[Harp-L] Re: Breaking in harps

For what it's worth:

my experience is that the harmonica reeds used on Hohner Classic harps have always needed a certain amount of playing before they respond optimally to my way of abusing them. Mainly I'm talking about how opening reeds respond on bends and especially OBs. I try to avoid playing a brand new harp full blast on stage without any prior use and always play it through a bit before hitting it really hard. I usually do this during the process of setting the harp up for my fine tuning and offset requirements.

I find that overblow response then subsequently improves through playing the harp for a while and assume this is not just because gunk accrues on reed, slot and comb, thus increasing airtightness, but also because the reeds become accustomed to functioning as opening reeds. If I later clean the reed plate and comb, the overblow response remains the same once it's gotten settled in as long as the reed doesn't start to wear out. In the old Hohner factory, the master craftsmen were insistent that that working a reed has an effect on the crystalline structure of the metal and will tend to release some of the tension it has accumulated while being rolled, milled, die stamped and riveted.

In the past I've certainly damaged reeds by playing them at full power straight out of the box and prefer to accustom them to their fate more gently. Whether this indicates that "breaking in" extends reed life per se is another matter in my opinion, but it certainly seems to reduce the risk of early breakage and could explain why harmonica manufacturers recommend taking it easy at first

Steve Baker

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