Re: What's this about soaking harps?

>> I've heard more than once on this list about the practice
>> of soaking harps before playing in order to loosen the reeds
>> so they'll bend easier.  (Correct me if I'm wrong)
>> Anyway, can someone who has done this tell me something about
>> the process?  Do you literally submerge the whole harp in
>> a bucket of water?  For how long?

>It doesn't take too much water to "loosen up" your reeds.  When I did
>this I just held the harp under a running faucet for a few seconds
>and found that it produced a noticeable change in ease of bending
>notes.  This only works for wood-body harps, and will cause some
>swelling of the wood.  It almost certainly shortens harp life, and I
>no longer do it for that reason.           ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is especially true for harps that are held together with nails as
opposed to screws (like Marine Bands).  The swelling and contraction of the
wood tends to work the little nails loose.  Another problem with soaking
wood-comb harps is that the comb swells out of the front and is no longer
flush with that surface and tends to give you sore lips if you play on it
for any length of time.  You can sand the comb down so it's flush again but
that takes off the surface finish on the wood, allowing it to absorb even
more moisture.

>Another soaking method, reportedly used by Jimmy Reed among others,
>was to dunk the harp in beer.  Haven't tried it but you might
>consider this if image is important to you...

Hey!  I tried this the other day and was pleased with the results.  I
bought a couple of new Golden Melodies (F and A) and noticed the 1 draw on
the F harp was sounding a little punky.  Anyways, at a local open mike (if you
haven't played your harp in public yet these are a great way to get some
experience playing with other musicians) where they serve those buckets of beer
(24 oz. or so) I decided to drop the new harps in the beer.  I don't know
what that did for my image but I got a few laughs from my buddies that were
there.  I left them in there until I drank most of the beer out of the
glass and then fished them out.  After sucking most of the beer out of them
(hate to waste beer) and hitting them on my pants leg to get the rest out, the
tone quality of the F was much improved.  My feeling is that possibly dust or
dirt gets in them during manufacture or packaging and that a rinse of a new
harp is called for.  I think the faucet method is better for wood-comb
harps because you can just run it under the water for a short while and
then blow all the water out and the wood won't have a chance to absorb much
(minimize swelling of the wood), although I know a guy who swares by
soaking his Marine Bands in ICE water for about 5 or 10 minutes before he
plays them...says it gives them a brighter tone and better responsiveness.


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