[Harp-L] re: Stainless steel reeds - do they sound different? Some data

Thanks, to Winslow for sharing the link to the Seydel site with comparisons of steel and brass reeded harps. I agree with Vern that it's nice to see some effort being made into studying the potential difference between reed materials.

However, Vern does point out several things which need to be considered for testing. These can be put into two categories, structural and individual. Structural differences would be those of manufacture, such as the reed profile, reed-plate thickness (which can effect volume) and perhaps even cover shape and material-- basically, for the best test all differences other than the material of the reed should be eliminated, thus comb, cover, plate thickness (perhaps even plate material) should be exactly the same for testing. And yes, I did notice that no cover plates were used, that is indicative that the tester understands some of these issues. Individual differences are harder to control but fall under the range of gapping, tuning and even playing (amongst other things I'm not thinking of at the moment). For testing a means of getting the same gap (perhaps a measurable means, such as with using shims to gauge the offset of individual reeds) and the same tuning (again, perhaps measurable by meter--though this does raise other questions) must be assured. And really the player should be either blind or eliminated. Chords are tricky, because they are more likely to show minute variations in any of these non-related categories than that which is actually being tested.

As for the test, it is interesting. However, I do notice that the marketing crowd has already gotten involved what with the following sentence:

"This is the reason for the fuller (or more bluesy) sound of stainless steel reeds!"

Ah, what would the world be without marketing hyperbole (there's a better word for it, one which involves bovines and one of the many things they produce, but that's not for polite company). It's interesting that I've never noticed a company making a change to a harmonica (no matter how small) which didn't end up giving a "fuller, more bluesy" tone. Just once I'd love to see someone say, "this won't effect the tone any, but it looks cool".

Besides, having a more complex harmonic signature is neither a good nor a bad thing. Organs have many ranks of pipes with different harmonic series, some complex some rather simple. Neither is better, it just depends on what sound you want. And in this case, if we assume that the difference pictured in the graph is due to material of the reed, there's no reason to call it more "bluesy"--indeed, it would be less "bluesy" since the blues has always been played with the previous set of harmonics rather than the new one (assuming all harmonicas have the same harmonic spectrum and would test similarly to the brass-reeded Seydel model--big assumptions all around, but it goes to show how silly it is to call anything new "more bluesy").

That aside, thanks to Bertram Becher for sending the link to Winslow, and Winslow for passing it on.

()() JR "Bulldogge" Ross () () & Snuffy, too:) `----'

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