difference is that the "cup" formed by the hands tends to be "leaky" so unless very special contortions are learned it tends not to have a very precise "pitch."

Mouth (and throat) volume is what must be controlled for a good "bend" on the drawn notes. Some describe it as "tensing your cheeks" and some as "dropping your jaw," but it's the amount of air that the reed can shake that does it.

For the best control of both pitch and tone, both entry and exit volumes should be coordinated so that both contribute to getting the sound you want, for each and every note you play.

With a little practice and experimentation, a player should be able to observe which "air space" gives the most effective "bends" and "tone" for each kind of note (blown or sucked) and for the playing style used. The "trick" is to use both mouth and hands to get the effects that are most useful in your own style.

In the words of a long forgotten authority - "'tain't all that easy" - to start off and do everything to best effect. Pick what works, and practice ... and practice ... and practice.

John


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: astro
Date: 09 Nov 08 - 03:59 PM

This seems to be the right thread to note that there is an amazing series of instructional videos by Sam Hinton on YouTube (produced by George Winston), starting with this one.

Great stories as well as harmonica info and playing.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 02:55 AM

Thank you for the information on bending the "blow" notes, John in Kansas. I didn't know that. I usually play my diatonic harmonicas using a holder (is this what people called a "rack" above?) while playing the guitar, which isn't really ideal. I'll give cupping the hands a try as soon as possible.

I was thinking of writing something about the circle of fourths and/or fifths, but you beat me to it! I'll just add that when I play a piece of (written) music, I always say the names of the flats or sharps to myself first (e.g., "Bb Eb Ab Db" for Ab major) and the relative major or minor (e.g., Am for C, i.e., the minor chord on the sixth or G for Em, i.e., the major chord on the minor third). By doing this many, many times over the years, saying the sharps and flats is nearly automatic. I still have to think about the relative majors and minors, except for the most common keys.

The circle of fourths and the circle of fifths (same circle, just different directions) are very useful for modulations, too. However, I will have to Bore for England on this subject another time, because I have to start work.

By the way, does anyone know if there's a chromatic harmonica that can be played using a standard holder?


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: meself
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 03:14 AM

Blow bends can be done only on the top three holes on a standard diatonic harmonica. I have never heard of cupped hands being used to achieve the bend; probably the player best-known for blow bends - Jimmy Reed - played harmonica in the rack, with guitar.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 10:41 AM

The problem of the missing sixth on a diatonic harp is resolved by many players of traditional Irish music (for example) by retuning 3-blow up by a whole tone. You then have that sixth note of the scale, but you haven't lost anything because the note you've altered is duplicated at 2-draw anyway. A harp with this one alteration is known as a Paddy Richter-tuned harp. The missing fourth in the bottom octave is rarely a hassle. The rule about bending is that you can bend the higher-pitched note in each hole. So in holes 1-7 you can bend the draw note and in holes 8-10 the blow note. Some people who can bend draw notes have yet to master the high blow bends, which are very valuable. Of course, being able to bend is one thing, but hitting a bend in pitch and without slurring is entirely another. The majority of Irish tunes can be played without having to bend to get missing notes as they are modal tunes. Bending is very nice just for expression, of course. You can buy half-valved diatonics (eg from Suzuki) that will let you bend far more of the notes, but they use a different principle to allow bending. Or you could get a Hohner XB40 wich has auxiliary non-sounding reeds that enable every note to be bent. I prefer to pick up a chromatic harp for tunes with accidentals myself. A G and a D chrom will cover just about everything. There's a lot more to choosing harmonicas than this, of course...

As for the dreaded trapped moustache hair that will cause your eyes to water and all those around you to suspect that you've developed Tourette's Syndrome, the solution, if you want to keep your 'tache for cosmetic reasons, is to trim it so that no hair is less than 2.351mm from the lower edge of the lip. I use a cheap gizmo made by that bloke who liked the company so much he bought it. You can trim the 'tache without doing the whole beard-trim bit and you can also do your ear and nose hairs with it.   If ever there was a watertight case against the concept of Intelligent Design it is the presence of nostril hairs in the older male. That, and the existence of slugs.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 11:02 AM

From: Steve Shaw - PM
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 10:41 AM

Thank you for the information, Steve. I've been clean-shaven (except for occasional stubble) since a short-lived and not very convincing moustache in my early twenties, so the problem of hair getting caught had entirely passed me by. I can recommend shaving as a solution, though.

