Re: [Harp-L] Case for custom combs?

Custom combs have gotten better over the years. If you are purchasing Seydel or Manji/Olive or Crossover they are pretty decent stock.

BUT, they still arent as good as a really nice corian or sealed bamboo or dymondwood. They make the harp so loud and responsive. I still see this debate, but is simple. imagine a guitar made from cheap plastic. It probably wouldnt have good tone or resonance. Now take a harmonica reedset that resonates directly against a comb and that should make the difference. It is not really the tone. It is the improved volume, improved airflow, and reed response. that makes the differenence. I dont think there is actually a difference much in tone. If there is, it is small. If the comb is a solid body, it is decent, but these plastic recessed combs have no density and the airflow running through them is weak. Some plastic combs like the sp20 and GM stock actually have little plastic bars running right through the slots, blocking airflow. I have a two part demo video at my site It shows a 40 year player, trying a bamboo comb (for first time) on a big river no less. You should see the look on his face. And you can hear the difference.

2nd, it has to be installed properly to make a difference. If the comb is not flat, or if you have those little metal volcanos on the reedplate from self tapping screws you should sand them off or it defeats the purpose. I show how to do this in the video referenced above.

My friend Jimi Lee, who uses our combs, just coincidentally gave me this testimonial a couple of days ago. He was one of the testers at the SPAH comb experiment:

"I was one of the 5 players chosen to do the diatonic harmonica comb experiment at the SPAH harmonica world convention a few years ago. They said they picked me because I am a combination tongue blocker, pucker and overblow player.
The day of the experiment they said the listeners couldn't hear any difference between all the different combs we tried. And I'm glad all those great players could make each comb sound good, but we all agreed, the amount of effort it took to make each harmonica perform, was substantially different from comb to comb. As a player, I could absolutely hear and feel large differences. As a matter of fact, if I had to pick only one customization to do to my harmonicas, it would be to add a custom comb.
After the experiment I was on a mission to find the perfect comb. I have found two! My favorite is the Hetrick Diamondwood comb, and the other is the Hetrick Corian comb. They both are solid and perfectly flat. My harmonica is louder and takes less air to play. And those whispery little nuances come through like a breeze."

--Jimi Lee

p.s. If this sounds too much like a sales pitch, there are other good comb makers out there. Just try one for petes sake!

On 7/30/2012 11:12 PM, Ross Macdonald wrote:
Curious to ask those on the list who have purchased custom combs to replace stock mfg. combs, what benefits can they report.

I play seydel 1847s and session steel harps, Hohner special 20s crossovers and thunderbirds, Suzuki olive, harp masters and manjis. These have varied comb materials. I like, and am at the same time critical of them all for different reasons. Are custom combs flatter or better in some other way as to reduce air leaks to improve playability?

I saw a post from David Payne about the use of aquarium silicone on plastic combs to reduce air leakage; it's also well documented in the archives about reed slot embossing to reduce leakage.

What do customizes do to their harps in order of importance?

Thanks in advance.

Thanks, Ross Macdonald

Sent from my iPad


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