Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Harmonica Housekeeping & Medical conditions
Harmonica Housekeeping & Medical conditions
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harmonicanick
72 posts
Dec 07, 2008
11:53 AM
How do you clean your harps when at an open mic or gig?
I use isopropyl alcohol on a linen rag, wiped on and then it evaporates and kills all bacteria.
I see some players chuck their harps on the floor in the dust and it upsets me (am I houseproud??:-)
Do you lend your harps to people at open mics ? I am often asked and I refuse.
Anyone get cold sores on the lips through harp contact?

Any other health problems through playing? I get absolutely knackered after a 2 hour gig and my neck hurts and if I am playing my green bullet its even worse 'cause they are heavy man!!

Apart from all that it's great just to play and forget all your worries in the blues........
SUNDOG
48 posts
Dec 07, 2008
4:15 PM
I've played mine with my nose.... "But it's MY nose!"

Gotta knock the spit out though before I do otherwise the draw notes are alittle hard to do.

R,

Neal aka: SUNDOG
Blue Note
Guest
Dec 07, 2008
5:20 PM
I always respond to others that want to have a go at my harps a blunt NO and ask them are they in the habit of lending their toothbrush to others? As for cleaning I strip them apart regularly and soak the comb, reeds and cover plates in a solution of denture cleanser and thoroughly air dry before reassembly. Of course you cannot do this with outdated wooden bodied harps which are a haven for germs - yuk!
mr_so&so
10 posts
Dec 08, 2008
11:19 AM
This is a great thread. I'll say "me too" to never sharing a harp. I just wipe mine clean on the outside with a little soap and water, and knock the gunk out regularly. I use plastic combed harps too. The wood ones do get disgusting.

To expand the discussion, I've heard it said that harmonica playing is often prescribed for people with lung conditions, to improve their lung power. Anyone got any testimonials?

I'd also like to bring up the issue of hearing damage, especially from heavily amplified bands. I damaged my hearing at our local blues fest a couple of years ago, and now have ringing that comes and goes. I wear special musicians earplugs that reduce the sound by and even 15db across all frequencies, i.e. don't distort the sound. Anybody else have stories or advice to share on hearing problems and solutions?
eharp
164 posts
Dec 08, 2008
11:51 AM
i jog before working out at the gym. if i can hack around on the harp for even a 1/2 hour before, my speed and endurance increase.
bluzlvr
89 posts
Dec 08, 2008
12:30 PM
Here's an interesting article relating to this subject.

http://www.harmonicasessions.com/dec08/Pollard.html
Philosofy
93 posts
Dec 08, 2008
2:08 PM
I just tried putting them in a dishwasher (I use only plastic comb harps), and that seems to work fine.
oldwailer
361 posts
Dec 08, 2008
3:46 PM
At a jam I just spray them down with Gin and wipe them off with my lips!

I never loan a harp and I don't try to borrow one--that would be crude.

It seems to me that hearing damage would be more likely as a listener than as a musician. I went to a Canned Heat concert in the 60's and I didn't hear much of anything until the 80's!
RyanMortos
9 posts
Dec 08, 2008
5:36 PM
I have as of yet to play at an open mic let alone find one to decide to start going to. I seen the site openmikes.org on an earlier thread to find some so hopefully that'll change soon!

Onto the topic. I would not lend out or want to borrow someone else's harmonica. Actually playing one and being serious I know enough that the idea would gross me out.

----------

~Ryan
PA
Aussiesucker
100 posts
Dec 08, 2008
6:24 PM
I have mentioned it before on other threads that I have an allergy to nickel. A lot of harps still contain nickel but when I first took up harp playing nearly all were loaded with nickel ie coverplates, reedplates etc. Approx 10% of the population have a nickel allergy which over time unleashes itself & then every time you come into contact you suffer. Appearance wise on a harp player you look like you have a bad case of cold sores! Horrible Blisters that take a long time to heal. For the last 3 years I have been using mainly Bluesmasters, Harpmasters, Lee Oskars & Sp20s all of which seem to be nickel free. I have not had the allergy break out for around 4 years and the last time I suffered blisters it was on my wrist from a copy watch that I bought somewhere in Asia that had nickel in the strap.
On other medical benefits I have read on the net that some Doctors recommend Harmonica playing for cardio patients and for asthma sufferers.
I would never let anyone handle my harmonicas & I regularly give them all a good bath. It doesnt seem to hurt them.
Blue Note
Guest
Dec 09, 2008
10:25 PM
I have a question to ask in reference to Harmonicas used in very hot tropical steamy climate. Where I live in the tropics during the wet season a mould grows on everything and anything that is at all damp. I am not concerned about harps I am playing daily, nor have I yet to experience it with any of my harps, however I wonder if it could be a problem & if encountered how best to treat it? The normal treatment for mould is to hit it with bleach.
harmonicanick
73 posts
Dec 10, 2008
2:44 PM
Old Wailer i have decided to take a leaf out of your obviously 'well' tested book and just neck a lot of whiskey when I play open mic's
By the way try a 10 year old MaCallan single malt, its dryer and less sweet than your bourbon, but it makes that 2 draw bend sweet...but of course you like gin!! So do I too...:-)
harmonicanick
74 posts
Dec 10, 2008
2:44 PM
Old Wailer i have decided to take a leaf out of your obviously 'well' tested book and just neck a lot of whiskey when I play open mic's
By the way try a 10 year old MaCallan single malt, its dryer and less sweet than your bourbon, but it makes that 2 draw bend sweet...but of course you like gin!! So do I too...:-)
Aussiesucker
102 posts
Dec 10, 2008
5:49 PM
My drink of choice is beer ie full of sugar and not the best way to treat a harp. Early on I decided on a set of cheapies 'Suzuki Folkmasters' to play whilst imbibing on my favourite brew. Have not been able to kill them ie they thrive on it but they also get very regular baths in dishwashing liquid. I give all my good harps a wipe with alco wipes after I use them.
harmonicanick
75 posts
Dec 11, 2008
2:14 PM
Beer is good though :-)
kudzurunner
195 posts
Dec 11, 2008
3:41 PM
I never loan harps--except once, recently, when I traded onstage with Jason Ricci--and I never clean them.
Blackbird
15 posts
Dec 11, 2008
4:32 PM
I've used some medical grade alcohol for cleaning the exterior/mouthpiece of the harp if it's been unused for a while. Otherwise, I don't clean the internals unless there's something stuck in a reed or I notice anything during maintenance while the harp is open.

