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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Gapping changing tuning?
Gapping changing tuning?
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sonvolt13
256 posts
Jul 09, 2021
6:40 AM
I have been playing sp20s for about 20 years and occasionally get a harp that is gapped to wide (for me). Sometimes when I gap harps I notice the tuning changes and leads to issues such as beating octaves. I use a tooth pick to gap going about 20% of the way down the reed pressing gently. I do not take reed plates off, just the cover plates. Typically I “plink” the draw reeds after gaping to prevent them from settling back.. If anyone has some suggestions……?
SuperBee
6989 posts
Jul 09, 2021
7:05 AM
That can happen anytime you work on a reed. Plinking is good practice but it won’t make the reed play in tune, it just helps it settle in to the way it’s going to sound. Once you’ve established that, it’s time to tune it. Generally a reed is gonna play flatter after you adjust it.
It can be a frustrating cycle. Sometimes retuning will mess with your reed shape and you have to reset it and then sometimes that reset might mess with your tuning again etc. breathe! Be patient.
And then, after you’ve tuned it and everything seems sweet, it might drift after a few days and you’ll find it’s now sharp.
Some folks think you can get greater stability if you tune a little past the target, then come back to it. So if your reed is 10 cents flat, maybe tune it up to be 2 or 3cents sharp, and then flatten it back to pitch. Dick Sjoburg suggested this would prevent the reed drifting. I can’t swear that it works but its not hard to do.
sonvolt13
257 posts
Jul 09, 2021
8:26 AM
Thx superbee. Unfortunately tuning is not something I’ve been able to master. Certainly an important skill but I just end of ruining reeds
Millman500
23 posts
Jul 09, 2021
2:37 PM
For me you have to tune them a few times... Letting them sit overnight between each time.

So the first tuning is the most extensive.
Let sit
Come back to it
Find that it went off
Tune it again
Let sit
Final tuning hopefully.
Let sit, come back and find that the reeds have stablized.

IMO those customizers selling a complete Marine Band for 200$ are giving it away. There's too much work involved in this crap lol
I like doing things myself, but damn, I could actually go to work instead of harp tooling for 10 hours on a harp and make more than 200$ plus they do it better than me anyway haha

Last Edited by Millman500 on Jul 09, 2021 2:42 PM
Gnarly
2993 posts
Jul 09, 2021
3:33 PM
Every harp player should be able to do simple things to improve their harp.
However, Joe Spiers.
Millman500
25 posts
Jul 11, 2021
7:27 AM
How long do you guys let customized, tuned harps sit for before retuning them again?
florida-trader
1547 posts
Jul 11, 2021
8:35 AM
This is a good conversation to have. I’ll give you the bottom line first and then elaborate.

Everything affects everything.

When you customize a reed plate, there are a lot of subtle adjustments that are made. Gapping and tuning are just two of these adjustments. There is also centering the reed in the slot, shaping the reed and embossing or burnishing the reed slots. Then you have tuning the reed when it is not fastened to the reed plate (it is easier to work on a blow plate when it is detached from the comb) and tuning the reed plate when it is fastened to the comb. How flat the reed plate is, how flat the comb is, how tightly you torque the screws – both the reed plate and the cover plate – affects the way the harmonica will play. The tighter you make the tolerances – which is sort of the object of the game in customization – the more magnified the consequences of every action becomes.

There are concepts and practices involved every step of the way. For example, the concept of tuning is that if the pitch is too low, you remove material from the tip to lighten it up and allow it to vibrate faster. In practice, you put a shim under the reed for support, remove the material with a file or a rotary tool or whatever you use and test the reed by playing it. The act of putting pressure on the tip of the reed can affect both the shape and the gap, which in turn can affect the tuning. It is a very common practice to plink a reed to make sure it is centered in the slot – particularly after embossing or burnishing the reed slot. The act of plinking the reed can put a curve in the reed, which will affect the shape, gap and tuning.

Everything you do to a reed and/or reed plate affects every other goal you are trying to achieve. Frequently, it is like a big game of Whack a Mole.

And so, let’s say hypothetically that there are 10 steps involved in customizing a reed plate. That is just a made-up number. Don’t hold me to it. The point is, you don’t just go Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 through Step 10 and you’re done. It is Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, back to Step 2, Step 4, Step 5, Step 6, back to Step 3, Step 7, back to Step 4, back to Step 2, Back to Step 5, Step 8, and so on. You have to re-visit every step several times along the way. Every time you make an adjustment to a reed, you have to check to see how that adjustment affected everything else you are aiming for.

A few comments in direct response to some of the other comments that have been made.

@ SuperBee – as always, you provide sound logic and good advice. My comments are pretty much an elaboration on your comments.

@ sonvolt13 – re: tuning, “an important skill but I just end of ruining reeds”. I see this type of comment all the time and I just don’t get it. The mantra with all things related to working on harmonicas is this. Make small adjustments and then test. Small adjustments and then test. Tuning a reed is about as simple as filing a fingernail. I seriously doubt that if you attempted to file a fingernail that you would chop of the end of your finger or wind up in the emergency room. Just a few light strokes with a file or sanding wand will do the trick. Small adjustments, then test. You are doing something way wrong if you habitually ruining reeds.

