Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > New Marine Bands? A long, short question
New Marine Bands? A long, short question
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Tommy the Hat
594 posts
Jul 16, 2017
3:58 AM
I used to frequent this forum about 5 or 6 years ago. I no longer do forums or social media etc. However, I have been scouring the Internet trying to get some information with no success so I thought I’d ask here.

For those of you that get bored easy and don’t want to read through this verbose spilling of thoughts and fluff here is the gist of the matter.

“The old Marine bands which I own and am used to (Purchased before 2011 and probably by a couple of years) had reed plates that stuck out beyond the covers and were, at times, uncomfortable. I have one now that kinda sucks for this reason, though I still like the harp. I “might be” interested in a new one but was wondering if they fixed that problem. You know…like the Crossovers or the deluxe which are comfortable?”

Ok, a little info/backstory. Somewhere around 2012 I stopped playing harp to focus on vocal training and singing. I still sing but haven’t touched a harp in years. In May this year I decided to attempt playing an Ukulele (don’t ask). Somehow…I have no idea how or why…after my Uke arrived and I played with it for 2 days, I went in my drawer and pulled out my harps . Done deal…the Uke got put away and I’ve been deep into my harmonica’s. I have A Crossover, a Deluxe, a couple of Marine Band’s and a few Sp 20’s as well as 2 Seydels.
Actually one Seydel crapped out on me recently even though I rarely played that thing. I never liked them. When I was an active member here there was a guy who sold them and most members got theirs from him. I don’t remember if he was a member here or what. But he used to also set them up for you when you bought from him. I can’t remember his name but I got these from him. Never liked them and the one working “D” I have left, I still don’t care for. The Sp 20’s are great and play easy and the Deluxe (Bb) is fantastic. But the Crossover? That thing is my best harmonica. The tone and playability?…wow! I got that sometime back around 2011? Early 2012? Who knows. But that is my favorite!

I have two Marine bands. One is from before 2011 but I don’t remember when. No later than 2011 though. It stays in the car. It is uncomfortable to play and doesn’t play easy either (needs too much work to get the draw note and the bends are tough). But that damn over extended reed plate! This harp in downright uncomfortable! My other Marine Band is much older. Late 80’s? 1990? That thing sat in my draw for years though. I can’t remember what was wrong with it but I stopped playing it many years ago and it was considered “broken.” I mentioned it to MP (Mark Prados) when I was posting here and he took a look. He sent it back fixed and better than new! That thing still plays great and easy (comfortable). He didn’t customize it but he tweaked it. Well, he fixed it first off. Then I guess he tweaked it. I think he sealed the comb also. And he opened the back. I can’t remember what else but I love it.

Ok…the point! I love, love, love the Crossover. But! $80? Not at the moment since I don’t really “need” a new harp. I thought I’d maybe replace the “D” Seydel though, with a Hohner (Maybe). I don’t really/completely buy into the whole wood comb vs plastic debate as I read some science on it suggesting it’s the cover plates among other things that account for tone and not actually the wood or plastic comb. I do believe the player is the biggest factor though. But that’s another thread ….so. Either way I still love Hohner wood combs. Something about the look and feel. The Sp 20’s play great but I notice the smaller (thinner) Marine Bands fit my lips better. They just feel better. And my mind is still fooling me into (hoping) the tone is better. I’m not sure I’m hearing it but I’m trying …even though I know better. However! The Crossover? Well, that thang has “crunch.” Ohhhh yea!

The harp Mark hooked up is great; and it’s comfortable to play. But maybe the comfort was his doing (?). The one I threw in the car though, is really uncomfortable. My hesitancy to buy a new one comes from my other Marine band (the car harp). I was wondering about the new ones, and haven’t been able to find any info about the newer Marine Bands now in 2017. Are these lip scraping extended reed issues old news? I know the Deluxe and the Crossover both feel and play great. But have the newer Marine Bands gotten better in this regard? If they feel like the Crossover or Deluxe we’re in business!

Sorry for the long post.

433 posts
Jul 16, 2017
4:20 AM
The current marine band is basically the same design as the old ones but Hohner have done a better job of sealing the comb.

The reed plates on the marine band type harmonicas will always stick out slightly beyond the cover plates because of the design, there is a groove in the reed plate that is designed to hold the edge of cover plate.

Lots of other brands of harmonica are also designed like that.