I agree with you about the slurring. It's not appropriate for all kinds of music. I've got a similar problem with the penny-whistle I bought a few weeks ago; it's hard to hit the notes fingered with half-holes cleanly. Bending is not really suitable for a lot of the music I play and I find it hard to bend when using a rack and playing the guitar, anyway.

I've only got one chromatic harmonica (in C) and getting rid of the excess air can be a real problem in some keys, such as Eb.

I do find the missing notes to be a problem, even for some songs without accidentals. My diatonic harmonica in F, for instance, is quite high pitched and it would be nice if the full octave wasn't so high (and I'm sure my neighbours would prefer it, too).

I do find that I play the guitar better without the harmonica and the harmonica better without the guitar. The best solution would be other people to play with.

I was in Cologne a few months ago and passed a big music store. They had an accordeon in the window, their "house brand" and it had a sign that the price was 10 Euros. I meant to go in on my way back and ask whether that was correct or whether it was something else that cost 10 Euros, like maybe the strap. However, I forgot and took the streetcar back to the train station. ARRRGGGHH! I could have had an accordeon for ten measly euros!

"If ever there was a watertight case against the concept of Intelligent Design it is the presence of nostril hairs in the older male. That, and the existence of slugs."

Again, I agree with you about nostril hair. Fortunately, I haven't had any slugs yet, except in the garden.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 11:27 AM

I really should get back to work, but I wanted to say something more about the circle of fourths/fifths:

Going around the circle of fourths part of the way is a common idiom in many popular songs (and other kinds of tonal music). In the key of C, perhaps C F Bb Eb and then maybe E7 to Am, for example. The C F Bb Eb is a short trip around part of the circle of fourths. C and F are in the key of C (or Am), with Bb, we go out of C (because of the Bb itself), Eb is even further out (because of the Eb), then a slight shift chromatically to E7, which is outside of C but the dominant of Am and we resolve to Am. If we want to, we can just continue in C, since C and Am are very nearly the same key.

Eb maj. to E7 is this:
Eb G Bb --> E G# B D

Leaving the specific voicing aside, each note only moves a single half-step: Eb --> E and D, G --> G# and Bb to B. This sounds good to most people's ears, if not overdone, of course.

It can be made more interesting by using a seventh chord on the Eb. For Eb maj. 7, there would be an additional D, which would just stay put. One can do interesting things by using different kinds of seventh chords. What really makes things interesting is the voice leading, which means paying attention to the movement of the individual voices. There's no end to it.

Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" is a good example of a song with passages using the circle of fourths. (I can't remember who wrote the lyrics. Oscar Hammerstein II, perhaps?)

It's worth noticing that Bb and Eb are notes in the key of Cm and are also in the C blues scale. One way of putting this is that one is "using the expanded tonal space". It's quite common to alternate between the major and minor of a given key, or to mix the major and minor of a given key. This happens when playing blues. It sounds good to most people because sticking to just one key can sound a bit dull. The next chord in the circle of fourths would be Ab and Ab is also in Cm. This can't be a coincidence.

An interesting thing about the circle of fifths is that one can continually use it to continually resolve to the next chord in the circle. For example, G is the dominant of C, so I could play G7 - C maj. 7. But C is the dominant of F, so I could play G7 - C7 - F maj. 7. Or G7 - C maj. 7 - C7 - F maj. 7 - F7 - Bb maj. 7, etc. Or just G7 C7 F7 Bb7 Eb7 Ab7, etc. A single and fast way of getting into another key, for a shorter or longer time. Other seventh chords can be used, too, but dominants tend to make one feel that they should be resolved.

