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How to fix a harmonica

How To Fix Your InstrumentHow to fix a harmonica

The more you continue to play your harmonica the more likely it is that something will break. The sound may sound off, the air chambers could be clogged, or a slot could stop making sound altogether. Repairing a harmonica can be very difficult, unless you know what you are doing. There are many things that can go wrong when playing that may require more advanced help. However, there are common troubleshooting issues that every harmonica player should know how to resolve.

Identify the Type of Harmonica

How to fix a harmonica

There are many different types of harmonicas that provide different tones and sounds for each musician’s needs. While the ways to fix a harmonica are generally the same, there may be slight differences since harmonicas can be built differently to provide different sounds. The first step to fixing any issue with a harmonica is to identify what type of harmonica you have.

The most common harmonica is a diatonic harmonica. This typically a standard 10 hole, tuned to the key of C. It is great for beginners, but versatile enough for professionals as well. It offers a very classic harmonica sound and is typically found played in blues, folk, and even pop music.

Chromatic harmonicas are also a popular option. These have a button-activated lever on the side that directs air into two reed plates. When pressed, the chromatic harmonica has the ability to play all scales or modes. Chromatic harmonicas also include much sturdier reeds making them harder to damage than their diatonic counterpart.

The tremolo is another common but unique harmonica option. Tremolos have two sets of reeds and double holes. Sometimes nicknames the “echo” harmonicas; tremolos give off a distinct warbling sound as if it were echoing. These harmonicas are not as common, but are typically used for special effects.

If you are unsure what type of harmonica you have, you can check how many holes it has, or if there is a button on the side. You can also check the box it came in, as that will have labeled on there what type it may be, or you can perform a simple Google search to find the type of harmonica you may have.

Common Troubleshooting Issues

Once you have identified the type of harmonica you have, you will know how to best fix it. While there are many things that can break or damage on a harmonica, there are some issues that require basic repair that every harmonica player must know.

Note Block

One of the most common issues harmonica players run into is a note block. This happens when a note you try and play doesn’t make any sound at all. This is usually due to something caught in the reed, preventing it from vibrating to make sound. Most of the time, this is due to excess moisture from playing.

To fix this, tap the mouthpiece on your hand to try and shake out anything that may be caught, then quickly breath in and out over the blocked hole. This will usually solve the issue and remove any moisture from the reed. If this doesn’t work, try taking a toothpick and gently try to dislodge anything that may be caught in the reed. Lastly, if this still does not work, take the harmonica apart to see what may be blocking the note. Often times, it is s small hair that is blocking the reed.

Reed Tip & Reed Plate Gap

Another issue many harmonica musicians face is when the note will only work with light breath pressure. This problem usually happens when performing blow notes, and is usually an issue with the gap between the tip of the reed and the reed plate. There are a few options to try widening the gap. First, remove cover plates to expose the reeds.

Take a toothpick and gently press on the middle of the reed, and slide it away from the reed plate to increase the gap. Test it out by putting the covers back on, hold off on putting the screws back in, and blow hard on the hole. If the issue is not resolved at this, repeat the process until the gap is wide enough to resolve the issue.

Out of Tune

There may be times when you are playing the harmonica and you notice a note sounds bad. First make sure that the note is in tune. You can do this by using a tuner or by gauging it with your ear. If the note is in tune, the issue may be a slightly cracked reed. If upon taking it apart you discover it is not cracked, you may be able to tune your harmonica back into the appropriate key.

Harmonicas will typically only last up to a year if played regularly, so it is inevitable for a cracked reed to happen at some point in your harmonica’s lifecycle. Unfortunately, once a reed is cracked your harmonica is broken and it is time to get a new one. It is possible to fix a cracked reed, but requires someone skilled in harmonica repair and typically exceeds the cost of just buying a new harmonica.

Safety Precaution When Repairing a Harmonica

How to fix a harmonica

When resolving issues with a harmonica, it may require small sharp tools to take it apart, resolve the issue, and put it back together. It is important to handle these tools with care, as they can be harmful if not handled correctly. Use these tools with care and caution and learn how to make repairs to your harmonica before you attempt to do it yourself. This will avoid potential injury and damage to your instrument. Keep out of reach of children and pets at all times. The tools required to repair a harmonica are small and are considered a choking hazard. As always, exercise caution.

