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Harmonica advice wanted please!

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andy 24 Mar 98 - 03:12 PM
Scrump 10 May 06 - 04:22 AM
pavane 10 May 06 - 04:34 AM
Ernest 10 May 06 - 04:42 AM
pavane 10 May 06 - 04:56 AM
GUEST,Dr Price 10 May 06 - 06:00 AM
Scrump 10 May 06 - 06:20 AM
Wilfried Schaum 10 May 06 - 07:31 AM
John MacKenzie 10 May 06 - 08:23 AM
GUEST,Vixen@work 10 May 06 - 08:38 AM
Beer 10 May 06 - 08:51 AM
GUEST,thurg 10 May 06 - 10:06 AM
Les from Hull 10 May 06 - 10:13 AM
The Fooles Troupe 10 May 06 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,Jim 10 May 06 - 10:32 AM
Tootler 10 May 06 - 10:37 AM
Bloke in the Corner 10 May 06 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,thurg 11 May 06 - 01:02 AM
pavane 11 May 06 - 02:18 AM
Splott Man 11 May 06 - 03:56 AM
Scrump 11 May 06 - 04:21 AM
Wilfried Schaum 16 May 06 - 07:16 AM
Ernest 16 May 06 - 08:16 AM
Scrump 18 May 06 - 08:34 AM
The Fooles Troupe 18 May 06 - 11:53 PM
Splott Man 19 May 06 - 03:40 AM
Ernest 19 May 06 - 03:59 AM
Scrump 19 May 06 - 05:41 AM
Brian May 03 Aug 11 - 01:24 PM
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Subject: need more tips for harmonica
From: andy
Date: 24 Mar 98 - 03:12 PM

give me more tips on harmonica


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Subject: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Scrump
Date: 10 May 06 - 04:22 AM

Hi - I did a search through the db but couldn't find an answer to this, so I'm hoping someone out there will be able to advise.

Years ago I used to play harmonica (using a neck harness, while playing guitar - a la Woody Guthrie, Dylan, etc.) and I used to use Hohner Echo Super Vamper 10-hole harmonicas. I need to replace the old ones I have, but I don't think these are made anymore, and wondered what the best alternative is. Hohner seem to sell a couple of different models that look similar - the Marine Band and the Blues Harp. Does anyone know which of these would be nearest in sound to the Echo SV? These retail at around £20 apiece in the UK and I'd like to know before buying any. Or is there something nearer to the sound of the Echo SV that I've overlooked?

I don't have easy access to a music shop, and anyway I guess they wouldn't be happy at people trying these instruments out before buying (?). I bought a cheap harmonica on ebay but I'm disappointed with it - it sounds muffled as if it's being played through a sock!
Any advice would be welcome. I guess you get what you pay for, unless anyone knows of a cheaper alternative to Hohner?

Any advice welcome - thanks in advance.

Cheers

Scrump


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: pavane
Date: 10 May 06 - 04:34 AM

I think the Blues Harp is almost identical, and I have never noticed any difference between that and the Marine Band myself.

The main difference seems to be that nowadays they are all made from plastic, not wood. This does have advantages, but also disadvantages. Soaking the wooden ones used to improve the sound, I suppose because the wood swelling up made the seal tighter. Doesn't work with plastic!

Also, the key is printed on the side, not embossed in the metal, and soon rubs off!

When I started buying them, they cost 10/6d.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Ernest
Date: 10 May 06 - 04:42 AM

Hi Scrump,
I don`t know the Hohner Echo Super Vamper model you are talking about (a double reed model like the other echo-models I presume?) so I can`t give you precisely the advice you asked for.

Nevertheless, Hohner makes some cheaper models. I have seen many musicians use their "Big River Harp" (personally I would prefer a Marine Band or Blues Harp). They also produce the "Old Standby" and other similar models, which are ok. All have plastic combs instead of wooden ones, by the way.

Other well-known brands would be "Lee Oscar" or "Hering" - you could google a little to find if they make something you like. Harmonica player`s/dealers websites also often have information.

