Re: Harmonica sound

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Posted by Jeremy Steinberg on December 11, 2002 at 17:47:24:

In Reply to: Harmonica sound posted by Andy on December 11, 2002 at 14:29:37:

: Are there any keys or brands of harmonica that have a darker sound? Likewise any that have a more edgy sound?

Hello -

It's hard to know what you mean by 'darker' and 'edgy'. I'm going to guess that you're talking about diatonic (the small harps, generally 20 reeds in 10 holes). Assuming that, wood body (comb) harps like the marine band tend to sound 'warmer' ('darker'?) because of the tonal characteristics of wood. And in contrast, Lee Oskars (LOs), Special 20's, and golden melody's tend to sound sharper ('edgier'?) because of their plastic bodies (combs).

There are harp players who love plastic combs because they won't swell, and the harps tend to be more airtight; conversely, there are harp players who DISLIKE plastic comb harps because the harps sound more 'shrill' to them, lacking the tonal qualities of wood.

Equally, there are harp players who love wood harps like the Marine Band (MB) because of the 'earthier' tonal qualities of the wood combs, and conversely, other harp players who dislike wood bodies because they are less airtight, and the bodies will swell over time from saliva, causing issues with the channel separators extending beyond the edges of the top and bottom brass reed plates and covers, and causing problems for your lips, forcing you to shave down those channel separators with a razor blade or something like it.

Just like chocolate and vanilla ice cream - everyone has a personal opinion. You should consider buying several of each type, and over time, determine what style (comb composition, as well as reed type) you like better (best?), and what manufacturer and harp model, and once you have figured that out, go with your own feelings.

Then, you also can get into out-of-the-box quality issues, on reed quality, cover design, overall size, etc. Hohner, Lee Oskar, Hering, Suzuki all have issues here, too.

What I'm saying is that there is more than one factor to consider in choosing a preferred manufacturer, and then model of harp by that manufacturer.

Some 'chat' groups might help. Harpon, harptalk, harp-l (when it comes back), etc. might help, though typically the players who post on these groups tend to be pretty advanced.

Experimentation, practice, and experience will direct you most effectively. Figure out what works best for you, and why. Have fun testing the waters (reeds?)!

Regards, Jeremy

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