Final Remarks

If any of this language was confusing, here is a guide to understand exactly what was talked about.

In conclusion, there are many ways that you can fix your harmonica yourself. Most issues such as a blocked note or small gap are easy to fix and require very little invasive repairs to your instrument. Remember that it is important to handle your harmonica with care and clean it after you finish playing it to help avoid any future damages and keep your instrument in great shape.

There are, however, many issues that you may be unable to fix such as a cracked reed. Harmonicas are not built to last forever, and damages are bound to happen to any instrument that you play regularly. Thankfully, there are many skilled technicians that are able to help with these repairs, or you have the option of buying a new one completely. Ultimately, it is important to know how to resolve basic troubleshooting on your harmonica to continue playing efficiently.

Tips From Easiest to Hardest

How to fix a harmonica

What to do when a note won’t play: from easiest to hardest.

We’ve all been there, sadly sometimes during a performance! We try to play a note and NO SOUND comes out!

Through trial and error, I have developed a bunch of methods to fix the situation. I will lay them out from easiest to hardest.

1. Turn It Around

I mean turn your harmonica right side up!

Every hole on every harmonica requires a slightly different embouchure (how you hold your mouth) to sound nice. There is perhaps no greater difference than low notes and high notes. Play a G harp, the lowest standard harp, and then play an F# harp, the highest. They require such different approaches.

If you are trying to play hole 2 draw but have your harp upside down you will actually be playing hole 9 draw BUT with the embouchure required on hole 2 draw. The chances are high that zero sound will be produced.

Look at your harp. Is it right side up? If not, turn it!

Well, that was easy.

2. Hyperventilate

Open your mouth wide so that your lips have a width of three holes. Place the problem hole in the center. For example, if you are having trouble with hole 4, open your mouth to play holes 3, 4 and 5.

No matter if your problem note is a blow or draw note, draw and blow repeatedly as fast as you can.
This operates under the likely problem that there is something restricting the reed from vibrating and the reed is stuck. This could be a piece of fuzz, paper, a hair, etc.

If your violent blowing and drawing pops the reed free, you have another easy method of fixing the harp!

3. Get Wet

Go to a sink. Turn on the cold water. Turn your harp so that the holes are facing upwards. Zip the harp through the water. This should be a fast motion.

What makes this a little tougher is that it will not fix the problem right away and it will likely cause temporarily MORE problems. Suddenly, MANY water-logged holes will not play.

Hit the harp on your hands or thighs on both sides of the comb. Play the harp until, one by one, all the holes return, hopefully including the original troublemaker.

4. Release the Restriction

Get two eyeglass screwdrivers, a flathead for if the problem reed is a blow or draw reed and a Phillips head ONLY if it is a blow reed.

Take off the cover plates. The blow reeds are on the top of the comb and are within the reed plate. The draw reeds are on the bottom of the comb and are outside of the reed plate.

If the problem is with a draw reed, this SHOULD be super easy! Look at the problem reed. Hopefully, see the piece of fuzz restricting the reed. Pull away the fuzz. The reed should play again.

If it is a blow reed and you can see the fuzz, keep the reed plate on the comb and push the reed inside with the flathead screwdriver. Blow onto the problem reed, hopefully freeing the fuzz.

If you cannot see the fuzz or it does not blow off, you need to use the Phillips head screwdriver to take the blow reed plate off of the comb. Watch what you are doing closely, perhaps taking pictures so you can return it to its proper place.

Turn the reed plate over and look at the problem reed. If you CAN see the fuzz, pull it away.

As you can see, it is getting tougher.

5. Plink Away

If you do not see anything restricting the reed, you should next try plinking the reed.

If your problem reed is a draw reed, you can keep the reed plate on the comb. If it is a blow reed, take the blow reed plate off the comb.

Place your fingernail under the tip of the reed and pull up on the reed until your fingernail is pulled out of the reed.

Listen to the reed. Did it make a musical plinking note? If yes, you have solved the problem. If no, I recommend plinking up to 40 times before giving up.