As for really cheap harmonicas I am quite happy with one called "Victory", which is basically a chinese copy of the Hohner "Marine Band" with plastic comb, but without the holes at the side of the coverplates. Plays and sounds better than all other cheapos I got.

By the way, music shops usually have a sort of bellows through which customers can "test" harmonicas - just ask them.


Happy harping!
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: pavane
Date: 10 May 06 - 04:56 AM

I recall the Super Vamper was single reed. Blues Harp is the closest


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: GUEST,Dr Price
Date: 10 May 06 - 06:00 AM

If you want to find a "how to play the harmonica" workshop, Aidan Sheehan does some very impressive and incisive sessions, which are held in The Old School, just off Swan Street, Llantrisant, Wales.

Aidan, who holds a BA (Hons), is a harmonica tutor, a National Harmonica League Accredited Tutor, a music facilitator and a Gwent Music Support Services tutor. He is in the Musicians Union, and he plays with Martin Blake (a serial muso whom we know and love) as Whiskey River.

I signed up for his six-week course, which costs £50. His Irish father used to play harmonica in a band, and Aidan takes you through the whole history of the harmonica before showing you players' techniques. His requirements are that all learners must have a 10-hole harmonica in C, but he is also an instrument retailer and his stock includes cheap 'C' harmonicas for only a few pounds.

His address is 72 Trostrey, Cwmbran, Torfaen, NP44 7JE and his phone number is (07812) 143226, email is Batrouge@aol.com and website is www.whiskeyriver.motagator.co.uk - if you contact him, Scrump, I'm sure that Aidan can give you the best advice.

Incidentally, one story that Aidan didn't know about comes from the Roberts family, the Welsh travellers who held the impressive title "Harpers to Queen Victoria." They would play the Welsh triple-harp at concerts for the gentry, and on those days when they hadn't got a gig, they relaxed - by getting out the harmonicas!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Scrump
Date: 10 May 06 - 06:20 AM

Thanks for the advice. As I said, it's not easy for me to get to a music shop so I was hoping to buy online, which precludes me hearing them in advance. From what I've been told so far, I still don't know whether to go for the Blues Harp or the Marine Band. Is there a significant difference in the sound of these two? I assume there is or why would Hohner market both models, which seem to sell at around the same price from what I've seen.

Cheers

Scrump


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 10 May 06 - 07:31 AM

Hohner hompage, English
cklick: instruments > harmonicas > tremolo. Here you find the Echo Harp Line and the Echo Line which I should prefer over the Blues Harp.

Your dealer in the US:
HOHNER, INC.
P.O. BOX 15035

USA- RICHMOND, VA. 23227

phone: 804-515 1900
fax: 804-515 0347
e-mail: BGREEN@HOHNERUSA.COM


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 10 May 06 - 08:23 AM

I use an Echo Pro Harp, and find it a perfectly acceptable replacement for the old type of Hohner that I too used to pay about 10/6d in days long gone by. I also bought a Hohner Special 20 Marine Band in the US last year which also works well in a harness.
Giok


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: GUEST,Vixen@work
Date: 10 May 06 - 08:38 AM

email the folks at hohner...they're very responsive to questions like these!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Beer
Date: 10 May 06 - 08:51 AM

I have 4 harps and what information I can give you is as follows:

1)Marine Band (Horner)
Made in Germany
Most expensive (Can't remember cost)
Rated (Excellent)

2)Bluesband (Horner International)
Made in Chine
Not as expensive as No. #1
Rated ( Very satisfied)

3)Free Blues (Hering)
Made in Brazil
About the same cost as No.#2
Rated ( Didn't last as long, but good drawing on it.)

4)Delta Blues
Made in China
Cheapest ( $7.95 Canadian)
Rated Not tight enough on the draw for blues. Made well.

Except Number #1, All are made of plastic body.
Hope this helps.
Beer from Canada


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 10 May 06 - 10:06 AM

The Special 20 seems to be the most popular Hohner diatonic among serious players these days. For a long time the Marine Band was widely favoured, but apparently the workmanship was of a much higher quality in the early days - pre-1970's (or so).


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Les from Hull
Date: 10 May 06 - 10:13 AM

I've still got one or two old Super Vampers (in rarely-played keys) but they're mostly blown out. The Super 20/Blues Harp/Marine Band types never seemed as good for some reason.