Learning to recognize these idioms is also very helpful when trying to work out songs by ear.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM

For anyone who fancies usung their chrom for, say, Irish tunes, Brendan Power has just released a tuition course that takes you from alpha to omega. For the first part of the course you need stock chroms in G and D, and in the second part, which you buy separately if you want it, he deals with alternative tunings and so on. I'm familiar with the first part and can thoroughly recommend it. Note that he does not recommend the use of a C chrom for everything in this kind of music, laudable to some though that ultimate aim may be. Take a peek at his website.

As for high-pitched F harps, no problem. Buy a low F. The major makes all do them as far as I know.   Also, I use a low D harp for Irish tunes, never a standard D.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:43 PM

All right, in for a penny, in for a pound.

The diminished seventh chord is also quite interesting. Enharmonically speaking, there are only three of them, because they magically repeat every 1 1/2 steps, i.e., C dim. = Eb dim. = Gb dim. = Bbb dim. (the seventh is always understood by the dim. chord). So any of the notes in the dim. chord can be considered the root.

One interesting thing about them is that a dim. seventh chord has the same notes as a dom. 7th chord with a flatted ninth without and the root. This means that C dim. (using any of the names above) = B 7 b9 without the B, D 7 b9 without the D, F 7 b9 without the F and Ab 7 b9 without the Ab. That is, the roots are 1/2 step below any of the notes in the dim. chord. (In addition, the chords sound good with the roots.)

So, the dim. chord provides a cheap, fast and easy way of modulating to another key. Say you're playing a G chord in the key of G. You can follow it with a G dim. chord. This can be a nice sound. Then you can choose any of the dom. 7th b9 chords that include the G dim chord. G dim. = G Bb Db Fb (= E) so they would be F# 7 b9, A 7 b9, C 7 b9 or Eb 7 b9. If I choose F#7 b9, hey presto! I can resolve to B maj. or B min., or perhaps even G# min (the relative minor of B). Of course, G# is just a half-step away for G, so I could have just moved chromatically, but that's the way things work when using chords this way: If you go far enough, you end up coming back to where you were from the other direction, if you see what I mean.

A sudden shift of key by moving up a step or a half-step may sound kind of corny. Of course, like anything else, it's how one uses it.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:51 PM

From: Steve Shaw - PM
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM

"As for high-pitched F harps, no problem. Buy a low F. The major makes all do them as far as I know.   Also, I use a low D harp for Irish tunes, never a standard D."

Thanks, I've been meaning to look up to see what's available. I thought lower pitched harmonicas might be available, but I've never gotten around to checking. I'd probably have to special order anything unusual. I haven't had much extra money for instruments in recent years or I surely would have bought a few more harmonicas. It must be about 15 years since I bought the ones I have and I really wish I had some in different keys.

I tend to avoid playing in C and it would be really nice to have a couple more chromatics in different keys.

I'd quite like to try a tremolo harmonica, although I do find diatonic instruments frustrating.

Of the buying of instruments there is no end (or there wouldn't be, if I had my druthers).


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:56 PM

From: Steve Shaw - PM
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 01:42 PM

"Note that he does not recommend the use of a C chrom for everything in this kind of music, laudable to some though that ultimate aim may be."

Why would anyone think this is laudable? I mean this question seriously. If I could, I would instantly buy a chromatic harmonica in every key. I don't find any kind of moral satisfaction the feeling of asphyxiation I get when drawing note after note with never an exhale.

"Take a peek at his website."

I will, thanks, although I don't use instructional material very often these days.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 10 Nov 08 - 02:32 PM

Cor blimey, there are more kinds of harmonica than you can shake a stick at!

I just had a look at the websites of Hohner and Suzuki. The only chromatic I saw without a slide was an orchestral harmonica that seems to be especially for glissandi. I think it's probably too long for a standard rack. I didn't know there were such things as orchestral harmonicas, or the specialty harmonicas for ensembles. Some of them look quite interesting.

It seems that some models of chromatics are only available in C and none of the ones I looked at were available in all twelve keys.

I find all the different models somewhat overwhelming. It seems one could spend a lot of money on harmonicas.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Mina
Date: 06 May 09 - 04:12 AM

hey,

I have some tabs that are based on a 12holes Harmonica, but mine is a 24holes, so how can I play those tabs?!


