[Harp-L] Comb Materials: the Perfect Test Harmonica?

Owen Evans owenpevans@xxxxx
Sun May 15 11:16:34 EDT 2016

Good day folks,
I have only been a subscriber on this forum for about a month and whilst reading lots of interesting posts, I am finding the subject of comb material to be one of the most creative ones thusfar.
First off, I have played harmonica for just over 2 years. I played guitar for over 50 and musicians have been all around me in my family for my entire 65 years. I love music and I hear very well. That’s about it, because the subjective stuff doesn’t matter. I have participated in fora for many years. By the way, I play harp because I love to make music and an accident precluded my ability to ever play guitar again.

To the subject of comb materials. I chose to begin playing Hohner Crossovers because the bamboo combs “felt” the best while I played. They still feel great and I have a bag full to prove it. After changing combs (and I’ve tried them a lot of them), I find that I will play for longer periods of time when I am using anodized aluminum or acrylic combs. The 2 reasons: they play better in my mouth with less tongue irritation (I am totally a TB player, since I haven’t learned LP method at all) and they sound “better" to my ears. 

Now before everyone becomes an aged audiophile & asks for the differences, let me explain. They sound ‘better’ because I have gone to great lengths to flatten all reed plates before rebuilding the harps. I have made sure that every reed in centred and the whole plate cleaned & plinked before rebuilding. This alone makes the harp more playable and so it sounds “better” and with less obstruction to my playing it. I want to thank Andrew Zajac for all his videos and tools to make this happen!

The second reason they sound “better” is because the comb material is different and the interaction of resonances in the harp creates a more (to my ears) mellifluous sound. It is subjective but the only person that it matters to, is me. I am happy; I play “longer" and I accomplish more so as to become a “better” musician. So when I say comb materials sound different and better, I ain’t lyin’!

All this said, I have now purchased all of my combs from Tom Halchak and he has been completely unbiased in his selling process. He said to try them all & settle on what suits me best. I have, and I can say that I still use ‘all' of the combs for specific keys because they please my ear in a “better” fashion. Maybe it’s the playing, 
(hopefully I am improving) or maybe it’s the combs sounding different but 
“better”, or maybe it’s because I am playing more & more which improves my tone. Personally I couldn’t care less, it’s working for me and that’s what counts. I’d say the proof is in the pudding and the only way you’ll find this out is, to coin an old adage; suck & see.

Lastly, the fellow “Vern” who posted the $1,000 bet is creating his own “bias” in his non-scientific method. He is creating an end goal instead of a hypothesis. The latter would glean more observations. No matter how many criteria are set (the fewer the better) the end result is about the wager, not the comb material. In my opinion, this is just an intimidation tactic to get one’s own way. Others with the talent to judge many of these criteria would not be willing to compromise their integrity. Let’s get the money out of this and actually do it in a fashion which ends the debate for all concerned.  SPAH in San Antonio may be the perfect venue?

As for me, I’ll just keep my $1,000 to buy more harps & combs! The old adage, ‘money where your mouth is’, really is about “my” mouth in this endeavour. Just sayin’.

Good harpin’ everyone,


“If you can’t dig da blues, 
you must have a hole in your soul.”

-Jimmie Rogers-

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