Re: [Harp-L] Searching for Half-Valved Players


Philharpn@xxxxxxx wrote:
One of the things that most appeals to me about half valved harps -- I prefer Suzuki's ProMaster
MR350-V -- is the "logical" relationship of the blow bend to the unbent note, compared to overblows.
I think what you have written reflects very well my enthusiasm for the half-valved diatonic. Before I discovered this instrument, I loved playing the diatonic for blues, but for jazz and even for blues, I found missing notes in the middle register annoying and the limitations in the upper register made it unusable. I used a chromatic for most of my jazz work even though I regard it as a different instrument from the diatonic in many, many ways. Even given the fine work Brendan does on his half-valved chromatic, it still sounds mostly like a chromatic to me. And the chromatic simply doesn't have my heart the way the diatonic does.

The diatonic fits in my small hands. It lets me hold it and warm it up. It is more responsive to changes in the shape of my oral cavity. It is small enough that my hands can mute and unmute the instrument, like a horn. And the tone is just warmer and more expressive, at least to me.

Before I started with valved instruments, I learned and played overblow harp. But I must admit I never got used to the back and forth movement for scales that require overblows. The blow bend technique IS more logical - left to right. It is more difficult to get a good pitch and tone from the instrument than with overblow, but it's worth the effort.

I have found that with plenty of practice, it is possible to get an accurate, pleasant and stable tone on the new notes or single-reed bends. This applies as well to the draw bends in the upper register, which provide the flatted notes I often want when I am playing in mixolydian mode (2nd position). Not only have I expanded what can be done in the positions I learned for blues, but I can now use new positions that are delightful for some jazz tunes, such as the one based on the minor third of the instrument - e-flat on a c major instrument.

I have found the MR350-V to be a very serviceable instrument. I buy them and also valve some other instruments. I have not made any determination whether one or another works better. The C that I carry around with me is a Suzuki. I have read complaints from people about unwanted squeals on, e.g., 7 draw bend. When I started I would get them too, but as my single-reed bend technique improved, the squeals went away. I don't get them any more. I think most of the complaints I have heard about it are similarly a matter of technique.

I found the basic tuning of the instrument pretty accurate right out of the box. I had to reseal and regap a b-flat I got, and there have been other minor defects, but not in tuning.

I like to keep a ready-to-go set of reed plates at my house so that I don't have a harp out of service for any length of time. I have bought lee oscar and suzuki reed plates. I have had quality problems with the suzuki plates.


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