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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Are special 20s getting sharper?
Are special 20s getting sharper?
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sonvolt13
236 posts
Sep 04, 2020
8:42 AM
I’ve been playing special 20s for about 15 years. They seem to be tuned sharper and sharper now up to 445 or even a little sharper. Anyone else noticing this?
SuperBee
6796 posts
Sep 04, 2020
9:21 PM
I don’t buy many new harps, but until recently I was taking in repair jobs and while many of those were older harps there were a few newish harps that turned up.
Most recently (like a couple months ago) I had a brand new Sp20 which the owner asked me to retune especially for On The Road Again as played on the original Canned Heat record.
I did note what a great player the harp was. I usually touch up any poor or inconsistent response issues, but this one didn’t have any.
You’d maybe think I’d have noticed if it was sharp. I do remember checking the tuning and found it was pretty consistent, but I don’t recall thinking it was particularly sharp. I reckon it was 443, but it may have been a little steeper, I can’t really say. I wasn’t being paid to do a complete retuning but I would have if I thought it was called for. I do remember feeling relieved I didn’t need to. I’d probably draw the line at 445. I knew the owner was a hard blower so I might have rationalized 444 was not unreasonable.

Over the last 6-7 years I’d say as an educated guess I’ve tuned maybe 1800 harps. There have been some really sharp ones. Mainly Crossovers, especially the high octave. Also Rockets.

Some of those Crossover harps have been way sharp in the high end. I had one which was up to 449 but 446 is not uncommon.
sonvolt13
237 posts
Sep 06, 2020
7:21 AM
Superbee,
Thx, having some insight from someone who works on a lot of harps is helpful. I’m assuming they tune so sharp because they figure the players breath force will flatten the notes. But I play pretty softly and my draw notes end up being 20+ Cents sharp at 440 which causes obvious issues with playing with bands.
SuperBee
6802 posts
Sep 06, 2020
3:03 PM
For sure. I use 443 as the base for draw reeds usually. Sometimes 442. Those seem to be common.
The Steel harps I have worked on are generally a bit more consistent. Maybe because they don't drift as much.
Earlier this year I tuned 30 1847 plates that i'd repaired. Some of them had been here before and I was pleased to see those were still pretty much in tune (apart from the new reeds of course).
I repaired 17 harps for the same player in 2016, and a similar number in late 17. In 16 I was still using screws to attach new reeds, so I couldeasily see which of the most recent job had been previously repaired back then.

If I was playing a lot of gigs, I can understand the appeal of those Steel reed harps from the angle of holding their tunefulness.
sonvolt13
238 posts
Sep 07, 2020
7:15 AM
The brass reeds on SP20s drift sharp over time. Usually within 6 months time. I use a lot of octaves so this is a problem. Lately I’ve been sending some harps out for tuning because sp20s have more than tripled in price since I started playing. It seems like the going rate for tuning is about half the price of the harp.
florida-trader
1520 posts
Sep 11, 2020
3:10 PM
I build a ton of Special 20s - an average of about one per day, 365 days a year, and have been for years. Most of the time I tune to A=442. The consensus is that they are tuned at the factory at A=442 or A=443.
Certainly not A=440. Although I have never, as in NEVER, found a stock harp to be in perfect tune, I do not find that the Special 20s are consistently sharper or flatter thanthey are supposed to be. They all need some TLC but respectfully I would disagree with the notion that they have been getting sharper over the past several years. I find them to be very very good harps that, like most stock harps, will benefit from a little tweaking.
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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas


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