6. Frankenstein It

Go to your harmonica graveyard in the closet. Find your old broken harp of the same model and key.

If your problem reed is a blow reed, play all the blow reeds on your old harp. If a draw reed, play all the draw reeds.

Are all the reeds playing well on your old harp? Take the bad reed plate off your current harp and the good reed plate off your old harp. Place the good old plate on your current harp.

7. Wrench It

Take the reed plate off of the comb. Place the plate up to a light. On a good reed, three sides of the reed should be surrounded by light. If only two sides of your bad reed are surrounded by light, your reed is not properly centered.

Get a reed wrench from a harmonica mechanic’s tool kit and place it around the square surrounding the rivet attaching the reed to the reed plate.

How to fix a harmonica

Just about everyone that I’ve talked to really enjoyed Ken Hall’s article on “Hard-Core Harmonica.” However, once you take Ken’s advice and really start to wail, sooner or later you’ll “blow out” your first harp, one hole won’t work anymore on either blow or draw, or a note will go flat. This, of course, is part of the dues you pay for soulful playing, but — when it happens — don’t throw the broken harmonica away, recondition and recycle it instead!

Jim McLaughlin, a good friend of mine, recently showed me just how to fix a harmonic. It seems that Jim picked up his technique from Chamber Hwang (who happens to be head of research for the M. Hohner Company) and — as you’d expect — Hwang’s harmonic repair methods really work.

McLaughlin claims that 9 times out of ten a “broken” reed is actually just full of grunge (it can happen no matter how careful you’ve been), or simply in need of being bent further out from the reed plate (if it’s a blow note) or further in (in the case of a draw note). And, even if your harp has actually gone out of tune, you can fix it if your ear is good enough to tell you when it’s right again.

Here are Jim’s harmonica repair techniques:

  1. First, remove the appropriate cover plate (the top if you need to fix a blow note, or the bottom if a draw note is out of kilter) from your harmonic. Some harp covers are held in place with small screws. If this is the case with your instrument, just remove the fasteners and lift the plate free. Covers (like the Marine Band’s) that are secured with nails can sometimes be pulled off by hand but will usually have to be pried free (don’t bend the cover!) with a knife blade or small screwdriver.
  2. Once the “lid” is removed, check the “bad” reed for gunk or corrosion. You can clean these deposits from the inside of your harp with a toothpick or small screwdriver, but be careful not to scratch the reeds. While you’re at it, you might notice — if you hold your instrument up to the light — small scratches on the reeds that look like they were put there on purpose. If so, don’t worry about them, because the factory tunes notes that are sharp by making a light scratch across the reed (near the point where It is connected to the reed plate). This “modification” makes the thin metal vibrate more slowly. To raise a flat note, on the other hand, the Hohner folks file just a very little material off of the end of the reed.

If you try this trick, be sure to shove a piece of index card — or some other stiff paper — under the end of the reed to raise it up and to protect other parts that don’t need filing (Jim suggests that you use a knife file for this delicate work)!

Sometimes a reed can be bent too close to the reed plate, and this can cause the note to hesitate or not come at all. To correct the problem, just bend the reed lightly away from the plate If it’s a blow note, or a bit in if it’s a draw note. The harp will still play with the cover off, so you can try it out if you’re careful not to get your lips or mustache in the way of the reeds.

  1. To put the cover back on, just replace the nails or screws that you removed. Jim warns that the nails will sometimes become too loose to keep the piece in place. When this happens, he uses tape to hold his harp together (Other alternatives would be small screws, thumbtacks, rubber bands, or small metal stove bolts).

Of course, it’s possible that a reed in your harmonica is actually broken. If so, hang on to the instrument anyway. The reed can be replaced, or you can save the good reeds to “fix” broken ones in another harp. The reeds can be easily pried from the rivet that holds them, and replacements are just slipped over the rivet and tapped gently in place with a hammer.

Right now (August, 1978), I’m getting together a list of upcoming national folk music and bluegrass festivals to run in the March/April issue. It promises to be a goodie, so stay tuned, folks.

