Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Manji SP20 air pressure question
Manji SP20 air pressure question
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dantana
12 posts
Oct 10, 2018
11:07 AM
Greetings all,
I am curious about something. I have some Manji’s with custom combs that I haven’t played in a while (and never really played much). I have just noticed now that playing them takes significantly more air pressure to play than my SP20’s. They are not leaking air (and I don’t believe my SP20’s are either). You just have to use more “force” to get the air through them. I am wondering if this is a Manji thing or a need to adjust reeds (which would mean I’m ditching them as I have never been able to do it right).

Thanks for any guidance
jbone
2720 posts
Oct 10, 2018
11:27 AM
Food for thought there. I may do a side by side later. Right off the bat I'll guess it may take a bit more air to move the reeds, but for my money they are a great acoustic or busking harp. Much louder.

Mine are all stock and one thing I noticed in the past year or so is, the replacement reed plates I have gotten are sometimes not gapped as well as the first ones seemed to be. This may also be my playing going through some changes though.

I've never flat sanded a plate or comb but maybe that's an option you could try.

I am considering opening a Manji orphanage for anyone who feels they must let go of the "problem" harps. I promise to give them a good home, keep them clean, and do minimal tweaks as necessary to keep them out in public on stages or farmers markets wherever we go.

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BnT
205 posts
Oct 10, 2018
1:44 PM
I haven't found that it took any significant increase in air, but the Manji's are louder so....maybe.

Harp choices are personal, almost like polarized politics - perceived flaws and benefits are often ascribed to brand rather than actual mechanics. Before you ditch the Manji's and send them to my Manji retirement home or Jbone's Manji orphanage, send one to Gnarly (Gary Lehmann) to set up (he's Suzuki's set up guy in the US). You may save a lot of money buying new harps and be pleasantly surprised. I know an Eb minor Manji he did for me is my best playing harp.
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BnT

Last Edited by BnT on Oct 10, 2018 1:45 PM
Thievin' Heathen
1068 posts
Oct 10, 2018
4:24 PM
I think the Phosphor Bronze reeds are perceptively stiffer than Brass and I think the Manji reed slot tolerances are a little tighter than the SP20. If you are hyper attuned to breath pressure you could be feeling it.

Last Edited by Thievin' Heathen on Oct 13, 2018 8:06 AM
florida-trader
1368 posts
Oct 10, 2018
4:52 PM
dantana - I can't tell who you are via your user name. If you purchased the custom Manji combs from me, I will be happy to adjust your harps for you - no charge. If you didn't get the combs from Blue Moon, I suggest you contact whoever you got them from. Perhaps they would be willing to help you. Manjis are great harps. There is no reason to abandon them, especially if you have not only bought harps, but have invested in custom combs as well.
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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas

Last Edited by florida-trader on Oct 10, 2018 4:53 PM
dantana
13 posts
Oct 10, 2018
5:43 PM
I got the combs over a year ago. Two I got from Rockin Rons Music. The third is an aluminum comb and I don’t remember who I ordered it from. Ever since I got these three combs I havn’t liked my Manjis. ( I only have the three). I like the sound and playibility of the one with the aluminum comb but it leaves a horrible metal taste lingering in my mouth. (I have the same problem with Golden Melodies). I thought these custom combs would be good because I hate the stock Manji combs.

Last Edited by dantana on Oct 10, 2018 5:43 PM
dantana
14 posts
Oct 10, 2018
5:48 PM
Actually Tom I may have gotten the aluminum comb from you....
Gnarly
2560 posts
Oct 10, 2018
6:27 PM
I think you have to get used to the Manji--
I am happy to try to improve them for you, but it may be that you are just not giving them a chance. Bear in mind that the reeds are different than the Hohner reeds--or Lee Oskar, or Hering, for that matter.
They are, of course, very similar to Easttop reeds--in fact, I feel that Easttop has copied Suzuki.
Could just be me, tho . . .
florida-trader
1369 posts
Oct 10, 2018
6:43 PM
Send me an email and I will check my records.
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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
BnT
206 posts
Oct 10, 2018
9:01 PM
dantana - If you got custom combs from Rockin' Ron fair chance they're Andrew Zajac's. If so, they're not flush with the covers/reed plates - they uncomfortably protrude 1/16th" or so. Sounds like one of the technical gurus - Gnarly, Tom, etc. can take care of playability issues. Having played for decades (a majority using Hohners) Manji's are my favorites (and Suzuki doesn't give me free harps to say that). Good luck in your quest.
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BnT