I can't imagine I'd loan a harp to anyone. If I'm going to trade body fluids with someone, It won't involve harmonicas.
KC69
2 posts
Dec 12, 2008
5:46 AM
Ears Ringing: My Doctor suggests/ prescribes Valium. So Happy Playing!!
Buzadero
4 posts
Dec 12, 2008
12:01 PM
Personally, I use the 90% Isopropyl alchohol for cleaning harps, as prescribed by Dr. Ricci in his "Sexy Rocker's Harp Maintenance Ritual" as posted to the Harp-L a couple of year's ago.

During playing, since I'm a front-porch/social type player, I am invariably within arm's reach of a glass of bourbon and ice. Thus far, the benefits have stayed well ahead of the adverse effects of the bourbon sugars on the harp components.
oldwailer
362 posts
Dec 12, 2008
5:01 PM
Yes, the bourbon sugars do make a harp sound sweeter--if you get enough of them. The Isopropyl sugars, on the other hand--make the harps taste like shit. . .
isaacullah
7 posts
Dec 15, 2008
12:44 PM
When I really clean harps, I take them apart and use first Hydrogen Peroxide and then Isopropyl Alchohol (rubbing with a que-tip), and then rinse with plenty of cold water (otherwise there is a nasty after-taste). For "in-between" cleanings, I use a moistened que-tip. Getting the "cheap" que-tips with less cotton on the ends is better than the expensive name-brand ones that boast more cotton and fluffier ends because 1) those big fluffy things don't fit well in the holes (especially of marine bands), and 2) the fluffy ones tend to "shed" a lot, which is a very bad thing to have happen inside a hole... But most of the "crud" develops inside the holes (at least for me), so I gotta get in there somehow!
MrVerylongusername
48 posts
Dec 15, 2008
1:24 PM
I just dunk my Lee Oskars in a pint-pot with some water and a denture tablet. I should stress though, I really only do this if there's a noticeable issue (i.e. nicotine from a really smokey dive or a clogged up harp that won't sound)

I don't loan my harps to anyone else - maybe sometimes my toddlers find one and blow some Dylan chords, but if I worried about them then I guess I really should be worrying about a whole host more things besides!

Some of your cleaning rituals sound a bit OCD to me ;-) Do you guys dip you toothbrushes in isoprop alcohol too? Gargle with Listerine after kissing your missus?

Last Edited by on Dec 15, 2008 1:25 PM
cproctor
7 posts
Jan 29, 2009
1:15 PM
Forgive me for reopening this post again, but I'm new and have never taken apart a harp yet to clean it, but I have a MB that all of a sudden, the 1 hole won't sound at all! I'm not sure what to do with it. I've tried rinsing it under running water, figuring that if there was something lodged in the reed, this might free it...no luck! So then I tried to open it, and I couldn't figure that out either! Is there a trick to opening up a MB, because it doesn't look like screws. Any help would be appreciated.

Also, on the hearing subject, my audiologist says I have "significant" hearing loss. In my younger days I played drums with rock on roll bands, way to long and way too loud! I'm paying for it now. I also have the constant ringing in my ears. Now, I still play drums with a band, but I'm mic'd and wear headphones so I can control the volume. I also play bagpipes and I should wear plugs, but I haven't been able to bring myself to that point yet. All I can say is, if you have good hearing, be smart and wear the protection to keep it that way!

----------
Chris

"I'm not trying to hit the 4 draw and the 10 blow at the same time....honest!"
harpnoodler
25 posts
Jan 29, 2009
1:57 PM
Don't lend your harps to anyone whose toothbrush you wouldn't use or with whom you wouldn't share a lolipop.

Once when young, I let a guy in a bar play an old MB that had seen too many beer/whiskey/water soakings and that I was going to toss out.