Harmonicas can go out of tune with playing, and even new harps straight from the factory aren’t always in good tune. But you don’t have to accept what you get — you can correct out-of-tune notes.

Harmonica tuning follows straightforward procedures, but it has some ins and outs that you need to know.

Always tune reeds after you’ve done any other reed work, such as embossing the slots, aligning the reeds in their slots, and setting the curvature and offset of the reeds. Any of these other actions can change a reed’s pitch.

The first two things you need to know about tuning are:

To lower pitch, you can either remove a small amount of metal from the surface of the reed at its base or add material, such as solder or heavy putty, to the surface of the reed near its tip.

To raise pitch, you remove a small amount of metal from the surface of the reed at its tip.

You’ll find that the easiest way to tune a reed is to have direct access to the reeds you want to tune. Diatonic harmonica reeds are mounted on one side of the reedplate, and that’s the side you want facing you.

When you remove the covers from a harmonica, the draw reeds are facing you. However, the blow reeds are inside the comb; to expose them you need to unbolt the reedplates from the comb. You can tune the blow reeds on the comb, but it’s much easier with the reedplates removed. Plus, this way you’re less likely to damage the reeds or push them out of alignment.

To tune a reed, follow these steps:

Support the reed by placing a shim between the reed and the reedplate.

Metal, thin plastic, or even a piece of stiff paper will work. Just remember to support the reed and not to pry the base of the reed up from the reedplate by using a shim that’s too thick.

Remove metal from the reed by stroking it with a sanding detailer that has a medium-to-fine grit sanding belt.

The grit number may not be marked on the belt, but you can feel the relative fineness or coarseness of the grit with your finger.

Sand in a small area along the length of the reed.

Don’t sand across the reed because doing so may create burrs that strike against the slot edge — and any marks across the reed can weaken it. Also, don’t press hard when sanding because pressure can change both the curvature and the offset of the reed.

When sanding the tip of the reed, the safest procedure is to sand outward toward the tip. (If you sand inward, you may snag the reed and fold it in half.) However, be careful to check for burrs. When you sand near the base of the reed, you can safely sand inward.

Every few strokes, test the tuning by removing the shim, plinking the reed, and then assembling the harp and playing the note.

How to fix a harmonica

Warm reeds vibrate at a lower pitch than cold reeds. Your breath warms reeds up, so it’s a good idea to tune warm reeds. Keep reedplates in an electric heating pad for a short time before tuning and keep them warm while you work.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Winslow Yerxa is a widely known and admired harmonica player, teacher, lecturer, and author. He has written, produced, and starred in many harmonica books and video projects. He provides private harmonica instruction both online and in person in the San Francisco Bay area and at the Jazzschool Community Music School in Berkeley, California. He also offers classes, interviews, and lectures via the Harmonica Collective.

Reeds fracture with use. You don’t need to throw away the harmonica because of a blown reed. Just like broken guitar strings can be replaced, so can harmonica reeds. In fact, you can change a harmonica reed in the same amount of time it takes to change a guitar string (maybe less!)

Reeds don’t usually break off, they just drop out of tune because of microscopic fractures. If you play hard you will blow out reeds faster. Plink a fractured reed over and over and you will hear the pitch drop until the reed just stops moving – and eventually falls off – because the fracture grows to the point where it’s not microscopic anymore.

Harmonica reed replacement is simple but it’s not always easy. Replacing harmonica reeds is a bit of a paradox.

How to fix a harmonica

The chicken or the egg? Where do you start?

The first thing you need to do to a reed that has been freshly replaced is adjust its curvature so that it plays well. This is much more involved than just gapping. Re-shaping reeds takes some time and practice to learn. As part of the learning process, you will probably damage some reeds and they will have to be replaced.

That’s why replacing reeds is an advanced skill.

To guarantee the new reed sounds right, there are a few things to consider:

1- Fastening a reed onto a reed plate can do some funny things to its shape. You need to be able to check and correct the shape of a reed to have success 100 per cent of the time. See this reed work reference.

2- Taking a reed off and putting one back on may also bend the reed plate if you are not careful. It’s important to try not to bend the plate as you work. You must check for flatness once you are done and straighten a crooked reed plate.

