Tuning the Reeds

I want to clarify something I said before in reference to the Giant Saliva
Qaulity Awards.  I may have confused some people with what I said, and I know
the top pros will chid me for that.  I will clarifiy what I meant by tuning
the pitch to 10% above 441.  

The reed "A" is tuned to 440 in pitch.  When you play the harmonica, your
saliva condensation on the reed will cause it to lower in pitch to say 439.
 This means that the reed has been lowered in pitch and is out of tune with
other instruments that have "A" tuned in 440.  On  my tuner, the Seiko Quartz
Music Tuner, there is a pitch shift setting that goes from 440 - 445.
 Players that use strong breath during their playing may set their pitch
shift setting to as high as 445.  Now the pitch shift setting is at 445. They
will blow the "A" into the tuner and see the pitch recorded at "0" on the
pitch setting 445.  And "0" is neither flat or sharp in pitch for the "A" set
at 445.  What they do is to tune the pitch of  "A" to 10% above the setting
of "0" at a ptich shift setting of 445.."  This means that when they play the
harmonica the saliva condensation will cause the reed ptich to lower to
exactly 440.  If one"A" reedis out of pitch, I check the pitch of "A" on my
other "A" reeds.  They will normally be in pitch.  They are usually set at
10% above "0 in the pitch shift setting of 441.."  All I do is bring up the
pitch of the out of tune "A" to 10% above "0" in the 441 setting.."  thenm
both "A.s" are set at 10% above "0" at the pitch shift sett of 441.  When I
play, the saliva condensation will cause the reeds "A" to lower to 440.  I
have found that most of the harmonica reeds are preset in pitch to 10% above
the "0" in the pitch shift setting of 441.  For those of you who have not
tuned an reeds before, this may be confusing to you. To really understand
what I am talkiing about, you have to see a tuner and check to see just where
you reeds are tuned (at pitch shift setting 440, 441, 442, 443, 44, or 445).
 Some experts can tune the reeds by their ears only and do not use the music
tuner.  My ears are not trained to tune the exact pitch of 440 or 441.  I
cannot hear a pitch of another reed at say 441 and tune the out of tune reed
to be in exact vibartion with the in tune reed.  I am usually hight or low by
a little as 1%.  Because of this, I use the tuner so ensure that the reeds
will be exactly in pitch.   However, I can always tell when a instrument is
out of tune just by my ear, and I can aways tell when a vocalists is singing

Actually, my problem is not with out of tune reeds, my problem is with
sticking valves.  I have found that that problem can be cured by not storing
the harmonica in the box after you are finished playing.  Just let it set out
and let the valves dry out.  If I am going to play a concert, I usually take
off the top and bottom covers and use a screwdriver to carefully lift the
valves to see  that they are not sticking to the reeds.  From time to time, I
take the harmonica completely apart and clean it with alcohol.   Alcohol
evaporates quickly and the valves do not stick on me.  Before I play a
concert, I put the harmonica in my pocket to warm it up.  This is especially
important in cold weather.  I don't have that problem of sticking reeds
during the warm weather.  During the cold weather, if you try to warm up the
harmonica by playing it, for some reason breath condensates on the valves and
metal more quickly than if you just put the harmonica in your pocket to warm
up the metal.  In the warm weather I still put the harmonica in my pocket to
ensure that the valves will not stick. So far, this has worked for me to
prevent any sticking valves.   Once the harmonica is warmed up by your
playing, usually you will not have any sticking values (with the exception of
those who have a tendency to accumulate lots of saliva during their playing).

Anyone out there have other solutions to the problem of sticking valves in
the cold and warm weather?  

Richard Martin

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