beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > 5 Pack of Marine Band Harps
5 Pack of Marine Band Harps
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6 posts
Dec 22, 2017
8:43 AM
I got the five pack of Hohner Marine Band harps, ie..C, D, A, G, E. I have only played the C harp before I got them. Now when I tried playing each harp, I notice some big differences in how the 2 and 3 hole draw perform.

The A harp, for instance, seems to be the "worst" in regard to the 3 draw. Remember I am talking in comparison to my experience on the C harp. I can position the C harp so that the 2 and 3 draw is nice and clear and when I need to bend the note, I position it a little differently. The A harp, however, seems to be completely different. I don't seem to be able to position it like the C harp for a nice clean 3 draw note (it wants to bend or play extremely low).

Some of the others are different too, but not to the extent of the A. I would love some feedback from those knowledgeable and experienced so I can get a feel for if my differences are normal or an exception. Care to share your experience between the different harps? Thanks!!
2427 posts
Dec 22, 2017
8:58 AM
How do you mean, position it?
143 posts
Dec 22, 2017
9:17 AM
It's a different embouchure for the lower harps joeyman. Instead of having your lips wider and opening your throat when playing the lower harps you may be narrowing your lips and causing the note to bend even though you're trying to play the 3D unbent.
7 posts
Dec 22, 2017
9:18 AM
By position, I mean an almost unnoticeable movement of tilting the harmonica. The tilt is ever so slightly different when I play a clean note as opposed to a draw note. I thought it was universal? I learned this initially from watching various, and Gussow's teaching videos.
2429 posts
Dec 22, 2017
1:21 PM
I see. No, the tilt is a red herring. For info, there is a school of though that tilting the harp up is the secret to a fuller tone - but evidence suggests that's not the case i.e. some great players tilt up, some down and some don't tilt. Maybe there's something in it (there isn't!) but that's another discussion :)

That aside, tilting isn't generally associated with bending. That's about your embouchure (mouth and tongue). What Bike&Harp says is right - the different keys of harp require different embouchures for the same holes. The difference in feel between different keys is surprising large.

But also, you may find that your harps have different gaps on the reeds, which can make matters worse.

So, it could be you or the harp or a combination. When I was starting out, a maladjusted harp was a real problem and the temptation was to get hung up on adjusting them just right. But later much less so. For now, you owe it to yourself to look at adjusting them nicely so you have a level response across all your harps. It's easy to do.

Over to SuperBee...

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Dec 22, 2017 1:27 PM
5131 posts
Dec 22, 2017
6:56 PM
I’ve read about tilting the harp to get a bend but I’ve never chased it. I read it was a dead end technique.
I can’t recall the details; too long ago.
With this 5 pack, I’m not sure whether you’re just discovering the usual differences between keys or if the harps need adjustment.
It’s really tricky to diagnose a harp vicariously.
The description you’ve given doesn’t shed much light for me.
I suspect since you have singled out the A, rather than the G, as having the greatest degree of difference, that there is probably an adjustment called for.
That said, I’m reluctant to advise you to jump into adjusting your harps straight away.
You can certainly investigate the process via YouTube. I’d watch some of Andrew Zajac’s videos on gapping as a starting point. But you may be better served at this moment to just play the harps for a while as they are and see how you adapt to them. I think you’ll learn more (on a physical level) doing that than by trying to tweak harps before you really have a feel for the differences.
2430 posts
Dec 22, 2017
10:56 PM
That's a interesting point of view SuperBee. Not challenging you, but I felt that the general opinion here was to learn to adjust gaps early. I guess on the basis that beginners benefit from a well adjusted harp, whereas more experienced players can compensate with technique. I do appreciate there's a balance to be had.
5132 posts
Dec 23, 2017
3:15 AM
I know, quite unlike me to say this, but in this case I’m really not sure.
Mrjoeyman, I’m sorry, I just can’t tell if there’s a problem with your harps or if you just need to get used to them. I’d say give it a week or 2 and you’ll have a clearer idea.
To give you an idea of what you may be up against, I’ve been visiting this forum for around 8 years and in that time I’ve seen at least a couple threads dedicated to the difficulty of playing an E harp. There was a time when I bought that idea. Now I don’t particularly buy it, but I do think an E harp presents some challenges. No more than an Eb or F though.
When I started learning to play, systematically rather than randomly picking up a harp and making noises, I bought a C sp20. This was mid-90s and it was an MS harp. I found it easier to play than the ‘no name’ C harp which came with my ‘mad jacks guide to playing harmonica’ book, but it wasn’t until I bought a couple of Huang Silvertone Deluxe harps, in A and D, that I realised the C harp was very difficult to play in comparison.
I thought maybe C harps were just difficult. I knew virtually nothing about music, keys, chords; none of that. I didn’t even think about how the harp works and question whether it could be adjusted to work better. I don’t know why I didn’t think about that. I suppose I must have just had faith that everything was as it was supposed to be.
Anyway, I noticed my Huang D was good to play in a raucous fashion, andvthat my Huang A was just good to play. I bought a Suzuki folk master, key of G, and noticed that was mellow and nice, but rather soft.
About then I developed my idea that G harps were easy to play but couldn’t be played fast or loud, D was good to play fast and loud, A was good to play and C was difficult.
That’s not entirely nonsense, but it is quite silly.
Some time later I got a different C harp and was amazed it was easy to play. It dawned on me that my Sp20 was just difficult, not the key of C. But I still didn’t make the leap to what was really going on. Instead I concluded that special 20 harps were hard to play. I clung to that notion for probably 10 years, until I discovered sp20 harps were not like the one I had, and in fact had only been MS harps for a very short time. Not that there’s even anything particularly wrong with MS harps these days.
Anyway, the true story is that some harps are particularly prone to quality problems. In some this is due to poor quality parts and procedures at the factory. I don’t believe the marine band falls into that category.