I have always played marine bands and never had any of the issues that you mentioned.
Tommy the Hat
595 posts
Jul 16, 2017
4:33 AM
Thanks belfast harper. I understand about the design and that the reed plates sticking out is part of that design. However, (at least to me) there is somehow a difference between the feel of the regular Marine Band and the Crossover or Deluxe and both of those also have the extended reed plate. I don't know if it has to so with the covers or what, but for me they feel smoother. Closer (a little) to a sp 20.

4801 posts
Jul 16, 2017
4:59 AM
Hey Tommy. I remember when you were posting here.
Yeah the comb in a modern marine band is very similar to that of a deluxe but without the chamfered and lacquered tines.
I like the marine band plenty well but I am not at all worried about the prospect of doing a little setup to a harp. I think that's just part of playing. If the prospect of setting a reed offset and popping the nailed covers off to get access to thdvreeds bothers you, I'd say you're better to look elsewhere. The deluxe is the same harp but screwed together and some attention to comfort.
I have some harps MP worked on too. I was playing one last night in fact.
Tommy the Hat
596 posts
Jul 16, 2017
5:38 AM
Hey SuperBee! Thanks for the response. I have opened harps and messed around but I can't say I've had any success...and I've done it quite a lot. Even on the nailed covers. I've raised reeds, lowered them, but I can't say I've had any...what I would call...success. I have ruined a few though! lol. Not my thing.
But then again, I have never had any real issues with out of the box harps. I'm not that particular nor am I that seasoned a player I guess. I've played for a lot of years, can copy, figure out most anything I hear, do most any technique, but I'm still not sure I can really play. Kind of hard to explain. More off time than on playing I guess.

I find the Crossover very comfortable on the lips, fast and smooth. The Sp 20's are real smooth, fast and feel nice. A bit more (faster) than the Crossover. But I've always found the Marine bands sort of scratchy on the lips (where the reed plate sticks out). And not so smooth to play.

Maybe I'll give a new one a shot. It's not like I really need one. But if I decide to I want to be happy with it. I'm really trying to like plastic combs. They really do play tighter (to me) but, I don't know. I'm just so damn old school. I still use a bowl and brush to mix my shave soap.


Last Edited by Tommy the Hat on Jul 16, 2017 5:39 AM
Irish Soul
32 posts
Jul 16, 2017
6:15 AM
Just a thought but I have taken really fine sandpaper and rounded the edges of plates so they weren't sharp and it made a lot of difference. A lot is in the embouchure and I know everyone does that just a bit differently than the next guy... but if you are experiencing discomfort from an otherwise good harp ....maybe worth a little time? You can either change how you play (easier said than done) or maybe try to make the harp more " liveable". Just a couple possibilities to make it more fun to play.
4802 posts
Jul 16, 2017
7:30 AM
I'll second that. I always rub the corners out/round off the edges when I work on them.
2968 posts
Jul 16, 2017
4:55 PM
I think the vintage marine bands sound better than new ones....especially mouse ear pre wars.....but I very much JI tuning to compromise tuned harps
1161 posts
Jul 18, 2017
8:04 AM
Tommy - As one who builds tons of harps, I routinely do things to harps and reed plates that would make most people cringe. That includes sanding or even ginding the edges, flat sanding the draw plate, drilling holes, opening the backs of covers, cutting off little pieces of metal that either get in the way to otherwise made the harp uncomfortable. The list goes on. The bottom line is that you can do all sorts of things to the perimter of the reed plates and comb to shape them, make them smooother and more comfortable and as long as you don't damaget the guts of the harp - the reeds and reed slots - you will be OK. There are lots of guys who contour their harps to make them more comfortable and/or look a certain way. Have no fear.
Tom Halchak
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3432 posts
Jul 18, 2017
8:22 AM
The MB's of the last 3-4 years are the ONLY ones to comb with a fully sealed comb. Prior to that, they were NEVER sealed at all. The MB Deluxe came out because of the competition coming from the Hering 1923 Vintage Harps, which was the very first diatonic harmonica with a stock sealed comb, but they were only sealed along the outer edges, and until the last 3-4 years, the very same thing was happening with the Marine Band Deluxe. Hohner had refused to do any comb sealing for decades because it would add to the production line costs and with the MS series, the wood comb they used is made of a wood from the African tropics called Doussie because it was the most resistant to swelling but none of those have ever been sealed from the factory and under the right conditions, they most definitely can swell.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte

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