[Harp-L] Half valving

Steve Baker steve@xxxxx
Thu Aug 24 10:43:05 EDT 2023

I would question whether Brendan Power “invented” half valving. This technique has been know for many years, I believe Don Les used to play such instruments in the 1970s and 80s. Personally I adopted this method around 1990 and recorded a folk album in 1992 where I made extensive use of half valved harps (Strange Move, with English singer/guitarist Vic Abram).

I don’t in any way wish to diminish Brendan’s remarkable achievements in harmonica design, but the principle of the auxiliary reed, as used in the XB40 and later in the SUB30, was invented by Will Scarlett in the 1970s. He showed his 3-reed prototype (which I have also seen) to Rick Epping, who developed the idea further and then patented it, before persuading Hohner to make the XB40 using the principle of auxiliary reeds.

It’s a pity Hohner decided to discontinue this model. I told them (and Rick) when it came onto the market that players would need at least 10 years to become accustomed to using it and this has proved to be the case. Nobody wanted to believe this at the time, but it meant that the numbers were commercially disappointing and the patent was allowed to lapse.

I no longer use half valved harps, I got fed up with the well known problems of valves sticking, blocking or squeaking and dropped the idea shortly after making the above mentioned album. But if you don’t play too wet it works really well and in my opinion is both cheaper and more practical than either XB40 or SUB30.

Steve Baker

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