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 06 May 09 - 12:50 PM

Your 24 hole harmonica may be a tremolo 12 hole harmonica. These play two reeds at the same time. Can you really get 24 different notes?

The double reed tremolo type gives a slightly different sound - one reed is tuned very slightly high and one very slightly low. The result is a sort of 'beating' effect.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 06 May 09 - 07:13 PM

Be aware if trying to adapt tab for a different type of harmonica that the tuning may vary to a greater or lesser extent. Is the tab really for a 12-hole harmonica and not a 10-hole?

Learning to read music or work the tune out by ear is the safest bet in the long run.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Tigger the Tiger
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 08:04 AM

I would say listen to any recordings and watch any videos by Paul Butterfield;this will teach you to speak with your harmonica instead of words.I never heard him do a song twice the same way in his live performances.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,blogward
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 08:36 AM

I teach diatonic harp/tin sandwich/bitch whistle and I find that for total beginners 'Frere Jacques' is a good first position primer and for 2nd position 'Farther Along' has several changes that conform to your average blues lick - work on it with or without bends.

Hate playing crossharp in F, low or high - try 12th position on a 'C'


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: GUEST,blogward
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 08:41 AM

...by 'in F' I mean 'in C on an F', and 12th on a 'G'. Durrr.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 09:16 AM

from my experience of cleaning concertina reeds, i would not use water to clean harmonica reeds, despite what some experts say.i remove rust with very fine sand paper, or a cotton bud with malt vinegar, or phosphoric acid, if you clean reeds with water AND IF IT PRODUCES RUST USE PHOSPORIC ACID TO ON A COTTON BUD TO REMOVE THE RUST.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 01:31 PM

Harmonica reeds are not made of metals that rust, for obvious reasons. Duh. Going to extremes such as using phosphoric acid on harmonica reeds is a ludicrous suggestion. And if you sandpaper the reeds to remove mythical rust deposits you will un-tune them. Look elsewhere for advice is my advice.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 03:15 PM

The reeds are usually made of brass, but steel, aluminium and plastic are occasionally used.
do not use water on steel reeds, aluminium brass and plastic ..ok but not steel, so be careful of Shaws advice, do not use water if your reeds are steel.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 03:18 PM

Example, seydell steel reeded harmonicas


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 03:21 PM

eydel 1847

Yet another new 10-hole diatonic on the market? Yes, but this one is different from the rest in more than just appearance. On every other harmonica currently available, the reeds, the most important part of the instrument, are made from some sort of brass or bronze; the reeds in the 1847 are made from stainless steel. This is not the first time that steel reeds have been tried in a harmonica. Decades ago, the short-lived Hans Eisen company of Trossingen made a diatonic called the "Stahl Klang" (also marketed under the English name "Vibro Steel"), which featured steel reeds made for his company by the famous Dix Company of Gera. A little later, the Hohner Harmonetta also used stainless steel reeds. As these were the same sizes as those used in Hohner chromatics, there are a few custom made Hohner 64s with steel reeds. However, for most of us, the 1847 is the only readily available harmonica with stainless steel reeds. It also just happens to be the best harmonica that Seydel have ever made.

