[Harp-L] Comb Debate Confusion

Brendan Power bren@xxxxx
Sun Jul 23 19:43:57 EDT 2017

Whenever this issue comes up, people often don't distinguish between
discussing whether comb differences can be perceived by the audience or the
player. There is a big difference.


It's been conclusively proven by Vern in past tests that the audience can't
tell the difference between comb materials. It's a done deal. However
players constantly state that they can hear a difference between, for
example, a brass comb and a wood comb on the same harp. And not just is
weight, but sound. 


I'm one - I think for the player there IS a difference. With a harmonica
being so close to the ears, cupped in the hands and actually inside the
body, perceptions are heightened and the 'whisper in the wind' that Vern
mentions becomes audible. Especially for players who have got attuned to one
type of comb or the other on a favourite harp, a significant change of comb
material on the same harmonica can be noticed. 


Vern and I tried to test this together at one SPAH but unfortunately the
test harmonica used was not up to snuff, since it did not get a close
airtight seal to the different combs that were tried. It had visible air
gaps. This poor-playing harmonica caused the test players to become scornful
of the whole exercise and deliberately subvert it with nonsensical scores.
Fair enough too - the test was not good enough. 


It's still possible to do such a test well and find a conclusive answer to
whether players can perceive differences in sound between comb materials.
But after the last experience I wouldn't want to put my neck on the block
again to find out! Hopefully some other enterprising tester will come along
in time and we can eventually put this issue to rest.



 <http://www.brendan-power.com/> www.brendan-power.com



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