I have several custom harps in all keys but B and F#......they are mostly marine bands built by deak harp,joe spiers,andrew Zajac and sugar cain……..they all play with very minimal wind...….they are great harps but nevertheless...…….you gotta play them...…..they will not play by themselves
One of my students just gifted me a custom "A" harmonica by Sugar Cain....set up for OD/OB - plays wonderfully....I understand that this was the last custom Cain harmonica for a long while, as he is getting a "real" job and putting customizing on the back burner. ---------- The Iceman
cain built me a G and Ab harp.....it has elevated cover plate over 1-4 holes to prevent reed rattle......that is common in lower pitched harps he said......I think the idea came from joe filisko...……..
You’ve reminded me of some harps I have put away and seldom use
When I started repairing harps I found I could now afford custom harps, as I was earning a little money from repairs and not breaking any harps myself. I was setting harps up and people seemed happy with them but I felt I needed to understand how good a harp could be. I’d see the occasional custom harp come in for repairs and that was interesting but I started collecting a few of my own, mainly in keys I use a lot.
I have C by Spiers and Sleigh G by Spiers (Stage 2) D by Spiers, Sleigh, and Henry Slim A by Deak, Zajac, and Spiers Bb by Spiers (Stage 2)
I learned quite a lot from playing and studying these harps.
My frontline is the Spiers stages 1 and 2 Backup is the Sleigh harps plus the Zajac
I actually bought the Slim harp before I began learning to work on harps. I did learn to overblow the 6 using that harp but in general I found it was too inclined to choke so I put it away. I feel like getting it out again, as I have probably become better able to control my attack now.
The Sleigh harps are fine, but they sit in the backup set and are never played.
I do think there is a timbral difference between some of these harps. The Spiers Stage 1 harps seem more like the stock Marine Band sound whereas the sleigh and Zajac harps seem bright and a little harsh. There’s no doubt the Sleigh D harp I have is very nimble though.
When I first got a custom harp I was overly concerned with how it would overblow. as I learnt to play better, I felt and this is my opinion, that even a custom harp might have to be tweaked( gapping) to suit ones individual playing style, preferring harps to have that little resistance to be able to play hard without choking!
having said that I don't have enough custom harps to really know if there are custom harps built that work across all playing styles and techniques!
I recently got a marine brand in D and it was perfect out of the box. of course once I convert it to screws, and some flat sanding of the comb/reedplate, its going to be as good as a stage 1 custom harp!
i used to convert marine bands to screws straight away but i have an F harp which was so good already i decided to not interfere with it until it really needed work like a reed replacement or a new comb. its an F harp though, so its putting up a good fight. ive had it around 7 years. anyway, that thought grew legs and i left the Ab Bb and Eb i bought in the same deal alone also. i think i fitted the covers with bolts on a couple but i didn't split the reed plates off the comb. they were all great harps and still are. ive touched up the tuning here and there but otherwise they have needed little interference. 3 of them were clearance items; old stock on the original unsealed combs. i got the Bb into the deal to spread the postage thinner; its the first of the sealed comb marine bands and was a real winner of a stock harp too