Last Edited by BnT on Oct 10, 2018 9:05 PM
John M G
259 posts
Oct 11, 2018
5:19 AM
I don't have any special 20's I play regularly these days just two 30 year old Eb and Db’s that never saw a lot of work but I do have a few crossovers and I've found they are a more compliant reed. However my go to harps are my Manji's. I've had several set up by Joe Spiers and a lot of other stock ones. I recognise I can tend to draw/blow toward the too strong at times and can choke my custom A Manji depending on the song and will often go for my A crossover. I've found the Manji's to be extremely robust and have only so far blown one reed on a Firebreath while going through the early learning stages of overblowing and had that harp in my pocket 24 -7. That said I’ve blown reeds on 3 of my crossovers and 4 of my 1847’s
I’ve got Manji’s from Low C all the way through to an F# and wouldn’t be in a hurry to change them. I have several with Tom’s combs fitted. I wouldn’t part with the Low F JR signature Manji Tom did for me. Just my 2 cents worth.
I used to use Lee Oskars and at aprrox US $35 here in Australia are a very tempting harp with great life and good bending reeds. When I gave up on special 20’s I moved to the Lee Oskars sometime back in the late 80’s.

Last Edited by John M G on Oct 11, 2018 12:50 PM
Raven
141 posts
Oct 11, 2018
10:25 AM
Dantana: Why do you hate the stock Manji combs? I have no problem with them and never found Manji's needing more air pressure.
dantana
15 posts
Oct 11, 2018
12:37 PM
Thanks for all the responses and info!

Tom, thanks but as far as the Manji with the comb from you is concerned, it's the best one as far as playability, the issue is the metal taste which I don't think is the fault of the harmonica or the comb, that's just the way it is. I don't think this one really needs work.

Bnt, they are Andrew Zajac. I don't recommend his combs.

To all who recommended having them worked on, I just don't see why a new/different comb would create the need for reed adjustments. They were fine before. I have never had a harmonica setup professionally because the cost seemed to be more than a new harmonica so I would just get a new one and tell myself I would learn how to adjust them myself. However I don't think I have the patience for that, don't want to be bothered with it, and just want to play. Funny I've played guitar all my life and can maintain that instrument just fine. When I got interested in harmonica I thought great! No more tuning and maintenance! How wrong I was....

Raven, I hate the bumpiness / porousness of it. My Manji's definitely need more effort to get air through them. (At least way more than my SP20's.


All glad I posted here before getting rid of them. I am now thinking I either need different combs or should just stick with the SP20's. I had a few Bluesmasters years ago and thought they were great. Never wore out like my SP20's do. That's why I tried Manji.

Also almost forgot, I am not good enough to play with others, I just play by myself. I bend, but not well. Overblows? Yeah right. So I think a pro setup would be a waste on me.

Last Edited by dantana on Oct 11, 2018 1:06 PM
SuperBee
5614 posts
Oct 11, 2018
3:06 PM
Hi Dantana, just a few rambling thoughts here: I totally get the dislike of Manji combs and aluminium combs. That could be me talking.
I also did not ever like any Manji I ever played although there have not been very many. I never bothered trying to get to like them though because they cost more and are more of a handful to repair unless you get Reedplates and that is too wasteful for me.

I have used a lot of Andrew Zajac combs and they are very good combs. They are quite rigid and dead flat which can highlight other problems in the harp.

John MG, I read above your comparison of 30 year old Sp20 to Crossover. I have just recently restored a couple of Sp20s from that era. They are quite different harps to the modern era Crossover/Sp20. The difference between a properly setup modern Sp20 and Crossover is nowhere near as great.

Dantana, if you’re harps became harder to play when you installed the new combs, it could be that the Reedplates have not seated well. There are a few possibilities. 1 is that the Reedplates are not flat and so when they are bolted onto a flat comb there is some distortion which is changing the relationship of the reeds to the slot.
Another is that in bolting them to the new comb you have applied more torque than necessary which will also have the effect of distorting the reedplates.
Sometimes the Reedplates mating surfaces have inconsistencies. Manji has welded reeds so there are no rivet bumps but there could be a ridge around the reedplate bolt holes on the threaded side. You can quickly remove any such with a sheet of sandpaper and a flat surface.

If the plates are bowed though, it’s a bigger job to straighten them.