But even top quality harps can leave the factory with problems, just because they are a mass produced item and people make mistakes when they’re under pressure to turn out lots of units.
These harps can usually be made to play very well if given a little extra attention.
The marine band is slightly challenging in this way due to the nailed construction. This can be deal with though. A bit of searching online will doubtless turn up some good instruction on how to take them apart. Getting the covers off is rather easy. In some ways I think easier than screwed-together harps.
The reed plates are another story though, and care must be taken if it becomes necessary to remove them from the comb.
I’m going to recommend Andrew Zajac again for solid videos on getting them apart.
Hopefully you don’t need to though. Taking off the covers may be all you need do to get sufficient access to the reeds in order to check gaps and adjust if required.
Adjusting gaps I think is best done using a stout wooden toothpick. I can see why Adam Gussow used a atm receipt to open up the draw reeds of his marine band. You can watch his video, it would probably be quite good for you as a marine band owner. I think it’s called Gussow .016

This is getting quite long, but I’m trying to show that harps do have inherent differences from key to key, and notwithstanding those differences, they can also just have problems. And despite the possibility of problems, with a decent quality harp like the marine band, problems can usually be fixed.
My case of 5 marine bands I bought for good price on amazon did need to be adjusted, but once I did that I had some pretty good harps which I still play.
If you are gonna adjust your harps, first you need to form an opinion about what’s wrong. You need to do this one harp at a time.
I’d probably start with the c harp, only because you already have one you can compare.
Approach the question systematically. What is different between the 2 harps? What do you like/dislike?
Do this one chamber at a time.
If for instance you find the 3 draw slow to respond or requires a lot of air on one harp and not the other, Takevthem apart and examine them, note the differences. Does the tip of one reed sit higher than the tip of the same reed in the other harp? Try making them the same and see if that changes the way the harp plays. Also look at the blow reeds. Both reeds in a chamber have an impact on the way each plays.
Best is to watch some good videos by reputable people and go slowly.
As you do this, also consider how you are playing,
8 posts
Dec 23, 2017
3:57 AM
What a great forum. Thank you for such a comprehensive, thoughtful response. I will certainly proceed in the manner that you have laid out.

Nice to be a member of such a resourceful group. See you down the road! :)

*Edited because I followed directions and watched Gussow's video that you recommended and found an answer to the question that I posted in this post* (not the first one)

Last Edited by mrjoeyman on Dec 23, 2017 6:14 AM
144 posts
Dec 23, 2017
2:04 PM
Yeah joeyman it's virtually impossible to get a great harp direct from the box. There's almost always adjustment needed. Every new harp i buy i play for a few minutes and can usually tell where i need to start working on. This is even on expensive harps like Manji's, Hohner Crossover's. They all need set up. You can certainly play them straight out the box and enjoy it to an extent. But after a while, as you improve, the lack of responsiveness becomes annoying. Once you get a bit of confidence you can adjust your own harps to your preference. Basic gapping and reed shaping can do wonders once you get the idea. Embossing i'd stay away from at the beginning because it is easy to screw up your harps badly and then it can take a lot of work to get them playing again. Please don't ask me why i know about the latter!
5133 posts
Dec 23, 2017
9:39 PM
Ha ha, I just watched Gussow.016 again for the first time in several years. It’s pretty old, that video.
I’ve been repairing harps ‘professionally’ for nearly 4 years now, and I think things have changed some since Adam made that video. Also, some of the things he says in it seem sort of mysterious but now I have spent a lot of time working on harps I understand many of the things he didn’t say.
The reason he sharpens the pitch of reeds 1-3 is because he is a relatively forceful player, and it the longest reeds which are most effected by breath force. This is also why he opens the reed gaps on 1-3 and 7-10.
The reason he doesn’t open 4 5 and 6 is because he overblows those holes so he actually wants those draw reeds to respond to air coming OUT of the slots, thus they need to be set reasonably close.

