Re: [Harp-L] Small High-Tech Harmonica Makers: The Future?

Good post Mike. I actually read all of it!

On 14 December 2012 03:11, Mike <mikefugazzi@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> The immediate future is in aftermarket upgrades for niche players due to
> accessibility of technology.  Reed material, tuning, combs, covers, and
> personalization are all solid niches right now.  That being said, those are
> things that make little sense for large companies to put a lot of resources
> into due to costs and relatively small sales.  We've seen a burst in
> "professional" grade harps in the $40+ range that rival what many custom
> builders were doing 10+ years ago.
> It generally takes a 100 years to make a large scale paradigm shift.  Two
> harp examples would be the Marine Band 1896 and Seydel 1847.  The Marine
> Band has not had a significant change in design in over 100 years...just
> little tweaks in design and materials.  The 1847 is groundbreaking in the
> use of steel, but is generally considered to be a regular diatonic
> harmonica.
> In the grand scheme of things, the yearning to do more on the diatonic is
> relatively new and only a small percentage of players are hip to the idea.
>   This is probably advantageous to smaller cottage industries.  The SUB 30
> is a great example of a step forward, and hopefully niche markets can begin
> to support a larger paradigm change where quality and consistency aren't
> the only focus of the 10 hole diatonic.  While I am inclined to believe it
> will do so, that will take quite a bit of time.  If you follow the bell
> curve of paradigm shift, the percentage of early adopters is relatively
> small.  It takes years and generations to really establish a new approach.
> Following overbending as an example is quite fascinating.  It is something
> that is relatively easy to setup and do (well, overblows in most keys are)
> relative to the overall playablity of a current production harp.  That
> being said, the overwhelming majority of players have nothing to do with
> the technique and still insist it is extremely difficult both technique and
> gear wise.  Now again, I am talking functionality relative to the standard
> of most harps from the factory - I am not saying the situation is optimal.
>  We could discuss the impact of alloys, production, and quality control and
> how it made overbending difficult relative today, but let's not.  Let's
> look at it from just one very small shift in thinking.
> It is often brought up that overbends are note that aren't supposed to be
> there and they sound too different in pitch and timbre from the other notes
> to be considered useable.  This is not a strawman argument and a search of
> the archives would confirm that.  However, it is now accepted that draw and
> blow bends, the very corner stone of blues playing in cross harp, are an
> absolutely paramount aspect of how we judge harp quality and an immediate
> prerequisite to proficient playing.
> However, the diatonic was NOT designed to draw and blow bend in the EXACT
> same way it wasn't designed to overbend.  It just happens you can.  In
> addition, those bends for 100% change the timbre of the instrument, and the
> construction of the instrument varies the ability of a player to control
> those bends.  Also, it is WIDELY accepted that those bent notes need not be
> in pitch with other instruments to sound "right", or as they are generally
> referred to, "bluesy".
> To a rational non-harmonica player, traditional bends and overbends would
> easily be perceived as the same thing in almost every regard, yet harmonica
> players for years have insisted that they are different.  It is only just
> starting to become more sociably acceptable to use them, etc.  And the sad
> truth is only a sliver of harmonica players would have any clue what I am
> even talking about.
> Point of long post being:  We are at the beginning of a large paradigm
> shift in diatonic harmonica playing that has begun in the last 15-25 years.
>  As more and more of the masses have access to these changes - not everyone
> can order a harp from Joe Filisko - more and more people will pursue and
> many will take hold.  If music were to survive another 100 years, and pop
> music would lend me to be skeptical, I would bet we'd see a much larger
> paradigm shift relative to 1896-1996.  If you compare harp to guitars, or
> pianos, or brass instruments, it is VERY hard to be different and make it
> stick.
> On Thursday, December 13, 2012 3:06:28 AM UTC-6, Brendan Power wrote:
> >
> > Though I have so-far been the public face of our new business,
> > I
> > must point the spotlight on my partner: Zombor Kovacs. And that brings up
> > a
> > wider issue about the future of harmonica making.
> >
> > I've been tinkering with harps ever since I started playing, but only
> have
> > hand-tool skills to test my ideas. Zombor is not only very inventive when
> > it
> > comes to harmonica design in his own right, but he has the CAD and CNC
> > knowledge to refine our ideas down to minute precision parts that can be
> > replicated.
> >
> > Our X-Reed OverValve Plate is a case in point. I came up with the idea
> and
> > made a couple of prototypes by hand. They worked, but were laboriously
> > slow
> > to make and had the natural irregularities that come from hand work.
> >
> > Zombor took the idea, put it into his CAD software and ironed out the
> > kinks
> > to create a precision designed part that could be machined. Then it got
> > transferred to his milling machine and these amazingly accurate finely
> > detailed parts arise from blank material before our eyes. It still seems
> > magical to me!
> >
> > It's really stimulating working with someone who has a similarly restless
> > brain but who can transform ideas from crufty hand-made prototypes to
> > slick
> > products that could have come out of any high-tech factory - all in the
> > comfort of your own home workshop. And we are not alone.
> >
> > Because harmonicas are so small, they really suit this new world of
> mixing
> > small workshops with high-tech machinery. It's now affordable and
> > user-friendly for anyone with a mechanical bent - not just CNC but 3D
> > Printing as well.
> >
> > Just as home studios revolutionised the music industry, I think the small
> > high-tech harmonica operation is destined to make quite an impact in the
> > harmonica scene in the years to come. Making reeds is about the only area
> > that the big manufacturers still have the edge. It's not insignificant
> > (!),
> > but the tech exists now for the small guy to have a go at even this
> > formidable barrier.
> >
> > Whatever your opinion about his business model, you have to hand it to
> > Brad
> > Harrison for having a good crack at that final frontier. He made his own
> > reeds, and in a new way. I really hope his pioneering work is not wasted
> > and
> > someone else takes his technology forward.
> >
> > Any news on what's happening with that, by the way?
> >
> >
> >
> > Brendan Power
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >

Rick Dempster
RMIT Libraries

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