3- Don’t forget about tuning. The new reed will probably be out of tune – sometimes factory-new reed are out by as much as 50 cents! You will need to tune it.

Most harmonicas use rivets to secure the reeds to the plate because it’s very cost-effective to mass-produce them that way. But there are other – better – ways of fastening a reed to the plate. There is nothing special about using a rivet.

How to fix a harmonica

A reed that’s attached to the plate with a screw will not sound any different than a reed attached with a rivet. What’s important is that the reed is secure, straight and centered and has a proper shape/curve.

Using a screw will allow you to get the reed perfectly positioned and won’t warp the reed plate. You can guarantee success 100 per cent of the time.

Suzuki reeds are welded onto the plate. They don’t use rivets. You don’t need to buy a welding torch. The reeds can be removed easily by twisting the rivet pad just like rotating a reed with a reed wrench. To fasten the new reed, you drill a hole into the new reed and into the plate and secure the replacement reed with a screw.

In my early days as a player, the only maintenance advice I got was to soak my instruments in beer, often from those who had already soaked themselves. I resisted. Just as well, my Marine Band combs would have suffered.

Maintenance with the older harmonicas was hit and miss, with no guidance. The instruments, held together with nails, were hard to get apart, hard to get back together. All this has changed. Basic harmonica maintenance is now straightforward, the right tools easily gotten. If you’ve not yet rolled up your sleeves, now is the time.

The most common problem is a note refusing to sound. Excess spit is often the cause. Bang the instrument against the heel of your hand several times, then breathe in and out rapidly over the offending hole.

Better? No… Then something is lodged in the reed. First, we locate it. Hold the harmonica in your left hand, with the lower notes toward the heel of your hand (the normal playing position). Then find the blocked hole. Count if need be. If the blocked note is a draw, then the associated reed is the one adjacent to your thumb. A blocked blow note means the reed is closest to your forefinger.

Having found the blocked reed, push against it gently with a wooden toothpick. Move the reed slightly, in and out of the slot (I did say gently). This may do it.

If not, then a key harmonica ritual comes next: removing the cover plates. Take a small Phillips head screwdriver, and undo the screws on each side. A standard screwdriver will be too big, get a set of small ones from your hardware store. Do this work on a table, place the screws carefully in a cover plate, located so that you don’t bump it. Losing the screws in a carpet is a classic own goal. Remain scoreless.

Now look at the blocked reed. Sometimes a small nose hair is the culprit, pushing the reed out gently will remove it. All should then be well. One nil.

Replace the cover plates, making sure that they are the right distance from the top of the comb. If you have another harmonica of the same brand, then use it for a reference. It’s easy for the cover plates to go back on too high, making the instrument harder to play.

If the problem is the two draw (second hole, breathing in), and you are a beginner, chances are that nothing is wrong with the harmonica. This note is the bane of new players, and also the fundamental blues note. Google “two hole draw”, you’ll find help.

Another common problem is a note which sounds, but jams at higher breath pressure. Here the “gap”, or the distance between the reed tip and the reed plates is too small. This gap can be widened, again by pushing the reed out of the slot several times with the wooden toothpick. For draw reeds you can see the slot width, for blow reeds you can’t, as they are on the inside of the instrument.

Try pushing the reed out half a dozen times, then playing it. Any better? If not, then repeat. And repeat…

Another common problem is a reed which suddenly goes way out of tune. Bad news here. The reed has cracked at the base, and either it, or the harmonica needs to be replaced. Most go for the latter. With steady playing, a harmonica should go at least 6 months before a reed goes bad. Modern harmonicas seem to last much longer than the older ones.

The next step is a harmonica repair kit. Here I’ll hand over to the experts. Tombo (Lee Oskar) have long had a basic harmonica toolkit, Seydel now have a comprehensive range, available on their site. Harmonica customiser Richard Sleigh has a good toolkit, available on his site. Hohner have taken big steps forward in recent years, with a complete range of harmonica toolsets and parts. Better still, they have an excellent series of maintenance videos, showing how to set reed gaps, tune reeds and replace broken ones. The videos are here.

