Mouth harp won't blow!

Nickie

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Hey, I have two mouth harps (harmonicas) that I cannot blow a note from certain holes. I can draw, but no blow.
I'm a rank beginner, could I be doing something wrong?
Could it be bent or warped reeds? I heard that reeds can be changed, but I have no idea where to order new ones. One of the harps is less than 2 months old....
 

Jim Hanks

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Reeds can get stuck in their slots because the rivet holding it is loose or a burr, etc. Sometimes a bit sharper blow will unstick it. Sometimes you might have to remove the cover and muck around a bit - unless the covers are nailed on, in which case you're mostly out of luck. What's the brand?
 

Down Up Dick

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If you remove the covers, make sure the reeds are directly over the slots. You can push them a bit (not hard) to reposition them. Also you can carefully push them into the slot to check their fit. Also look for food particals (yuk!) or other nastiness gunking up the reeds. You should also rinse out your mouth before you play and slap the harp hole side down on your palm when you’re finished.

I played and worked on them for years. I still play some of mine once in a while. :eek:ld:
 

Nickie

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Reeds can get stuck in their slots because the rivet holding it is loose or a burr, etc. Sometimes a bit sharper blow will unstick it. Sometimes you might have to remove the cover and muck around a bit - unless the covers are nailed on, in which case you're mostly out of luck. What's the brand?

Jim, they are all Hohners. And they're all screwed together.

Thanks D.U.D. I'll have to look into that!
 

Jim Hanks

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Definitely unscrew the covers and have a look around. Is there any pattern to the holes having trouble? Which holes and key of harp?
 

Croaky Keith

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If your harps are diatonic (10 hole) & you have furry pets, it's likely a strand of fur is blocking it.

If they are chromatic, the valves are likely stuck together (happens when you blow minute particles of spit that gets between the layers), & they will need cleaning carefully with a bit of damp paper between the layers.
 

rustydusty

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Soak them in a glass of warm water for a few minutes, tap the excess water out then blow in and out rather forcefully. Should clear out the obstruction. If you bent or cracked a reed, it's probably time to replace it...
 

Bluesy

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Nicki, are these new or have you had them for awhile? How you approach this depends on the answer.

If new, you don't need to run them under water. The reed gaps may need adjusting. Sometimes ( especially on low cost harmonicas - even Hohners) they can hesitate on a note and you have to tweek the gaps. If you experiment with this, place the harmonica on a light colored towel to give you some contrast as you work and to prevent the small parts from rolling and bouncing off your work surface. There are lots of YouTube videos about gapping reeds. Just go slowly. A little at a time or the reeds can be damaged. It can be painstaking and can't be rushed. Hohner has really good resources online too. I began by experimenting with a beater harp, but it's not difficult. You can use improvised tools, just don't use anything that can scratch the reeds.

If you've had these for awhile and they've just started giving you problems, then run them under water but do not soak them. Make sure to shake the excess water out of them and pound them on a towel to get them mostly dry. You may have some dried saliva or food that has stuck to the reeds or clogged the slots (Delightful!). If you don't pound the saliva out of them after each use, that can cause your issue. Never use them if you've eaten unless you brush first.

Anyone who plays must deal with those reeds eventually so good luck on your maiden voyage!

Bluesy
 

KohanMike

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All the advice here is good. It's important to keep them clean each time you finish playing, and rinse them with water often. I have a set of 7 Tomi Lee Oscar diatonic and and extra C one, and always keep them in a pouch or case when I'm not playing. I first tried to play in the late 1960s shortly after I started to play guitar, but I didn't understand the instructions that came with them about using your tongue to control the breath in the corner of your mouth.

About ten years later I was working on a TV pilot at Paramount starring Al Molinaro from Happy Days and Lyle Waggoner from the Carol Burnett Show. During rehearsal, we had to hold for a couple of hours for the writers to fix a couple of scenes. Sitting around the audience bleachers, Al brought out a ukulele and started playing, then the casting director, an ex-song-and-dance man, started doing a soft shoe, and Lyle pulled out a harmonica and wailed on it.

When they finished, I made a bee line to Lyle and told him I've been trying to play harmonica for years, but just can't get it. He said he'll show me how the same way he was first taught. He took my hand and put the side of it in his mouth and played it like it was a harmonica. WOW, that was all I needed, I got it then and there. I pulled out mine and almost immediately played On Top of Old Smokey.

A couple of weeks later I was working on another pilot with a young actor in one of the supporting roles. On our lunch break, I was sitting off to the side of the stage playing when that guy came over, pulled out a harmonica and played the blues, very well. I asked how to do that, he explained it's a matter of forming a cup with your tongue and adjusting the size of the cup as you blow and pull. Again, I got it quickly because as a kid, I used to snap my tongue really loud, which built up my tongue muscle, which made it fairly easy to form and control the cup.


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