I’ve got a couple harps which don’t do well on a flat comb with no give. I’ve straightened some and others are in the get around to it box.
There are lots of folk who can straighten them but I don’t know many who will show you how they do it without you coming to the party with a few shekels

Zajac combs in my experience can be set to give you a protruding or recessed tine, or dead-flush. I haven’t seen his Manji model but I’ve used a lot of the marine band, MS and Sp20 combs plus a few promaster and 1847 and they have all had enough clearance to set them whichever way I like in that regard.
SuperBee
5615 posts
Oct 11, 2018
3:11 PM
Also fwiw I concur with comments above that even a well setup Manji is a different animal to a Sp20 and does take some personal adjustment.

First time I set one up I found it was more of a handful than I was used to, too. But it was just a recalibration of effort required. It’s a bit like that for me in playing them too.
John M G
261 posts
Oct 11, 2018
5:38 PM
I did find the Suzuki Olive's I bought were all a bit breathy and initially a disappointment and mentioned them here on the forum.
Someone replied suggesting to simply pull them apart and then reassemble them, he'd had a similar problem with his Olives and found this sorted the problem out for him.
It may be just a case of doing that with your Manjis and certainly worth a try for just a few minutes of your time. Cheers JG
jbone
2722 posts
Oct 11, 2018
7:02 PM
Dantana, I played SP20 pretty much exclusively for some years in the 90's and early 2000's. I blew out a lot of reeds. While I th9ink they are a good harp they did not stand up to my level of abuse. I was a very hard player and took out a lot of draw 4 and 5 and 2 reeds. Before I actually got my stuff together and learned to focus my breath better, I had moved on to other harps. I went through LO, Hering 1923, Bushman, and Huang and got much the same results. Blown reeds.
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When Manji came out I tried one and liked it a lot, so I built my gig case up with them. I've maintained a set of all keys I use for at least 3 years. I noticed about a year ago that the replacement plates didn't seem to perform as well as I was used to. This may be due to something I'm doing or it may be that Suzuki has taken some shortcuts in tuning in order to get more product out. I honestly don't know. Meanwhile I've gotten a few different brand and model harps and they have ended up in my case as well. Eastop and MB Deluxe are two I am using quite a bit.
Still, with a bit of gapping I find the Manjis to be superior for acoustic playing in public, outdoors. They are for the most part louder, a bit raspier, and over all more desirable to play in that setting, while other harps I prefer for amped play in a small to medium venue.


That's my experience. Yours may vary. My opinion is, the Manji is a worthwhile harp and can be used well in certain settings.
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jbone
2723 posts
Oct 11, 2018
7:05 PM
Dantana, by the way, when you are ready, try playing with other musicians. You may find that the support of peers in music will give you a different perspective. Funny how hearing harp with other instruments can change one's perspective!
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florida-trader
1370 posts
Oct 12, 2018
9:03 AM
This tread has devolved into a bit of a product review of a couple of different harps and aftermarket custom comb suppliers – including me. Every brand and/or model has its fans and its detractors. Hohner harps use brass reeds. Suzuki uses phosphor bronze reeds. Phosphor bronze is a harder metal than brass so many people feel they require a bit more breath pressure to play than brass reeds. That is not a criticism. It is just a piece of information. It can be good or bad I suppose. Personally, if you are experiencing this, I think it is more due to the way the harp is set up than it is what the reeds are made of.

Regardless of which brand/model you prefer, when you get a new harp, it can be a bit of a crap shoot. Sometimes you get a real winner. Sometimes you get a dud. But here’s the thing. If you go back maybe 15-20 years ago and you bought a harp that just didn’t play all that good, it was sort of a lost cause. Back then, quality (or lack thereof) was a real issue. Some harps were just plain poorly made. But also, there was not much information out there about how to fix a harp that didn’t play good. No Youtube videos. No Facebook. No Modern Blues Harmonica. Fast forward to today and, as long as you are talking about one of the “professional grade” harps manufactured by Hohner, Suzuki, Seydel or Lee Oskar, 100% of them are well made and if they don’t play great out of the box, they can be made into great playing harps with a few simple adjustments. Simple, of course, is a relative term. It is simple if you know what you are doing. If you don’t then there is a good chance that you will make a bad playing harp worse. That’s why us Harp Techs make the big bucks (yeah, right)! My point here really is that we often read posts from people who have had a bad experience with a certain brand or model and will opine that all Brand X or Model Y are junk. Some people will ask why should you have to pay $40-$50 for a harp and have to adjust it to make it play right? Why can’t they just make a harp that plays perfectly out of the box for that much? Well, we can play that game of “Why can’t they………….?” Or, we can deal with reality and learn how to fix the problem. When you learn how to make some very basic adjustments on harps it really makes your life so much easier. I’m not talking about a full-blown custom job. Just some simple adjustments. I guess it is a mindset.