The nearest replacements I've found are 'Lee Oskars', made in Japan by Tombo (a bit more expensive) and a cheaper alternative made in China by 'Huang' - I'm not really sure if these are still available.

The absolute best are Suzuki Pro Master MR350 (valved), quite an expense if you need a number of keys, but wonderful to play. They have little plastic valves inside to facilitate bending blow notes.

The type to choose will always depend on personal taste and playing style, as well as how much money you have available. One last tip - if you want a gobiron in the key of F you can go for the squeeky one, or get a Low F (an octave below) which sounds wonderful.

Les


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 May 06 - 10:18 AM

Not an expert on this, but originally was the Marine Band built to be played normal, and the Blues Harp built to be played cross? This would mean that the Blues Harp was intended to be played with more 'draw down' notes than the Marine Band? Suggesting that the reeds were constructed slightly differently?


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 10 May 06 - 10:32 AM

I live in Canada, but I lived in England for a year in '68-'69 and when my "A" Marine Band gave out I went to a music store to buy a new one. They had never heard of Marine Bands, but the Echo Vamper was exactly like the Marine band except for the front cover plate which said Echo Vamper instead of Marine Band. I still have that 38 year old harp, though I seldom play it. I prefer plastic combs now.
pavane mentioned that they all have plastic combs now, but I think the Marine Band and Blues Harp still have wood. I remember soaking the wood harps after reading an artical in Sing Out! by Tony Glover. The wood swelled up and I had to shave it off with a dry-wall knife. I think the soaking was not designed to affect the comb. but rather to make the reeds bend more easily.
In those days harps were about 3 or 4 bucks and it was no big deal if you had to buy a new one.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Tootler
Date: 10 May 06 - 10:37 AM

You don't say where you are based, but try harmonicas direct. They should have everything you want.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Bloke in the Corner
Date: 10 May 06 - 03:07 PM

Only one, only one - the Lee Oskar range. About £20 on Ebay, any key (Low F IS really nice) and tuned to about 442, so they really sound bright and punch through at sessions. Better, clearer than Hohner, and last longer. I used to play super vampers, marine bands etc. but the Lee Oskar knocks them all out. I'll never play a wooden combed harp again! Great for vamping or blues. Also, you can buy replacement reed plates for about £12, which are easy to fit and gives you effectively a new harmonica for almost half price.
The only sad bit is--- they don't make a chromatic. But if they did, ti would be a belter!


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 11 May 06 - 01:02 AM

It's been awhile since I've played a Blues Harp, but it seems to me that back when I used to play both Blues Harps and Marine Bands regularly I didn't find much difference between them - I think the Blues Harp name was more of a marketing gimmick than a reflection of any unique properties of the instrument. Proviso: I'm not an expert either, but I'm willing to run off my mouth till one comes along.

BTW, I'm not so crazy about the Lee Oskars myself ... One of those "matters of taste" things ...


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: pavane
Date: 11 May 06 - 02:18 AM

I remember there could be as much variation between individual Super Vampers as between vampers and blues harps. Some were much better than others.

Yes, the wood did swell up when you soaked, then after you sanded it down, it could shrink back too far! Sometimes bits broke off the comb, too. I still think it must have been the seal that made the difference, because I can't believe that water would affect the metal reeds, and it doesn't seem to make a difference with the plastic ones.

After soaking, you seemed to need less breath to produce the sound, especially when bending.

Perhaps I will try a Lee Oskar next time I buy one.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Splott Man
Date: 11 May 06 - 03:56 AM

The thing with Oskars and Suzukis is that you can replace the reed plates when they are blown out. My first Suzuki blew out in a few months, but a replacement set of plates was the same price as a new Hohner. I ordered them by phone at 4pm, and they were on my door mat at 8.30am the next day. That's service!

