[Harp-L] The "newest" Stradivarius of Harmonicas!

Michael Rubin michaelrubinharmonica@xxxxx
Sun May 8 09:32:01 EDT 2016

I do.  Enjoying my own playing is a big part of why I play harmonica.

On Sun, May 8, 2016 at 5:29 AM, Michelle LeFree <
mlefree at silverwingleather.com> wrote:

> Michael Rubin wrote:
> Vern,
>> At the risk of opening up a can of worms, I participated in the comb test
>> at SPAH where Tom Halchak had me and many other harp players play the same
>> brand of harp with different combs.  I definitely noticed differences in
>> tone.  He gifted me with a special comb, I think it was brass and it was a
>> favorite harp for a while.  A reed broke and it is somewhere in the
>> graveyard, but I should dig it up and put the comb on a stock harp.
>> Just my opinion, comb affects tone, if only for the player.  Many audience
>> members stated they also heard variety.
> Well, Michael, I'm afraid you've stepped in it.
> I'm with Vern 100%. Tom Halchak and I disagree and he will defend his test
> vigorously. But unfortunately it simply didn't satisfy basic criteria of
> scientific experimental design. It is an incontrovertible fact that any
> test purporting to show small, qualitative and subjective differences in
> sound quality ~must~ be randomized and double-blinded with a statistically
> significant number of samples or it has to be regarded as anecdotal.
> I was the official harp sanitizer at Vern and Brendan's 2010 SPAH comb
> experiment. I also spent 35 years doing peer-reviewed medical research at
> major teaching hospitals so I am not new to randomized trials. Over the
> 4-hour marathon experiment I sanitized a single set of reed and cover
> plates between sound samples using numerous comb configurations played by
> half dozen top harmonica players. Same end result as you reported --
> players claimed they could tell the difference but the audience, myself
> included, simply could not. Some of the players actually got angry because
> they sensed differences that the audience did not. It was not a pleasant
> affair.
> I say "claimed" to have heard differences because a player experiences
> many different sensory inputs when s/he plays a harmonica that listener
> cannot. The natural frequency of vibration of the entire harmonica is
> influenced by the comb material. There is little question that metal combs
> can transmit more vibrational energy to the player's hands and embouchure
> than less dense materials. There is a significant amount of bone resonance
> that transmits vibrational energy to the player's ears. Whether or not the
> comb is slotted influences the level and nature of the sound heard by the
> player.
> But none of these effects are experienced by a listener.
> So, I'm with Vern there as well. If the only demonstrable differences
> between comb materials are experienced by the player but not the listener,
> who cares?
> I don't.
> Michelle

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