About the Manji. I don’t care much for the comb, but I am extremely biased due to the fact that I make custom combs. Go figure. The reed plates are extremely well made as measured by how flat the plates are, how good the reed profiles are, how well the reeds are centered and how they are gapped. I like the gaps a little tighter than the factory setting, but at least they are consistent, and they are tighter than the average Hohner. What I don’t like is the way they are tuned. Suzuki has a funky compromise temperament that I don’t like, so I re-tune them to Modern Compromise Temperament, which is how the Marine Band 1896 is tuned, and I think it makes a positive difference. Once they are set up properly, and I realize that is a very subjective term, they are great playing harps. As good as anything else out there.

About custom combs. I don’t want to appear defensive, but more often than not, custom combs, regardless of who makes them, are installed on harps without any issue. Most often, they make a positive difference. SuperBee has made some excellent points about over-tightening screws that bear repeating. If you are not experienced at disassembling and reassembling harps, it is very easy to make the mistake of torqueing the reed plate screws down too tightly. It is natural to assume that the tighter you make something the more airtight it will be. That is only true up to a certain point. The reed plates are pieces of sheet metal and if you put too much pressure on one point, it will distort the metal down and will create a bulge in the area between the screws. You might have made it airtight where the screws attach to the plates, but in between the screws you have created leaks. So, just tighten the screws with the tips of your fingers on the screw driver and when it feels snug – stop. Resist the temptation to crank it down even tighter.

Custom comb makers, myself included (and I am sure Andrew does too) take a lot of pride in the products they (we) turn out. Pretty much the primary benefit of a custom comb is that it will be flatter than a stock comb which will enable the user to make a more airtight harp. But, in order for that to happen, we are assuming that there is nothing wrong with the harp it will be installed on and the user knows what he is doing. This isn’t always the case. Not trying to throw anybody under the bus here, but certain things are beyond our control. I get, and I am sure Andrew does too, emails from customers all the time in which they express their gratitude and amazement about how by simply installing a new comb it made a huge difference in their harmonica. If only life was always that easy. It isn’t. Sometimes guys run into snags and need help. Who knows where they are on the learning curve? This might be the first harp they have ever taken apart. To me, this is called – “Opportunity”. Opportunity to render customer service. Opportunity to turn frustration into jubilation. Opportunity to take someone who feels like they have wasted their money and convert them in to a loyal customer. Sometimes, you have to actually work for it. As a businessman, the only sensible thing to do is to embrace this situation. I can only help the guy who speaks up and lets me know there is a problem. Otherwise, I might assume everything is fine. Nobody benefits when somebody spends money and isn’t happy with what they got. Nobody. That isn’t the way business works.

I look at the members of this forum as a community. We share a love of the harmonica and harmonica music. If the topic of conversation happens to be about gear, we all have a common goal of having stuff that works. We want progress. If we spend money on something we want it to result in an improvement. I have met a lot of the guys on this forum in person and consider them friends. A lot of you have done business with me and I sincerely appreciate it. I know that Andrew Zajac feels the same way. I am 100% confident that, given an opportunity to do so, if anyone is not completely satisfied with anything they have gotten from either of us, we would bend over backwards to make it right. And I am sure the same thing can be said about any of the other members of this forum who happen to also be vendors – Brendan Power, Greg Heumann, Joe Spiers, Richard Sleigh, Randy Landry, Harvey Berman, Mark Prados, Mike Peace and Joel Anderson. If I am leaving anybody out, it is not intentional. I’m just going off the top of my head. We have survived and/or thrived in business because we take care of our customers and if we can’t take care of the guys on MBH, who then would we take care of?

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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas

Last Edited by florida-trader on Nov 13, 2018 8:26 AM
eetechTom
39 posts
Oct 13, 2018
7:29 PM
Great post Tom. I wish I knew all of that in the beginning. I was frustrated not knowing if certain issues were me, or the harp. Turns out a few were the harp, but I just kind of assumed it was me.

Just part of the journey I guess.
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Future location of my really cool signature.
BnT
208 posts
Oct 16, 2018
2:00 PM
Tom,
Appreciate your post and you're probably right about harp vendors making things right in this small (worldwide) harp community. But much as I don't care for Andrew's custom combs I wouldn't go back to him. He delivered a product that apparently satisfies many harp players. I don't expect him to adjust his custom comb design to my personal preferences. I tried them and it's now my choice to see if I like YOUR combs better.

