Re: Harp Repair Question

>I've got a question about harp repair. I have played
>for many years, and I've been lurking out here on the
>list for about 2 months. I've seen many topics
>regarding repair etc... but I'm a bit overwhelmed by
>all of it.
>Specifically, what I would like to do is learn how to
>fix diatonic harps where a reed goes flat from bending
>notes. This is my biggest problem with harps and
>always has been. This could be either a blow or draw
>reed, but mostly draw reeds. I've always played hard,
>and that may contribute. I've always simply bought new
>harps, but that is too costly and I'd like to think
>that even I could fix harps instead of throwing them
>away. (actually saving them for no apparent reason)
>What would you recommend me doing in terms of learning
>how to do this both in terms of instructional
>matarials as well as tools. And is it something that
>is practical for a player who has never attempted to
>tinker with the mechanical aspects of the instrument?
>I'm not terribly interested in replacing reed plates
>as you may as well buy a new harp with the cost of
>that in my opinion.
>Thanks in advance,
>Pete Remenyi

Hi Pete.

You're exactly where I was about ten years ago.  You're probably going to 
get a lot of good advice on this list, but I write as a 
non-technically-minded diatonic player who used to have a box full of dud 
harps with just one dead reed each.

First, I found that Lee Oskars last a lot longer than Hohners and that by 
the time a reed goes bust you may as well just replace the reed-plates - the 
rest of the harp is very durable (stainless steel covers etc) so in spite of 
what you say I think this is well worth doing.

Second, you will I promise benefit hugely by learning to do a bit of basic 
tinkering on your harps.  You have all those old harps to practise on 
anyway.  A few years ago I bought, for the cost of approximately two and a 
half harps, a Lee Oskar harmonica tool kit and a chromatic electronic tuner. 
With this gear you can fine-tune reeds, set reeds up to respond properly by 
adjusting their offset (i.e. gapping them) and change reed-plates.  A 
booklet that comes with the kit tells you in simple terms and diagrams how 
to do things.  The kit is fine with other brands too though you may need to 
add a small flat-bladed screwdriver.  Some of the tools are more useful than 
others but the kit was a very good starting point for me and you can chop 
and change as you build up some experience.  When you get going you will 
find, with a bit of resourcefulness thrown in, that you will be able to 
cannibalise old harps for the reeds and use them for repairs (so keep the 
old harps).  I do this a lot with Special 20s for example.  You don't 
necessarily need the exact corresponding reed from an old harp - you can 
easily shorten reeds that are too long by trimming the end off with 

Third, as for playing hard, I had the same problem (still do to some 
extent).  To a large degree it was due to the fact that I was trying too 
hard to make myself heard in sessions in competition with guitars, 
mandolins, accordions and so on.  I found that a modest amount of 
amplification (consisting of mic + small amp) took the strain off my harps 
and as a result made them last much longer.  The investment has more than 
paid for itself.

Finally, if a reed has gone REALLY flat quite suddenly it's dead and no 
amount of tuning will restore it for very long.

That's just my tuppennyworth!

Steve Shaw.

Want more than the blues?  Try Irish!

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