Harmonica Nib

Caring For Your Harmonica Will Maintain Your Enjoyment

I was thinking about the many articles I have seen on harmonicas and realized there is a topic that has not been given the attention many other topics have. There is so much written about what instrument to choose, how to begin to play it, how to blow and draw air through it, how to bend notes and on and on. But what about how to care for and maintain your harmonica. Care and maintenance should really be one of basics.

You might be able to drive a car and put gas in it and it will last you quite a while. Eventually though without care and maintenance it will stop going much sooner than it should. Proper care leads to long service life, the same is true of your harmonica.

Following a few basic practices will help ensure you and your harmonica can go on playing together far into the future. One consideration is how your harp is made. What kind of materials are used ? In the “Old” days there was pretty much only one choice, wooden comb, brass reeds and reed plates, plated upper and lower plates. Most of that is still true except for the comb which be made of a metal or synthetic instead of wood such as nylon, aluminum, titanium, or plastic. The beauty of these materials is in their stability. They do not absorb moisture and they will not warp, both of which will eventually spoil how a harmonica sounds and plays.

While the harmonica is not high-tech as we think of it today, it is very precise. Anything that changes the relationship of the air flow across the reed plates and through the reeds will affect the sound of the instrument. It is that precise fitting of reeds and reed plates that makes them vulnerable to foreign objects such as excess saliva, food, drink, fuzz, lint, and dust.

Whatever you eat or drink immediately before or during the time you're playing will find it's way in however microscopic an amount into the reeds and eventually clog them up. Rinse your mouth well before playing and save the snacks for later. A clean mouth makes for a happy harmonica.

I used to love to carry a harmonica in the pocket of my shirt, pants, or jacket, no box just my harmonica. You can only imagine what that harp soon looked like. Sitting down on them when they're in your back pocket does not improve them at all. Maybe an old jacket or hat that shows it's age has character, maybe even an old truck with a few dents. But a flat harmonica with bent plates is not a pleasure to play or listen to. Keeping your harmonica clean inside and out will make it last longer and play better.

I make it a rule to not share my harmonica with someone else. Few of us would be in a hurry to share personal items such as a tooth brush. Your harmonica is just as personal. Keeping your harmonica dry will help the way it sound as well. Knocking excess saliva out of the reeds should be done periodically when playing and especially when you finish. If your harmonica has a metal or synthetic comb you can rinse your harmonica occasionally to remove anything lurking inside that can effect it's sound. After rinsing it should be dried well before storage. A hair dryer set on low can do the trick but do not allow the instrument to be heated beyond warm. A wooden comb harmonica should never be soaked, early failure through warpage, loose nails and reed plates can result.

A little bit of care along the way and following these simple suggestions should ensure that you will be able to enjoy your harmonica far into the future.

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