Over many years I switched from Hohner to Seydel to Bends to Manji too until I found what I liked best. The cost of an education keeps going up.
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BnT
FastFourier
76 posts
Nov 07, 2018
3:47 PM
I recently purchased a Manji, and find it harder to bend notes than with a Special 20, which is my usual harp. I'm not giving up on the Manji - I like the sound, and it may just require different technique to play. I was wondering if it might have to do with the phosphor bronze reeds being stiffer.

I also purchased a Crossover, which is a great harp, but I find the Manji to be more comfortable to play.
florida-trader
1382 posts
Nov 08, 2018
6:41 AM
FastFourier - that seems to be the general consensus. I personally do not notice much of a difference but many people have stated that they find the phosphor bronze reeds a bit stiffer. This can either be good or bad depending on who you are. If you are a forceful player then perhaps a stiffer reed might be a good idea because the softer brass reeds on a Hohner might choke a bit. If you are softer player, perhaps the brass reeds are a better fit because it doesn't take as much air to get them moving. I dunno. Just looking at it from both sides.
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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
FastFourier
78 posts
Nov 08, 2018
3:54 PM
I agree completely - having listened Jason Ritchie and others play the Manji, I'm well aware it's my technique that's lacking, not the harp. And I haven't even tried tweaking my Manji. So I'm definitely going to continue playing it.
SuperBee
5644 posts
Nov 08, 2018
4:11 PM
I owned 1 Manji, back around 2011/12. I think I knew about gaps but not much else about setups.
I wasn’t a big fan of the harp. I felt like I’d probably be able to adapt to it but had no incentive ie they cost more and I didn’t find them better to play than the MS blues harps I was using at the time

Since then I’ve learned a lot more about harps and how they work. I’ve had opportunity to work on Manji for other people and I think they’re ok but I don’t like the comb.

I’ve also come along a way with playing so maybe I should have another try?
Gnarly
2568 posts
Nov 08, 2018
8:15 PM
Yes!
BnT
216 posts
Nov 09, 2018
2:41 PM
Yes!
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BnT
arzajac
1856 posts
Nov 11, 2018
6:03 AM
The thing with stock harps is that there is so much variability due to mass-production. There are solutions to that, but you don't get anything for nothing.

Manji reeds have more mass than brass reeds and take more force to get them to move but there are ways to improve response.

If you are looking for a harp with the best response and tone and you do not want to work on your own harps, you are looking for a custom harp. They are expensive but if you obtain one from me or any other Hohner Affiliated Customizer, you get a lifetime warranty. That means that instead of spending hundreds on brand new harps every few months, you can get your the custom harp you bought from me brought back to like-new condition for much less.

That actually saves you money in the long-term and you can focus on playing.

If you want to do some or all of the work yourself, I offer the tools to perform any and all of the tasks you need to do as well as combs for all the pro-level harps (and even some lesser ones) on the market. ALL of my products include full support.

That means if you don’t get the result you want, you can immediately contact me and we will troubleshoot the problem together. If it’s not something you can handle, you can send it to me and I will address the problem, no questions asked.

I have always offered this service and it always leads to a positive result as many folks on this forum can attest to.

In the case of the two individuals in this thread who have not gotten the desired results from my combs, I have never heard from them. By their description of the problem, it sounds like a 90-second fix. Contact me and I will make sure you get the most not only from my combs but from the harps you are installing them in.

http://harp.andrewzajac.ca/Contact

I look forward to hearing from you!

Andrew
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Custom overblow harps. Harmonica Combs and Tools.
AppalachiaBlues
228 posts
Nov 11, 2018
6:25 AM
I love Manji. I also love SP20 and Session Steel. But they are each different, and each requires a different embouchure and attack. I used only Hohners for two decades, then I branched out with Manjis and Session Steels over the past 5 years. There was a learning curve initially... and yes, in the beginning the new harps felt "stiffer" and needed to be "played harder". But once I got used to them, those feelings went away. I now find them all easy to play.

The Manji, like all harps, needs care and tweaking. As Andrew says, you can outsource that work to a pro... or learn to do it yourself.

Last Edited by AppalachiaBlues on Nov 11, 2018 1:46 PM
Littoral
1640 posts
Nov 13, 2018
8:16 AM
Tom's post. I made copies to put in my harp case to give to the people who need to know. Which is often.
Quite the summary it is -and a lot better than me trying to deal with it reasonably between sets or breaking down. Much thanks.


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