Re: [Harp-L] Marine Bands

I remember all too well how bad the Marine Bands got in the 80's to the mid 90's, and compared to what they were back then, the present stuff is clearly a far better product. Is it perfect? Perfection is always gonna be in the eyes, ears, and mouth of the player. On the other hand, many players aren't going to take into account about their playing technique as a part of the equation, and I'm sure I'm gonna get hit with people trashing me either on here, their blogs, etc., saying I sound condescending and the like, but playing technique is a huge factor, like it or not.
Some of the things I recall vividly were:

combs not properly cut straight and smooth because they only resharpened the cutting blade maybe once every five years, wheras they do it far more frequently now;
bad rivet jobs where the reeds were often not sitting flush flat on the plate, and I often had to get a nail set and a tack hammer and tap down on the rivet to get the reed to be flush flat on the plate, and also reed riveted to the plate way off center, totally cock-eyed;
The cover plate shaping often were all over the place;
Instead of using 7 nails to hold the reed plate to the comb, it sometimes were only 5;
too often in the tuning process, they'd file diagnolly across frequently, which gets it in tune faster, but seriously weakens the reed, and worse, they often exacerbated this problem by leaving huge gouges that often had the reed breaking at the point where the reed was filed (I nearly swallowed a reed that broke right at that point);
>From the combs not being cut properly, there were often deep saw marks on the combs that would cause enormous air leaks (at least you seldom see it anywhere near that bad now);
Slot tolerances that were easily twice as wide as they are now, having n enormous amount of air leaking around the reed, making it really tough to play;
Use of really stiff, hard brass, cut extremely thin, and using a shorter slot reed than they're using presently
That are the short list and there were many more problems than what I've listed here and when I hear the constant whining about these harps, after what I had to deal with back then, today's MB is a much better, but still flawed instrument. My biggest pet peeve is that since they've gone away from first 7 Limit Just Intonation, then 19 Limit Just Intonation, to the present comprimise tuning, unlike the days of 7LJI tuning, the tuning has still been annoyingly inconsistent, at times being as much as 15-20 cents off from where it supposed to be, wheras when it was JI tuned, the most was 5 cents either way, and considerably more consistent overall.
Rick Epping deserves a huge amount of credit for turning things around on the MB, and he first told me these things were going to be happening after I sent him a complaint letter back in 1995, and he personally called me on the phone talking about all of these changes in a 2+ hour telephone conversation.
As far as the sealed combs go, the only sealed combs that won't swell are on the ones that are fully sealed, and at present, the only stock diatonics that are fully sealed are the Seydel 1847 Classic, Bends Juke, and based on available info, the Marine Band Crossover. The Marine Band Deluxe, Hering 1923 Vintage Harp, Hering Master Blues (wood comb version), and the Hering Delta Blues are partially sealed, meaning that they're only sealed along the outer edges (the edges you see when the harp is completely assembled). For most people, it's fine, but for someone who constantly plays with a wet mouth, or you live in a very dry climate or high altitude area, they can still swell.
>From a manufacturing and business standpoint, every new thing you do, be it sealing or anything else, is always going to add to the production line costs, and like it or not, if you want something better, but you just want to pay prices from the 50's, keep dreaming because it's just never gonna happen.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at

-- Original Message ----------
From: Steve Baker <steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: Harp-L <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [Harp-L] Marine Bands
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 2009 20:42:21 +0200

Though he says he doesn't play them, Bill Kumpe basically asks why  
anyone bothers to buy Marine Bands and suggests there is a concensus  
that the quality is getting worse. This is definitely not true, as  
Frank Evers has remarked. I've been closely involved with the  
struggle to improve this quality and can tell you with some degree of  
certainty that the time when the quality really did leave a lot to be  
desired was the 80s and 90s. The quality of the current production of  
standard MBs is something I check on whenever I'm in the factory  
(coupla time a year at least) and is currently the best it's been  
since the 50s or 60s. For blues playing they're fine out of the box  
but may need minor adjustment if you want to set them up to overblow.

Of course if people have issues about the wooden comb or the sharp  
corners this is another matter and is one of the reasons why Hohner  
has recently released MB upgrades in the form of the Deluxe (where  
not all those issues were addressed successfully) and the Crossover  
(which for my money is the best harp on the market today). Both these  
models are mid-priced in comparison with harps by other  
manufacturers. Sure you have to like the sound, but an awful lot of  
very good players do. It's also no coincidence that the harp of  
choice for a large number of customizers is the Marine Band. This is  
not because they're such poor instruments to start with, it's because  
in the opinion of these highly capable artisans they represent the  
best raw material on the market to make custom harps out of. They  
customize them because they're good, not because they're bad. To  
quote Brad Harrison, the Marine Band is the benchmark diatonic harp  
which everything else has to measure up to. Why not try playing one  
and form your own opinion?

I've played numerous harps from all other manufacturers which had  
flaws out of the box and would venture to suggest that this is almost  
impossible to avoid under the conditions of industrial series  
production. To imply that it's something which only affects Hohner  
Marine Bands is misleading and inaccurate,

Steve Baker

Harp-L is sponsored by SPAH,

Best Weight Loss Program - Click Here!

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.