So. Next time some lazy money heads your way, buy a harmonica toolkit. Then get an old harmonica, watch the Hohner videos, then try setting the reed gaps, using the proper tools. Correct gapping greatly improves harmonica performance.

A final maintenance topic, mentioned in passing only (I’m out of words), is reed tuning. Fairly straightforward. Filing/scraping metal from the top of a reed raises the pitch, removing metal from the bottom of the reed lowers the pitch. Again, watch the videos, use the right tools, practice on an old harmonica.

Basic harmonica maintenance is just that. The skills and tools to keep your instruments running are now easily had. Get them, practice a little, then thank me down the track.

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CERTIFIED HARMONICA SERVICE CENTRE For Hohner – Seydel and Suzuki : Repairs – Restorations – Customs modifications and hand built harmonicas

Tel 07977 011950

How to fix a harmonica

If you have an old harmonica that:

  • Just needs a good clean. (using ultrasonic cleaners)
  • An ebay purchase that doesnt quite play right.
  • Inherited your grandad’s old harmonica and want it refurbished like new
  • Need your harmonica tuned
  • Comb replaced (split Pearwood combs)
  • Reed replacement
  • Windsaver replacement
  • Nailed Reed plates modified to screws,
  • Chromatic slide sticking
  • etc etc

then you are in the right place.

I have a busy youtube channel. Lots of videos of restorations of vintage harmonica equipment, tips and general info. Subscribe to my channel for regular updates. Here’s a taster of a 1930s nail press restoration.

Over the summer I moved into my new workshop. This is much better with a lot more space for customers to visit and hold repair workshops.

How to fix a harmonica

O ur simple postal service means you just pop it into the post to us and we wi ll give you a call back once its arrived to let you know whats what. We ca n then discuss your options and costs. If ok, we will proceed and if its uneconomical to repair we can send it back in the post to you. AT NO CHARGE. (except the cost to post it back.) .Its that simple. If you have any questions just give me a call on 01708 446644. Thank john

CUSTOMER REVIEWS ARE ALWAYS NICE TO RECEIVE
here are some more – CLICK

“Hi John
Harmonicas received, What can I say. You are true Master of your trade

Have played them all at a session on the Island wonderful comments from guys who know their music. I have had a few bad repair jobs done, which made me a bit wary to try others. I will be sending all my cleaning/repair work to you in the future. I would strongly recommend your services to others. Yours Aye. Hugh Hainey ” – -read more comments /reviews

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How to fix a harmonica

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There are several common difficulties that you may experience when learning to play the harmonica. For example, draw 1, 2 or 3 may sound muted, airy, distorted, or flat. Other notes may sound shrill, unclear or might not play at all. Many players assume that there is something wrong with the harmonica. However, it is usually improper playing technique that is causing the problem. You can overcome these problems with practice and by learning correct playing technique, correct positioning of the tongue/oral cavity and developing proper breath control.

Difficulty with 2 & 3 draw notes is the most common problem. Beginners and even some experienced players may have problems with the 2 & 3 draw. This is because the 2 & 3 draw reeds bend more than the other draw reeds. Bending is an advanced playing technique that occurs when we constrict the air flow. This results in varying tones and notes, delivering greater musical expression. Bending notes does not refer to bending the reeds physically.

Tech stuff: What makes a bend happen? And what governs whether or not a reed will bend and by how much? Each chamber shares two reeds, a blow and draw reed, which interact with each other. When the two reeds are more than a semitone apart, the higher pitched of the two reeds, as in draw hole #2 and draw hole #3 (with proper technique) will produce the bent note, or notes.

However, when a beginner constricts the air flow too much by using improper technique, the note will sound muted, airy, distorted or flat because they are bending the reed accidentally. Some brands of harmonicas are made with a less exacting design or inferior quality materials and will have air leakage and poor reed response. These leaky harmonicas require a player to use a lot of air to get the reeds to respond. Lee Oskar Harmonicas are designed and manufactured to be very airtight using a plastic comb and high quality materials that provide reeds with very responsive action. However, because our reeds are so sensitive, sometimes even an experienced player may encounter problems because they are constricting the air too much, out of habit. This is especially common if they have been playing other brands of harmonicas that are less airtight.

