Customization simplified, was Re: Out of the Box

Actually, my harps are "customized" in that I install valves on them.  I'll
also check reed response, and will sometimes (not often) arc them (stroke
them with the reed offset tool so they're curved, opening proportionately
wider toward the end).  Other than valving, though, I play my Oskars "out of
the box".

Customizing harmonicas isn't at all difficult.  Reed offset (how wide
they're gapped) is used to determine minimum and maximum volume.  Less
offset makes them respond better to gentle playing; more offset makes them

A lot of players like to seal combs.  I've heard about using beeswax (for
wooden combs), micropore (medical tape), and such.  The object is to cut
down on air leaks.  With Lee Oskars I don't find this makes a difference, at
least that I can tell.  Your mileage may vary.  It's easy enough to try for
yourself, though, and the tape is easily removed if you don't like it.

As I understand, Joe Filisko uses "double thick" reed plates by using a
second "blank" reedplate.  While I haven't tried this myself, it seems like
it wouldn't be too hard to do.  Comments, anyone?

Tuning (intonation) is another area of customization.  Lee Oskars tend to
have a slightly "strident" chord due to being tuned to optimize single note
playing.  The tricks for tuning are patience, gentleness, patience, good
tools, patience, not overtuning - oh, and did I mention patience?  To raise
pitch, remove a LITTLE metal from the free end of the reed.  To lower pitch,
remove it closer to the captive end.  You'll see how when you disassemble
your harmonica.

I can't overemphasize patience and taking your time.  Your first impulse
will be to jump right in with both feet.  This is particularly hard on cover
plates and breakable combs, as it flattens the harmonica.  For your first
efforts, have modest expectations.  Get some experience doing the little
stuff.  And when your harps start going flat, practice tuning on these.
They're ready to fail, and if you snap off a reed, you've already gotten
your moneys worth out of the harp.

BTW some LIVE tunes by The IronMan Curtis Band:
(and - hint hint - we're looking to tour)

- -IronMan Mike Curtis Band *Southland Blues
Magazine TU 8pm Starboard Attitude/Redondo
Santa Monica 3rd St Promenade, various times   Email my Cellphone for
(130 chr's max-keep it SHORT) ironmanc@xxxxxxxxx

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