RE: [Harp-L] Re: cheap harmonica
I pick up a "cheap" harp from time to time just out of curiosity and my local mom & pop music store used to keep a case of 12 or so of the BluesBands by the cash out and sold them at cost which was $3. I would always pick up a couple and keep 1 or 2 in my truck just in case some kid (or adult) was around when I was performing and expressed interest in the instrument and would give them away. I would always tell anyone that I gave one to that "this is a very cheap harmonica and is for you to mess around with just to see if you can pick out a song or two and that the one(s) that you just heard me playing start at $35+ and up and if you decide to take it to the next step, I can provide some instruction and we will get you a better harmonica that is proper to learn on". I picked up a student or three like that and would get them on a MB or Special 20 right away.
The Johnsons are ok for what they are but I'm definitely not going to risk playing tham at a gig even though I can remember a time or two where I blew out a note on a harp and just happened to have a Johnson in the truck that came in handy in a pinch.
I bought a set of the 7 Piedmonts once and they were awful. Not worth using for a fishing line weight.
I still love MBs and LOs and use them a lot. Especially the standard MBs for blues because of the intonation. Those are "my cheap harmonicas". Reasonably reliable and economical and with a little TLC and a little luck will last long enough for me to get my $$ worth.
When Huang hit the market with the Silvertone I bought and used a few at gigs because of Smokey Greenwell. They were ok but just not quite a good 'fit' for me. At a NAMM show in the '80s in Atlanta, Frank Huang gave me a "sample" of the one that was all steel I think comparable to a Hohner Miesterclass. I used it a little but it was a bit "bright" for my taste so I put it in my shrine/collection since Frank himself was kind enough to give me one.
Around that time I remember Smokey Greenwell had made a deal with Huang and was marketing an instructional kit that came with a Huang Silvertone, a little book and a tape. At that time Smokey was using them at gigs on a regular basis. That was when he was playing in Warren Haynes' Blues Co-op band in Nashville. Just before Warren got picked up by the A-bros. I always thought that if they were good enough for Smokey they must be ok. At least he could get a good tone out of them but I just stuck with MBs at that time because that was what I was used to.
IMHO, those "Cracker Barrel" $5 harmonicas are just exactly as was described below & well said.
> Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2013 11:00:06 -0700
> From: judoblues2@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Re: cheap harmonica
> To: turtlehill@xxxxxxxxxxxxx; harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
> I've found this question interesting. I think the Harmonica God has smiled on me. I use both the Huang's and Johnson harps on stage with certain tunes. Ive been lucky with not having to do much more then some gapping and occasinally retune the reeds that are out.
> For such a cheap harp as the johnson's they actually stand up pretty well. I like the tone when put in a turbolid for some tunes because its pitched pretty high and works with the tune. I think one important thing is using them playing amplified.
> I've also retuned a lot of them to natural minors with blue tac. The rest of the cheapies Ive tried have been really bad. most are completly unplayable.
> I've been playing for long time and I've got pretty good tone and breath control. I agree that beginners should learn on a a decent harp. Its the more advanced players who can work around the limitations if they they want to.
> From: Richard Hunter <turtlehill@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
> Sent: Monday, July 8, 2013 11:04 AM
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Re: cheap harmonica
> Rafael Veggi wrote:
> <starts at 4:48 and goes to 5:42
> <looks like a less than $5 harp and sounds great to me
> It sounded okay. It sounded like a harmonica. Not easy to tell from the video whether it's in tune. Impossible to tell from the video how long it will stay in tune, or remain playable, both of which are big issues with any harp, let alone one designed to last a few days at most. Also impossible to tell from the video what percentage of any given production run of those $5 instruments are actually decently tuned and playable out of the box. We take it for granted now with Special 20s, Lee Oskars, and other mid-priced harps that the thing will work properly out of the box. In the bad old days of Hohner, I used to go through 3-4 Marine bands to get one that played decently. Want to bet that these $5 guys are better than that? What's their incentive to make an instrument that lasts?
> I don't plan to spend any of my time looking for $5 harmonicas that are playable enough to bet a gig on. I suggest that it's more worthwhile to look for a $25 Cadillac or a $15 diamond ring, since if you find one of those you can sell it and make enough money to buy plenty of good harmonicas, and it shouldn't be any more difficult than finding a $5 harmonica that'll last more than a week.
> Regards, Richard Hunter
> author, "Jazz Harp"
> latest mp3s and harmonica blog at http://hunterharp.com
> Myspace http://myspace.com/richardhunterharp
> Vids at http://www.youtube.com/user/lightninrick
> more mp3s at http://taxi.com/rhunter
> Twitter: lightninrick
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