[Harp-L] Comb Material

Randy Redington rwredington@xxxxx
Tue May 10 19:21:12 EDT 2016

Enjoyed reading this Tom!
Enjoyed getting the history behind Bluemoon.

The discussion on comb material has got to be one of the more repeated
discussions in this group.
I for one will say, yes it makes a difference!
Yes, it matters!
Even to a novice like me.
Hope to see you at SPAH.
Randy Redington

*Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

On May 10, 2016 5:30 PM, "Tom Halchak" <info at bluemoonharmonicas.com> wrote:

> Good Morning Daniel and all my harp-l friends –
> Daniel stated in the thread about  "newest" Stradivarius of Harmonicas!
> ".............. you come to this issue with an inherent conflict of
> interest
> and a bias."  Nothing could be further from the truth.
> With all due respect, I think you are making the same mistake that a lot of
> others are making.  That is, you are assuming that I have an agenda and my
> purpose for posting my comments is to sell harmonica combs.  I am a very
> good natured guy so please don't read any anger or vitriol into my words.
>  I challenge you to find even one scintilla of a suggestion that anyone buy
> one of my combs on my post.  The conversation is about comb material and
> whether or not it makes a difference in the tone of the harmonica.  It is
> not a debate about whether anyone should buy a custom comb from me or any
> other comb maker.  To the best of my knowledge, all the major manufacturers
> use different materials in the construction of their harmonica combs.
>  Hohner uses wood in the Marine Bands and Blues Harps and several of their
> Chromatics.  They use ABS plastic in harps like the Special 20. They use
> aluminum in the Meisterklasse.  I'm not sure, but I don't think they use
> brass combs in any of their models.  Suzuki uses wood, plastic, aluminum,
> brass and even a composite comb in their Manjis.  Seydel uses wood, plastic
> and aluminum.  So when talking about comb material preference, the default
> conversation should be about what people are buying from the manufacturers
> - not what they might buy from Blue Moon.  I am flattered to be put into
> that conversation but the number of customers I have is but a spit in the
> ocean compared to the major harmonica manufacturers.
> The perspective that I bring to the table is that my “claim to fame” is
> that I am quite confident that I have more conversations about combs, comb
> design, comb construction and comb material in a single week than most of
> you will have in a lifetime.  The debate about comb material rears its ugly
> head maybe 1-2-3 times a year here on harp-l.  For me, it is a daily
> occurrence.  Daily.  But “debate” is a poor choice of words when referring
> to the conversations and email exchanges I have with my customers.  We
> don’t argue about which comb material is best.  We discuss options.
> Harmonica players are notorious for being on eternal quests for the Holy
> Grail – the sound that resonates with us.  We are all guilty of this to a
> certain degree, whether that be comb material, brand, model, diatonic,
> chromatic, lip pursing vs. tongue blocking, overblowing, overdrawing, etc.
> etc. etc.  Many will let out a collective groan when the subject of comb
> material is mentioned but if that’s not your thing, it is a safe bet that
> you have a different axe to grind that others find boring.
> The irony here is that Blue Moon Harmonicas exists as a direct result of my
> subscribing to and reading harp-l about seven or eight years ago.  I have
> been playing the harmonica since 1972 but did not discover that there was a
> thriving online harmonica community until I stumbled across harp-l sometime
> in 2007 or 2008.  I was fascinated.  I caught the fever bad.   I started
> buying harps, and CDs and books and gear and, and, and……….  Can anybody
> relate?  I devoured the harp-l posts every day hungry for new information.
> One common thread that I kept seeing was about combs.  “Where can I get
> some good combs?”  Combs, combs, combs.  People wanted combs.  But nobody
> seemed to be doing a particularly good job meeting the demand at the time.
> And the horror stories were in abundance.  “I bought a comb from so-and-so
> and is terrible.”  “I bought a comb from XYZ and it cost a fortune.”  “I
> bought a comb from ABC and it took three months to get it.”  And the worst
> of all, “I sent $200 to __________ (fill in the blank) for a couple of
> custom harps.  It’s been six months and now they won’t return my calls or
> answer my emails.”  Sound familiar?  And the cycle would repeat itself.  It
> was like watching re-runs of I love Lucy.  Same thing over and over.  I
> kept saying to myself, “There’s an opportunity here for someone to step up
> and meet the demand.  These guys all want combs.”  Little did I suspect
> that it would be me.
> And so, in the summer of 2009, I looked into making harmonica combs.  I had
> no clue what I was doing.  None.  Zero.  Zilch. Nada.  I managed to find
> someone who could laser cut wood for me and made some Golden Melody Cherry
> and Maple combs.  Foolishly, I had 175 combs made in my first batch.
> 175!  I had them spread all over our dining room table (my wife is a good
> sport) until I had to get them out of the way because we were having a
> birthday party for one of my kids.  So I threw them all in a shoe box and
> put them in the garage.  That was August.  The next thing I know its
> December and while rummaging around in my garage I stumble across this shoe
> box full of harmonica combs that I had paid a bunch of money to get made
> back in the summer.  Reluctantly, now with the simple goal of just
