RE: handling diatonics on stage

Scorcher asked:
> How do you veterans (or neophytes) handle your diatonics on stage?

Hey, Scorch!

I've mentioned this before so if you sense some deja-vu, please ignore the
remainder of this message.  It's such a good solution for this problem (for
me) that I think it bears repeating.

I'm quite pleased with a solution I found for organizing and holding my
harps both on-stage and in my gig bag.  In an exhaustive internet search for
a good solution to this nagging problem, I found some customizable foam
trays that are normally used by hobbyists who are into renacting famous
battles with miniature soldiers.  These trays are 13" x 7 1/2" wide and come
in various thicknesses to accomodate objects of varying size.  They are made
with perforations in the foam every 1/2 inch or so that enable you to pluck
out sections that fit the objects you are organizing/transporting.  (I've
seen similar foam in expensive Pelican cases.  These are fine cases for
cameras and such, but they don't fit my harp case needs or budget.)  The
foam trays I refer to are part of a system that also includes a ballistic
nylon carrying case that holds a number of these trays stacked inside (I
skipped the carrying case and use a couple of 1" deep trays as I will
describe).  The 1" deep "figure foam" trays cost $6 each.  You can check
them out and purchase them here:

I plucked out sections of foam to create pockets that just fit my "gigging"
harmonicas, including an array of normal 4" diatonics, several long 14-hole
diatonics, and a chromatic.  I have two of these trays that fit nicely into
an old soft-sided laptop carrying case.  As a bonus, they leave a section
inside the laptop case with just enough room for my mic's.  When I close the
case, the trays of harps are sandwiched inside, nestled alongside my mic's.
At a venue, I simply remove one or both foam trays and put them on top of my
amp or other suitable nearby surface.

Another perennial problem is a way to label harps so you can avoid the harp
player's classic "harmonica shuffle" between every song.  You know, where
you squint (or put on your reading glasses) and shuffle through each of the
harps in your kit to find the correct key.  I found an inexpensive Brother
brand label maker that makes easy to read plastic laminated labels that when
trimmed slightly fit nicely on the back of the comb of harmonicas.  These
are very durable and sticky labels that have held up through multiple
cleaning sessions submersed in warm soapy water.  I arrange all my harps in
increasing pitch, label-side up, in the foam trays.  I can spot the harp I
need at a glance in any sort of stage lighting.  When the song ends, I
return it to its slot and grab the next one.

At the end of the gig, I pick up the foam trays and mic's, return them to
the old laptop case, and I'm outa there.  Works great for me.

If you'd like additional details, contact me off-list.


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