The Hohner Marine Band is the reference-standard, classic diatonic harmonica. It has gone through a few changes over time, but it is still the same design. It uses a Pearwood comb and brass reeds that have that classic sound and response.
Vintage Marine Bands were excellent instruments. Some of the best classic harmonica records were made using the Marine Band.
Some pre-war versions of the Marine Band are sought-after by collectors. Up until the late 1970s, the quality was excellent. Hohner experienced a few years of poor quality in the 1980s and early 1990s. They attempted some money-saving strategies which were poorly-received. Quality rapidly improved in the late 1990s as they re-tooled their shop.
When buying a vintage harmonica, how do you know if is was made during the good years (before the late 1970s and after the late 1990s)? Will it be worth the time invested to fix it up?
You can look for a few clues as to how the Marine Band was assembled like the number of nails on the bottom side, you can look at the address on the cardboard box, the color of the blue ink on the box.
But these clues don't apply to a Golden Melody or some other models of a vintage Hohner harp?
A sure-fire way to tell is to look at the reeds. This works for every model of Hohner harmonica.
The tips of the older reeds from the "bad" period are chamfered or rounded.
If you are considering spending some time restoring or re-tuning a vintage harmonica, make sure the reeds are *not* rounded at the tips.
A harmonica from the "bad" period will take a lot of time and effort and yet still not ever play well. Be warned and don't waste your time.
Some of those old harps were held together with brass pins instead of screws. Here's a video on a neat way to get those pins out. You can tap out one side with an M2 tap and enlarge the opposite hole with a 3/32" drill bit for clearance and re-assemble with an M2 screw.
This is the third installement from the Q&A responses from Facebook. I am grouping these questions by topic, not chronological order. Some questions relate to one another and make for a nice stream of ideas when answered together.
This is the second instalment of answers from the Facebook Q&A responses form two weeks ago. I am grouping these questions by topic, not chronological order. Some questions relate to one another and make for a nice stream of ideas when answered together.
Two weeks ago, I asked you via Facebook for your questions for a Q&A session. I got so many wonderful questions, thanks! I can't answer them all at once so here is the first instalment. I am grouping these questions by topic, not chronological order. Some questions relate to one another and make for a nice stream of ideas when answered together.
My Basic Custom harmonica was formerly known as "Semi-Custom." The new name clearly reflects the amount and quality of work done to the instrument which includes correcting all factory defects, high-impact improvements and Sympathetic reed work™.
I offer Basic Custom Marine Band, Rocket, Special 20 and Golden Melody harmonicas.
This is an older video and it's become a little hard to find on my website as I have added content over time.
It's nonetheless a very important video. Here is an easy, low-tech way to "uncover" the secrets of advanced reed work and embossing.
In the second half of the video, I demonstrate some reed work techniques. When it comes to reed curvature, there is a lot of confusion about what a well-shaped reed should look like.
It must be straight as it passes through the slot but that doesn't mean it needs to be straight at rest. A harmonica reed will usually be curved at rest so that as it flexes it becomes straight at the very moment it passes through the slot.
The reed is dynamic; its shape changes as it swings. That's why The Grip is so important. It allows you to see the reed's shape at the very moment it passes through the slot.
"Shape your reeds, do embossing and troubleshoot weird sounds by getting a good look at what your reeds are doing. Use this method to perform some delicate tasks without the need for a light table or a microscope. All you need are your eyes and a bright piece of paper.
I've mentioned this method before as part of at least two other youtube videos. I thought I should make a video to focus on this particular technique as it is applied to reed work, reed alignment and embossing."
To have success at customizing the diatonic harmonica you need to be able to rebuild the instrument from the ground up. If you are comfortable with this idea, you will be able to handle any problem that is thrown at you.
Just about everything you do to a harp affects the tuning so it stands to reason the last thing you should do is fix the tuning. But how do you make adjustments to the tuning without messing up the shape of the reeds or undoing other hard-earned adjustments?
Here is an idea to support the base of the blow reeds while you lower the pitch with a quality file. You can support the reed using a piece of toothpick or 18 gauge copper wire. Use anything else you think might work.
We usually support a reed to lower the pitch using a plinker/support tool. We can't advance the support tool to the very base of the reed because there is no room and we would bend the reed out of shape if we force too much.
On the outside of the reed plate you can place something to support the reed and it can go all the way down to the base. Here's a small piece of toothpick:
Here's a piece of 18 gauge copper wire bent in the shape of a hockey stick (It actually has two bends in it to suit different reed lengths as well as to make it easier to pick up with my fingers):
It's just a matter of filing the base of the reed from the inside of the channel with a good quality file:
This is taken from Facebook Live (with permission) during SPAH 2018. Joe Filisko is joined by Richard Sleigh and Joe Spiers to discuss the Hohner Affiliated Customizer Program. There was some audio interference which caused a very loud and unpleasant sound in a few spots. I did my best to fix the audio in this edit.
Here's a before-and-after look at a reed plate that has undergone customization.
I spend hours rebuilding and enhancing every aspect of a harmonica as I customize it.
I obtain all parts directly from the Hohner factory in Germany. I don't buy pre-assembled harmonicas because the first thing I would do is take them apart. In fact, I even take apart the parts! A custom harmonica is an instrument that has been rebuilt from the ground up.