> recouping my investment, I created a couple of eBay listings and “launched”
> my comb making empire.  I was not prepared for what happened next.  People
> starting buying comb from me and I was embraced by the harmonica
> community.   I got tons of great feedback.  I learned what I was doing
> right. I learned what I was doing wrong.  Quality improved.  And then guys
> wanted more combs.  More models – not just Golden Melodys but what about
> combs for the Marine Band and the MS-Series and the Special 20 and Lee
> Oskar and Seydel?  I went from making 2 products in December to 45 products
> within three months.  None of it was my idea.  I was just listening to what
> my customers told me they wanted.  I went nuts.  Every dollar that I took
> in went right back into buying more inventory.  I did not take a dime out
> of the business for over two years.  I changed the name of my company to
> Blue Moon Harmonicas in September 2010 and launched a website.  I now make
> over 400 different combs and have 1200 – 1500 combs in stock at any given
> time.  I’m working on the 4th iteration of my website.
> This may sound a bit like grandstanding but really, that is not my point.
> My business is a reflection of the demand for harmonica combs that exists
> in the harmonica community.  You guys created this monster!  All I did was
> listen.  I listened as you told me how to make my products better. Thank
> you for that.  And I listened when you told me what you wanted.  And what
> you told me was, “We want more colors because I want to use different
> colors to create a key coding system so it is easier to find the right
> harp.”  “We want Corian.”  “We want Aluminum.”  “We want Brass.”  “We want
> Hogany.”  “We want combs for Chromatics.”  (I haven’t bitten the Chromatic
> bullet yet.)  So I make it all.  See what an accommodating guy I am?
> Here’s the big takeaway from this.  I did not invent custom combs.  I am
> not the first to use different materials to make combs.  I did not invent
> this industry.  You did!  I am not trying to convince anyone that they
> should use custom combs.  I don’t have to.  The demand is already built
> into you guys.  It’s in your DNA.  I can hardly keep up with the demand.
> You guys said you wanted it, so I built it.  You told me how to make it
> better, so I did.  You told me what you wanted and so I made it.  I didn’t
> have to do any of the thinking.  All I had to do was listen to you and you
> told me exactly what to do.   And you didn’t lie to me either because the
> support I get from you guys is amazing.  I am humbled by it. Thank you.  If
> Blue Moon disappeared tomorrow, what would change?  Would the demand for
> custom harmonica combs suddenly vanish?  I doubt it.  You would just have
> one less supplier, but the thirst would still be there.
> Oh, yeah, and by the way, yes, I am a Capitalist Pig.  I do want to make a
> profit.   If Blue Moon is not profitable it will cease to exist.  If that
> offends some of you, well then, I’m sorry.  Actually, no, I’m not sorry.
> Get over it.  (remember, I’m a guy with a sense of humor).
> So, when I state, with confidence, that comb material does produce a
> different tone in a harmonica, it is not just me speaking any more that it
> was just me who built Blue Moon.  I am just a conduit.  It is you who is
> speaking. I am simply regurgitating what you have told me over and over.
> Blue Moon has become the Wikipedia for harmonica combs.  I hear it with my
> own ears and it has been confirmed hundreds if not thousands of times by my
> customers.  100% of the people who install a brass comb on their harmonica
> have told me that it made their harp “louder and brighter”.  Does that mean
> that the tone produced by brass combed harmonicas are “better”?   No.  It
> just means they are “different”.  Does that mean you should use brass
> combs?  That’s up to you.
> I will close with a question.  When was the last time you had the
> opportunity to play five brand new identical harmonicas, same brand, same
> model, same key, with the only difference being the comb material?  So you
> could do an AB comparison or an AC comparison, or AD or AE or BC or BD or
> BE, etc. etc.  And how about setting up four different sets of five brand
> new identical harmonicas  - five Golden Melodys (in D), five Marine Band
> Deluxes (in G), five Manjis (in A) and five Marine Band Crossovers (in C),
> one each with a stock comb, a Corian comb, an Acrylic comb, an Aluminum
> comb and a Brass comb?  And what if you had all these harmonicas at a
> convention where hundreds of harmonica players could do their own “Taste
> Test” and you could observe their reactions and listen to their feedback?
> And what if the overwhelming majority of people claimed that they could
> hear a difference in the tone produced by the different harmonicas with the
> only difference being the comb material?  That is essentially the Great
> Comb Debate Workshop that I set up at SPAH in 2012.  I’m tempted to do it
> again this year.
> And what if over the past five years you had hundreds of conversations with
> people and their observations were entirely consistent with the SPAH
> experience?  What would you say?  What conclusions would you draw?
> Sorry to be so long winded.  Amazing what two cups of coffee will do to you
> in the morning.  I hope that I don’t have to answer any questions tonight
> after I’ve had a couple of beers.   Might have a different tone to it. J
> --
> *Tom Halchak*
> *Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC*
> *P.O. Box 14401 Clearwater, FL 33766*
> *www.BlueMoonHarmonicas.com <http://www.BlueMoonHarmonicas.com>*
> *(727) 366-2608*

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