He made a weird face and then started making the "cat with hairball in the throat" hawking noises.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that what was stuck in his throat was not a piece of food...

After that, I knew I would never consider trying someone else's harp, even if it was a Joe Filisko Dream Harp!
Blackbird
34 posts
Jan 29, 2009
3:36 PM
Cproctor - Adam has a great Youtube video on opening up a MB gently to get to the guts. It's #16, I believe. Search for 'kudzurunner' on youtube and go waaaaaaaay back. Those are little nails, and must be pried up gently and the holes will still remain tight enough to pound or squeeze the nails back in.
SUNDOG
60 posts
Jan 30, 2009
5:51 PM
I read somewhere that Silver is a natural
Anti Bacterial ...

What about silver plating the reed plates and maybe even the reeds....?????

R, Neal aka: SUNDOG
mickil
2 posts
Jan 31, 2009
2:19 PM
3 times, years ago, when I was young and stupid, I used other people's harps at jams; twice I ended up with the mother of all colds. Never again!

To keep them clean I tap them out, front then back then front again - MrVeryLongUserName, I know that does sound OCD, but I read about the logic of it years ago in a harp tutor. I never play them after eating unless I've brushed my teeth or chewed some gum. Apart from that, I just wipe off the crud that accumulates above and below the chambers from time to time.
----------
'If it sounds GOOD to you, it's bitchen; if it sounds BAD to YOU, it's shitty' - Frank Zappa
atty1chgo
110 posts
Aug 04, 2011
3:03 AM
Update on this string:

I wanted to clean the three main harps that I play - Suzuki Manji's in the keys of A, C, and D. I have owned them a little over a year.

I took the cover plates off and dropped the entire reed plate and comb assembly individually into a tall cup, very warm water, and Walgreens Denture cleaner (the disinfectant kind) for 3 minutes. Two tablets per cup, enough water to cover the reed plate.

I fished them out, rinsed under cold water until completely clean, shook them out against the bathroom mirror until no more water came out, and patted them dry with a clean bath towel. Never touched the reeds at all, and used a wet Q-Tip to clean a few areas around the front of the holes. Put them back together and they are playing as good as before. It seems that the sealed 50% wood composite Manji combs are quite water resistant. In fact, I have noticed that the upper register reeds are playing much smoother.

I love these harps. They are indestructible.
Big Daddy Ray
87 posts
Aug 04, 2011
3:46 AM
How do you clean your harps when at an open mic or gig?
I use isopropyl alcohol on a linen rag, wiped on and then it evaporates and kills all bacteria.
I see some players chuck their harps on the floor in the dust and it upsets me (am I houseproud??:-)
Do you lend your harps to people at open mics ? I am often asked and I refuse.
Anyone get cold sores on the lips through harp contact?

Any other health problems through playing? I get absolutely knackered after a 2 hour gig and my neck hurts and if I am playing my green bullet its even worse 'cause they are heavy man!!

Apart from all that it's great just to play and forget all your worries in the blues........
=========
I have yet to gig or open mic but most just tap them now and then between songs to shake the spit pit.

As for cleaning I have become a recent convert to Bar keepers friend. It is about 3 bucks for a giant Ajex/Comet type container at Wal Mart. It has made reed plates and covers on harps I am restoring go from covered to 30-40 years worth of gunk and rust to near brand new, down to your basic stuck reed as a result of sugars and such getting into the harp as a result of not properly brushing/rinsing and such.

No one plays my harps except the one who customizes it if it's one I already play. But he uses Sterisol before he starts and when he is done. I would never ask to play someone elses either.

Never share a harp with someone whose toothbrush you would not use or who you would not share hits with :)
jbone
592 posts
Aug 04, 2011
5:09 AM
having smoked for 35+ years, and recently stopped, i am amazed that my harps didn't smell/taste worse. my opinion- no medical degree- is that playing harmonica for all those years while at the same time smoking, actually helped my lungs stay fit and functional. recent xrays showed no danger signs.

i don't lend a harp out for stated reasons. i do a gentle warm water rinse in a pinch and disassemble and clean with 91% alcohol when needed. i don't clean my harps at a gig or open mic, it's either before or after.

re: neck pain from playing for extended length of time- learn to relax. i found that most of my upper body aches early on were more from stress than the weight of a bullet mic and harp. move around on stage, rotate your shoulders, etc etc. stay loose! or, find a lighter shell. one of my mics was built into a motorcycle tail light bezel and weighs maybe 1/3 of a standard pot metal bullet mic.
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http://www.reverbnation.com/jawboneandjolene

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000386839482
blogward
158 posts
Aug 05, 2011
6:43 AM
After a five-hour busking session recently I got small lesions on both sides of my lower lip which happily didn't become coldsores, but I won't do that again in a hurry. 'Kamillosan' in the UK is a camomile cream used for um, sore nipples in breastfeeding, but it's really effective at keeping harp player's lips soft.

http://www.theflitters.com
Philippe
133 posts
Aug 05, 2011
8:29 AM
Bar Keeper's Friend's active ingredient is mostly Oxalic acid. Clean and rinse your harps very well after using it!


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