The 1847 (named after the year that Christian August Seydel first started making harmonicas) is a 10-hole diatonic, with a typical "sandwich-style" construction like the Hohner Marine Band. The comb is made from maple, treated with several coats of smooth varnish to help avoid problems of warping and cracking to which wood combs can be prone. The chamber partitions have been contoured to give a slightly rounded shape to the holes which feels very comfortable to the mouth and tongue and the exposed front edges of the reedplates are also quite smooth. As with other Seydel diatonics, the spacing of the reeds is slightly wider than most other brands of 10-hole - not enough to cause problems for most players, but enough to stop you mounting these reedplates on a comb made by another manufacturer! The covers are heavily chromed steel with a no sharp edges and much less engraving than on many other harps - and no hole numbers! They feel very robust and are open wide at the rear, something generally believed to help project the sound of the instrument. The reedplates are plain brass and at 1.01mm thick, are a little thicker than standard. They are attached to the comb with five screws and everything fits together neatly minimising air loss. Not only are the reeds stainless steel, but so are the rivets attaching them to the reedplate, minimising the potential for corrosion. Tolerances between the reeds and the reedplates are very good, giving excellent response and the reed adjustment is very consistent on both the samples I was sent for review. If you use overblows and overdraws extensively, or if you are a extremely hard player, you might wish to adjust the gapping, but for most players that probably won't be necessary. Out of the box with no adjustments, all the bends came quite easily and I was able to get most of the overblows with no problem. The reviews that I have read say that the 1847 is tuned to a compromise temperament, however the two samples that I have are tuned very close to Just Intonation, with the exception of 5 draw and 9 draw, which are tuned closer to Equal Temperament. Again, this is probably going to suit most players, giving nice smooth chords, but avoiding the "flat" sounding 5 draw and 9 draw of the traditional JI tuning. The whole tuning is a little sharper than usual, the root notes being tuned relative to around A=445. The 1847 comes in an unassuming hinged box, complete with a cleaning cloth and is currently produced in all keys from low C up to standard F, with various custom tuning options available.

Those of you expecting it to sound different from a typical harmonica with brass or bronze reeds may be surprised to find that the reed material actually makes little difference to the tone of the instrument. The 1847 has quite a punchy sound, perhaps a little brighter than a Marine Band, but not unpleasantly so. However these differences are probably due more to the thicker reedplates and the close tolerances rather than the steel reeds themselves. The reed response is also not particularly different to any other good harmonica. Hopefully, the big difference will be in the life expectancy of the reeds. It's too early to judge just how long these reeds will last, besides, I tend to make all my reeds last a long time anyway, so I might not be the best judge of this. That said, I've been playing these harps quite hard for several weeks and I have yet to notice any changes in the tuning. I have also read the reports of those that have been playing them for longer than I have and nobody seems to have blown out a reed yet. This brings me to the downside of using stainless steel as the reed material - the cost. The main reason that steel has not been commonly used in harmonicas is that copper alloys such as brass and bronze are considerably easier to machine. Steel, stainless steel in particular, takes a long time to mill and causes a lot of wear and tear on the machinery, all of which means that the final retail price of the product is not going to be a small one. The Seydel 1847 will retail at around £50, about three times the price of most harmonicas in UK stores. Of course, if it lasts four or five times longer, then they will make economical sense in the long run. If they last ten times as long, then they are a bargain. Time will tell...

I should add a few tips for those that work on their own harmonicas. Steel reeds take much more work to retune than ordinary reeds, so be patient when working on them. Ditto for adjusting the gapping. Also, be warned that the cover fasteners on the 1847 are the same as those used on the Hohner MS harps. These have the advantage of being nice and smooth and not likely to snag the lips of those that play with a very deep embouchure. However, the material from which they are made can strip very easily. Although with care a Phillips #1 screwdriver can be (carefully!!) used on them, they are actually a Pozidriv head, so using the correct screwdriver will greatly reduce your chances of ruining them. A few people have expressed disappointment that Seydel chose to make this harmonica with a wood comb. Apparently they wished to combine in this model both tradition (the wood comb) and innovation (the stainless steel reeds). I have no idea whether they plan to make a steel reed harp with an alternative comb material, but in the meantime, it shouldn't be too difficult to fit these reedplates and covers on any Seydel-made metal or plastic comb that uses a sandwich-style construction, but NOT those that have the reedplates recessed into the comb.

So the burning question remains - when can we expect a chromatic harmonica with stainless steel reeds?

Update

Since writing the above, I've heard reports from a few players that have managed to break reeds on the 1847, so these harps are not totally invincible. However, the general feedback so far is that they definitely last longer than brass and bronze reeds. My own 1847s are so far holding up very well with no signs at all of reed fatigue.

