Replace harmonica reeds just like you change strings on a guitar.
"You don't need to throw away a harmonica because of a blown reed."
Reeds fracture with use. You don't need to throw away the harmonica because of a blown reed. Just like broken guitar strings can be replaced, so can harmonica reeds. In fact, you can change a harmonica reed in the same amount of time it takes to change a guitar string (maybe less!)
Reeds don't usually break off, they just drop out of tune because of microscopic fractures. If you play hard you will blow out reeds faster. Plink a fractured reed over and over and you will hear the pitch drop until the reed just stops moving - and eventually falls off - because the fracture grows to the point where it's not microscopic anymore.
Harmonica reed replacement is simple but it's not always easy. Replacing harmonica reeds is a bit of a paradox.
The chicken or the egg? Where do you start?
The first thing you need to do to a reed that has been freshly replaced is adjust its curvature so that it plays well. This is much more involved than just gapping. Re-shaping reeds takes some time and practice to learn. As part of the learning process, you will probably damage some reeds and they will have to be replaced.
That's why replacing reeds is an advanced skill.
To guarantee the new reed sounds right, there are a few things to consider:
1- Fastening a reed onto a reed plate can do some funny things to its shape. You need to be able to check and correct the shape of a reed to have success 100 per cent of the time. See this reed work reference.
2- Taking a reed off and putting one back on may also bend the reed plate if you are not careful. It's important to try not to bend the plate as you work. You must check for flatness once you are done and straighten a crooked reed plate.
3- Don't forget about tuning. The new reed will probably be out of tune - sometimes factory-new reed are out by as much as 50 cents! You will need to tune it.
Most harmonicas use rivets to secure the reeds to the plate because it's very cost-effective to mass-produce them that way. But there are other - better - ways of fastening a reed to the plate. There is nothing special about using a rivet.
A reed that's attached to the plate with a screw will not sound any different than a reed attached with a rivet. What's important is that the reed is secure, straight and centered and has a proper shape/curve.
Using a screw will allow you to get the reed perfectly positioned and won't warp the reed plate. You can guarantee success 100 per cent of the time.
Suzuki reeds are welded onto the plate. They don't use rivets. You don't need to buy a welding torch. The reeds can be removed easily by twisting the rivet pad just like rotating a reed with a reed wrench. To fasten the new reed, you drill a hole into the new reed and into the plate and secure the replacement reed with a screw.
Where do you start? Just jump on in!
See Part 2: How to replace a reed on a diatonic harmonica for the procedure.