Incidentally, I've got an old Super Vamper, it's a 12 hole, with red wood. It's still in tune after 30 years.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Scrump
Date: 11 May 06 - 04:21 AM

Thanks for all the responses - plenty of advice, but I don't think I'm any nearer to making a decision! I guess I'll get one (not sure which just yet, I'll have another read of the comments before deciding) to try. I agree that Super Vampers could vary - I think the C ones used to be worse than say D or G, but I put that down to the key rather than the individual harps, because C ones never sounded as good, to my ears.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 16 May 06 - 07:16 AM

I own some Hohner Pro Harps and Blues Harps in different tunings.
The visible difference between them is: casings of the Blues Harps are metal and wood, of the Pro Harps plastic. They sound all the same to me.
Their grid has only 10 holes, so you have only one complete octava! You can play Dixie in the full ocatva (low, sounding quite well), but for the Yankee Doodle you have to change to the upper (incomplete) octava, and it sounds shriller than the fifes.
Below the complete octava you can play two harmonies, the tonica and the dominant.

The notes for C (exhaling/imhaling):
C/D - E/G - G/B - C/D - E/F - G/A - C/B - E/D - G/F - C/A.
[Transpone for the other tunings.]

If you want to play tunes and not harmonies only, you should choose an instrument with at least 12 holes, where you can have a range of 3 octavas. And buy a bigger one, it is louder!

I bought the rather small Harps because I could stow them well in my BDU, but then I preferred a sopranino recorder - more chances to play a tune without jumping the octavas, and the buddies liked it more around the camp fire just before taps.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Ernest
Date: 16 May 06 - 08:16 AM

Hohner has changed the Blues harps a while ago - you can exchange the set of reeds now. In fact you can do this with every Hohner model that is labeled "MS"=modular system.

They did this to with the Marine Band, but apparently it was no success - they went back to the old model but recently improved it again. Since I don`t have one of the new ones, I can`t tell you the difference.

Otherwise the Marine Bands sound was slightly "thinner" in my ear compared to the Blues Harp (only slightly!), probably due to the different design of the cover plates.

Best
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Scrump
Date: 18 May 06 - 08:34 AM

Just following up this thread in case anyone's interested, I got a Hohner Marine Band the other day, and comparing its physical appearance with the Echo Super Vamper, it looks almost identical, apart from the name stamped onto the chrome-plated top, of course. I haven't looked inside to see if the reeds look different.

The sound is near enough the same as far as I can tell, although I can't make an exact comparison, because the new one I got is in a different key from the old ones I still have.

Anyway, the Marine Band looks pretty much a replacement for the ESV so I guess my question's been answered. Thanks to all who chipped in with their five pence (or cents!) worth.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 May 06 - 11:53 PM

That's OK Scrump.

If you want to know any more, just ask Our Monica.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Splott Man
Date: 19 May 06 - 03:40 AM

It used to be that Marine Bands were held together with pins, while other types used nuts and bolts. I don't know about the latest versions.


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Ernest
Date: 19 May 06 - 03:59 AM

I think Hohner produces the Marine band hold together with pins as well as a improved version with screws now. Which one have you got, Scrump?


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Scrump
Date: 19 May 06 - 05:41 AM

Mine has the screws, as did the old ESVs (my surviving ones date from the late 60s or and early 70s, they all have the screws). I didn't know about the pin versions, so I guess I was lucky to get the screw one. Is there a different model no. or something, to tell the pin and screw versions apart, sight unseen? I bought this one online so I didn't know in advance.

Btw, is there a website that has maintenance tips for harmonicas, advice on cleaning, replacing reeds, etc.?

Cheers

Scrump


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Subject: RE: Harmonica advice wanted please!
From: Brian May
Date: 03 Aug 11 - 01:24 PM

I once opened for the Spinners (UK folk group) at a concert in the early 70s. I saw that their harmonicas were each sitting in a pint glass of warm water . . .

Of course I asked why . . . they explained and I tried it. To say it harms the harmonicas isn't altogether true as I too have some Hohner Blues harps 'left over' from that period.

Just try it, use your most 'muffled' harmonica, swish it about a bit then let it soak for 5 minutes or so then gently shake out the water. The sound improvement is stunning.

I've been doing it for the last 40 odd years and haven't had one fall apart yet - I'd pay the price anyway as it really does the job.

Let me know how you get on.


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