Seydel 1847 Silver

When the 1847 hit the market, quite a few players were disappointed that it had a wood comb. If you were one of those players, then you should perhaps check out the 1847 Silver. This has the same stainless steel reeds and stainless steel covers as the standard 1847, but has a white polymer comb. Also, rather than the plain brass reedplates of the standard 1847, the 1847 Silver has reedplates of German silver, making the whole harmonica extremely resistant to corrosion. In fact, Seydel claim that this harmonica is dishwasher safe. I don't have a dishwasher, but over the past few weeks I've been regularly playing the 1847 Silver in the bath and shower and I have yet to see any signs of corrosion. If you are planning a trek through India during monsoon season, then this is definitely the harp to take with you, although I'm sure it's equally at home busking on a street corner on a rainy afternoon in London, or whilst grabbing some relaxed practice time in a hot tub in California!

Seydel 1847 Silver+

It seems like hardly a month goes by without a new Seydel harmonica hitting the market! This time it's another variation on their 1847 diatonic with stainless steel reeds. Like the 1847 Silver, this harp has a white plastic comb, but where the Silver uses a sandwich-style construction, the reedplates of the Silver+ are fully recessed into the comb. Combined with the nicely rounded covers, this make the Silver+ very comfortable in both the hands and the mouth. As well as the reeds, the rivets and the covers are also made of stainless steel and the reedplates are made of a corrosion-resistant alloy, making this another "dishwasher safe" harp. Tuning and other specs appear to be the same as the other 1847 models. The retail price is €74.99, the same as the 1947 Classic and 1847 Silver. It comes with a nice leather slip case and is available in all keys from Low C up to standard F. Customised tunings for all of the 1847 series can be ordered from the Seydel website via their Harp Configurator:

Seydel Harp Configurator

Seydel 1847 Noble

The 1847 Noble features the same stainless steel reeds as the other members of the 1847 family, with a traditional sandwich style construction much like the original 1847. The key differences include attractive matte finished stainless steel covers with side vents and a black anodised aluminium comb. The corners and edges are all comfortably finished off, the aluminium comb gives the instrument a pleasant heft and the overall construction is nicely airtight. A particularly nice touch is the key label - a tactile oval bump on the right end of the harmonica which will significantly reduce the chances of embarrassment due to picking up the harp the wrong way around! The response of the sample I have (in the key of A) is very even across the full range, bends are easy to control and the overblows all kick in quite nicely. The overdraws would definitely benefit from a little tweaking, but out of the box, I think the reed adjustment would work well for wide range of playing styles. The tuning is Just Intonation, except for the 5 and 9 draw which are tuned sharper than would be the case with the traditional JI tuning. The blow chord is rooted relative to A=443Hz, with the draw notes somewhat higher. All the octaves are perfectly in tune and the harp has a lovely crisp tone. The Noble comes packaged in a nice hinged case, is available in all keys from Low C to High F and has a RRP of €95.95.

I think this now brings the number of variations of the 1847 up to five - 1847 Classic, Silver, Silver+, Noble and the Limited Edition 160th Anniversary model, giving you the choice of covers with or without side vents, shiny or matte finish, reedplates recessed into a plastic comb, or sandwich-style construction with wood, plastic or metal comb. Add to that the Seydel Big Six, which is essentially a six hole 1847 Classic, throw in the various keys and alternate tunings and there's got to be something for almost everyone in this range.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 07:37 PM

The preceding post appears to have been copied/pasted (plagiarized?) from Seygel 1847 ????

Some caution should be applied to the assumption that using "stainless steel" makes corrosion impossible, since in combinations with dissimilar metals cathodic effects can render any metal subject to (sometimes severe) corrosion. Common CRES steels in contact with brass in some cases are a combination that can undergo fairly rapid crudification (sorry about the technical term), although the experience cited in the article gives some confidence that it's probably not a problem in this case.

A difficulty with using "stainless steel" in small parts is that machining the details may remove the "passivated surface" that's actually what makes the "stainless" stainless. For good protection, re-passivating after machining is needed, which can result in dimensional changes that might be significant for parts as small as harmonica reeds. The dimensional warps can be accomodated, but it does add a bit more to production costs - if properly done.