So that’s really quite a personal setup he does, but as such it’s a good illustration of why it’s not realistic to expect a harp to suit you straight out of the box. Maybe it will, but there’s just no 1 size fits all solution. People carry on about it, saying things like ‘I don’t expect to pay $50 and then still have to take it apart and fix it.’ I notice motor vehicle manufacturers struggle with this also. I am forever finding the mirrors, steering wheels and seats in showroom vehicles don’t suit me.

Gussow.016 is a good video though, imho. It’s not the last word in harp adjustment, but it does prove you can open up a marine band and work on it at minimal expense. Until you break a reed or bend one
145 posts
Dec 24, 2017
8:02 AM
"Gussow.016 is a good video though, imho. It’s not the last word in harp adjustment, but it does prove you can open up a marine band and work on it at minimal expense. Until you break a reed or bend one"

Yeah and then when you do that you panic and think "What the hell do i do now?" Then begins the never ending road to 'perfect' harp playing set up or you wear out the road to your local harp repairman's door!

Merry Christmas to all of you.
5134 posts
Dec 24, 2017
12:35 PM
Broke my A Crossover with a slip of a toothpick. I gathered all my broken harps, going back over the previous 10 years, and sent them to MP. Expensive exercise but I could find no local repairer who would do the work at a price which made sense.
Later I broke a reed in my C Crossover, trying to realign it using a table fork for a reed wrench. This time I only had one broken harp. I didn’t want to pay $92 (Australian best price) for a new one. Aussie dollar was at parity with USD, and they could be had for $60 in US, but add $20 for the postage.

That’s when I decided to buy tools instead of a new harp.

By the time I repaired my 3rd harp I was well ahead. Now I’ve become the local repair guy I couldn’t find before.
146 posts
Dec 24, 2017
12:56 PM
Best thing you ever did Bee. I think if you want to get serious about harp you need to at least learn the basics. I can do most things well enough to suit me but there are some biggies that i can't do such as changing a reed on a Manji because of their daft idea of using welded reeds! Out the window go's reed replacement for that one unless you happen to have a workshop with a drill press at your disposal. I don't so on my Manji's it would be either buy a new reedplate or find someone who could do it for me...
5136 posts
Dec 24, 2017
2:23 PM
Yep, I did buy a drill press but it’s not really adequate, or it’s ‘barely’ adequate. The chuck is not perfectly true. It doesn’t take much imprecision to mess up a reed repair. It’s adequate for converting marine bands to screwed construction but not for placing a hole to take a reed.
I think a hand held drill would be better actually. I bought a nice little vice and I think I’ll use that with a jig to hold the Reedplate next time I need to drill a Suzuki, and use a handheld drill.
The real problem with Suzuki is obtaining replacement reeds.
Same problem with Lee Oskar and some others, Hohner MS for instance.
I have a boneyard but not many Suzuki harps in it. And manji/olive are a different template than promaster/harpmaster/blues master.
So they sell replacement reed plates. Seems so wasteful to me.
I do understand though, it’s not in their interest to have people like me
replace reeds for $15.
So they don’t sell individual replacement reeds.
Suzuki do sell a very expensive specific tool to replace reeds in their harps. It’s brilliant and outrageously exxy. The joke is, you can’t get the reeds, even though you spent multiple hundreds on the tool. I think Gnarly has access to the tool, and the reeds, for the warranty work he does.
11 posts
Dec 26, 2017
4:44 PM
I enjoyed watching Arzajac give basic tips on how to adjust mischevious reeds. I think I will give that a look for real inside my A harp. I'm a hands-on person who loves this kind of stuff anyway. I think I can go in and at the worst, come out with the present setup unchanged.
152 posts
Dec 26, 2017
5:28 PM
joeyman: go for it buddy if i can do it then you can certainly do it. Gapping and arcing will get your harp playing well. Other stuff you can do as well but i'd stay away from embossing until you get more experience. I pretty much screwed up a reedplate by going in too gung ho on it and without having enough experience. Too heavy embossing and not enough checking the work was the killer. Slots completely closed to the point a lot of the reeds wouldn't play. To get a reedplate functioning after that takes so much work undoing a lot of what you've done. If you do get into embossing my advice is do a small bit of embossing and then check your work, plink the reed to make sure it's functioning properly. If it is then do another very small bit and repeat... If it's not then you need to free the reed by eliminating what's causing the catch before you go on. It's very tiresome and exacting work and easy to mess up!
12 posts
Dec 26, 2017
5:44 PM
Thanks B&H I will keep you updated.

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