Refer to the chart below for further help if you are experiencing these problems.

Remember, take your time and practice each step and technique.

Embouchure is the actual method of applying your lips, tongue and mouth on the harmonica. Many beginners may have playing difficulties which can be attributed to incorrect embouchure.

  • Weak
  • Flat
  • Muted
    (like a fog horn)
  • Airy
  • Distorted
  • Muffled

You are bending a note unintentionally by sucking the air through the harmonica in a constricted way.

Say the syllable sounds “EEE” or “UUhh” verbally, and notice the position your tongue and mouth cavity are in. The tongue and mouth in this position will cause too much suction and constrict your air flow.

Comment: Lee Oskar Harmonicas are very air tight. These reeds are very sensitive and if you are not focused on playing with a large warm embouchure, you can easily bend or distort these reeds.

Learn to unbend notes, by drawing the air through the harmonica in a more relaxed way.

Tips
With long and steady breath say the syllable sounds “Aahhh” or “Ohhh” verbally and notice the position your tongue and mouth cavity are in publikováno zde.

Your jaw should drop way down and your tongue should be on the bottom of your mouth (between your lower set of teeth). In this position you will have a nice, clear air passage.

To avoid sucking in too hard, also try to breath partly in through your nose, taking some of the pressure off the reed. Think of yawning; play with a yawn-like mouth cavity when drawing in air.

Pucker higher than wide; the inner part of your lips should cover a large area of the cover plates for a nice tight seal.

Tilt the back of the harmonica upward and draw gently, long and steady; open up and relax your embouchure.

I was about to start work on another song for February Album Writing Month when I noticed that my chromatic harmonica was buzzing badly on one hole. When this happens on a regular blues harmonica, it’s usually just a tiny piece of dirt stuck in a reed. Nine times out of ten you can fix it very quickly.

But a chromatic is an entirely different animal. This is the big harmonica with the button that you see jazz and classical players use. It’s essentially two harmonicas in one; unlike standard harmonicas it has both the “white keys” and the “black keys,” and you switch between them by pressing the button. With the button out, you use one set of reeds, and with the button in, you use an entirely different set.

They’re also harder to play, so most chromatics include small valves, or “windsavers,” that block off the reeds you aren’t playing. They’re basically just small strips of plastic that get sucked or blown against the reed plate to block off, say, the blow reed when you are playing a draw note.

These valves get stuck sometimes, or damaged. They’re very delicate, and the slightest rip or tear, or even bend, in them, will affect your playing. The buzzing usually indicates a dirty or stuck valve.

Thanks to Winslow Yerxa’s excellent tutorial, I was able to clean them properly without damaging them. I took a few photos to illustrate the process.

How to fix a harmonica
Here’s the chromatic with its cover plates removed. The next step is to remove the reed plate from the comb; there are fifteen small screws to be removed around the perimeter of the plate.

How to fix a harmonica
The reed plate has now been removed from the comb, and is resting on the lower cover plate. You must be very careful not to damage the reeds and valves on the other side of the plate while working.

How to fix a harmonica
Closeup of the valves and reeds. The reeds are the brass strips with the rivets, and the valves are the brown-and-white strips next to them. There are two reeds for each hole in the harmonica; you see here the pairs for seven holes.

We are looking at the inside of the bottom reed plate, so the exposed reed is the blow reed. When you blow air over the reed and its neighboring draw reed, the valve will be blown down against the plate, blocking the draw reed, so that all your air goes over the blow reed. There is an equivalent valve on the other side of the plate beneath the blow reed. When you draw, that valve will be pulled against the reed plate, blocking off the blow reed, and the valve you see will be lifted up, allowing air to flow over the draw reed.

The cleaning process Winslow describes works perfectly; read his post for the detailed description. You basically use a bit of cleaning material (he suggests a piece of brown paper bag, cut to just slightly larger than the valve, dipped in water) to clean between the valve and the plate, and between the two layers of the valve (the white layer, which is soft and adheres to the plate, and the beige layer, which is stiffer and serves as a spring to return the valve to position after it operates).