The link, incidentally, does have some nice pictures of the various models discussed, and might be of interest to anyone interested.

John


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 21 Oct 11 - 08:58 PM

Oh dear. Dick says that reeds can be made of all those various things, and he is often wrong, as ever (I've never come across aluminium reeds, and as for plastic ones...be serious, Dick!) He utterly fails to mention that, after brass (which does not rust), the next most common harmonica reed material is phosphor-bronze (which does not rust). Certainly, there have been some experiments with stainless steel (which does not rust). Contrary to what Dick says, harmonica reeds are never, ever made of "steel." Which does rust, of course, which is why "steel" is not used. Stainless steel is a whole nother thang, Dick. I might suggest that, in discussing this matter, we keep our feet on the ground and address things in a real-world, practical manner. Listening to Dick, you'd think he'd never actually seen a harmonica (I won't be unkind enough at this juncture to suggest that his playing, as we know it, suggests a very limited transaction therewith).


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 06:39 AM

Steve , you really are unpleasant.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 07:01 AM

for the record,I have taught an all ireland harmonica champion he won it twice,played harmonica on other peoples recordings including Richard Grainger , Jeff Dennison, and got to the all ireland harmonica finals. and before yu make snidie remarks about what competition was I up against, the munster final contained 7 harmonica players.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 03:54 PM

I may be very unpleasant, but at least I'm accurate and don't issue bad advice. And I don't do competitions so I couldn't possibly comment on that stuff.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 04:49 PM

you certainly are[ to quote your own words] very unpleasant, I am not sure what you are accurate about, certainly your description of all folk singers being depressing was not accurate, your harmonica playing is accurate, but music is not just about accuracy.
I bet you were a teacher either a maths or science teacher.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Tootler
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 05:38 PM

Dick and Steve, Forget it both of you.

The Seydel 1847 is not the only the only model they do with stainless steel reeds. Their session harmonicas are also available with stainless steel reeds. They are available in all 12 keys plus C, Db, D, Eb E & F are available in low pitch. (The F# is actually described as low F#)

You can also get the C, A, D and G in Paddy Richter tuning. They have a bright orange plastic comb.

Just checked their website and they also do some of them in half valved form as well.

I have a Paddy Richter tuned G and a low D and very good they are too. Much better than Hohner or Lee Oskars IMHO. I tend to blow a little "wet" and I find that the Hohner special 20s are prone to clog with condensation where the Seydels don't.

More info here


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 05:51 PM

Well, Tootler, it's never a great idea to let shite advice go unchallenged. Thanks for the bollocking. And for the Seydel advice. I've heard mixed reports of them, but have never owned one. Hohner SP20s are pretty good, you know. They never clog when I'm playing them unless I'm stupid enough to play just after a mouthful of chips.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Tootler
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 06:25 PM

Steve, I agree the SP20s are pretty good. Good tone and I like mine. I think the problem with clogging is me. I get the same problem with recorders (though many others also do) the windway gets clogged with condensation. It's just I think there is more moisture than average in my breath and I suspect that I get a drop of condensation on a reed and it clogs - usually a good firm 'tap' on my knee deals with it, but it is a nuisance. I do occasionally get a hair from my beard stuck in a reed which is more of a nuisance as I then have to open the harmonica up. Not a problem, just a pain.


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Subject: RE: Any help for a new harmonica player?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 08:35 PM

Everyone's breath has the same amount of moisture (it's saturated). You are getting a build-up of saliva in your harmonica. It isn't really just condensation, which, in theory, should be at approximately the same level for everyone. Condensation can be a troublesome issue for chromatic or valved-diatonic players, especially if they haven't warmed their harp first. As my SP20s don't clog and yours do, then it simply has to be that you are producing too much saliva. Make sure you are not consuming saliva-producing food or drink during your playing (Coca Cola and orange juice are massive culprits), and tap out your harp after every set. You can wash out your SP20s under a lukewarm tap, and shake them dry, after every session. I promise they won't rust. It definitely helps if you start with clean harps at the start of every session. It's only advice. Caveat advisee.


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