@ Millman500 – your comments are right on the money. There is building custom harps and there is making a profit building custom harps. The two are not the same. Let me give you an analogy. All my custom combs are CNC Milled by a professional machinist using state-of-the-art equipment. Whenever he is setting up the milling machine to make a part – any part, not just harmonica combs – the object is to have the machine operate at maximum speed so you can maximize your output. Time is money. So how does he know how fast he can go? He starts making some samples and ratchets up the speed until either the endmill (the cutting tool) or the material fails. Then he backs it off a little. Now he knows how fast he can go without sacrificing the integrity of the part and without wasting time. When you build a lot of custom harmonicas, you have to learn to be efficient. You have to learn how minimize the Everything Affects Everything Murphy’s Law in action Catch 22. For example, embossing. You have to learn how to emboss just right because if you over-emboss, you just created more work for yourself to de-burr the slot and create room for the reed to swing. You have to learn to live on the edge. You have to figure out how to push things right up to the edge without going over because you know if/when you go over the edge you have just created another job. I don’t think this is a foreign concept. How about cooking your eggs? There is a fine line between raw and overcooked. Or playing through an amp. There is a fine line between being right in the sweet spot and being too loud – over the top. I could go on and on with examples. Like many many things in life, it is a skill which can be mastered. And, I might add, the mission is not to cut corners just to be quicker. It is to be efficient. No wasted time. No wasted movements with the outcome being better than if you had taken more time and created extra problems that need to be solved. The best of both worlds. That is the only way you can make money being a customizer. That is the world that I live in. Producing good harps is a given. It is not difficult to do that. Producing them without wasting time and making life difficult for yourself as you do it is the real art form. At least it is to me.

And finally, “How long do you guys let customized, tuned harps sit for before re-tuning them again?” After you tune them, you need to let them rest for a few days at least – maybe a week – before testing them again. But remember, just because you test them, doesn’t mean you have to re-tune them right away. Ideally, you don’t want to ship a harp until there are no changes in the tuning after it has rested for while.

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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas

Last Edited by florida-trader on Jul 11, 2021 9:02 AM
Millman500
26 posts
Jul 11, 2021
10:54 AM
Great post Tom!

What a wonderful world we live in that someone of your caliber is on here helping out the community!

I love the Whack a Mole analogy, hahaha :) So true.

Last Edited by Millman500 on Jul 11, 2021 10:55 AM
sonvolt13
258 posts
Jul 11, 2021
11:18 AM
@Florida Trader: I’m just not good at it and time is a factor.
I have to:
1) practice harmonica/stay connected with other musicians.
2) Raise my 2 kids
3) work
4) pay attention to my wife.
COULD I get good at tuning? Probably, but one of these other things would suffer for it I’m not willing to trade practice time for working on harps.
For you, it is hard to imagine because your job is to fix harmonicas.

Last Edited by sonvolt13 on Jul 11, 2021 11:24 AM
florida-trader
1548 posts
Jul 11, 2021
2:10 PM
@ Millman400 - Thanks for your kind words. I find the “someone of your caliber” comment somewhat amusing. It wasn’t long ago that I was newbie, and I was the one asking all the questions. I am just a regular guy who happens to spend a lot of time fiddling with harps.

@sonvolt13 – I understand completely. We all have to have our priorities. Not to be contrary, but here are my responses to your list:
I have to:
1) practice harmonica/stay connected with other musicians.
Seems to me that if you are going to play the harmonica then it might be a good idea to know a little something about making them play better. Either that,or develop a relationship with someone who can di it for you.

2) Raise my 2 kids
I have 5 kids. My oldest is 28 and my youngest is 18. When I started Blue Moon Harmonicas 11 years ago, they were 17 and 7. I coached Little League Baseball and Youth League Basketball for 16 years. In Florida, we play baseball in the spring and fall. Basketball leagues are summer and winter. I was at the ball field 6 nights a week for 3 month stretches twice each year. Basketball was much less demanding. Only one practice and one game per week – per kid.

3) work
Blue Moon is a sideling business. I have a “Real Job”.

4) pay attention to my wife.
Ditto. Good on ya. Gotta take care of Momma.
And I will add
5) Harmonica is my number 2 vice. My number 1 vice is golf. I live on a golf course and play a few times a week. My index has recently ballooned to 4.1. I was a 2.3 in January. I guess I’m slipping.

COULD I get good at tuning? Probably, but one of these other things would suffer for it. I’m not willing to trade practice time for working on harps.

For you, it is hard to imagine because your job is to fix harmonicas.

You ended your original post by asking, “If anyone has some suggestions……? These are my suggestions. I am OK with you disagreeing.


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Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
sonvolt13
259 posts
Jul 11, 2021
2:29 PM
Tom,
Best of luck with your endeavors. I coach as well (AAU. Volleyball). I guess I’m just not a fix it guy. . Luckily there are good techs like yourself and others who help out.
nacoran
10357 posts
Jul 14, 2021
8:42 AM
"The mantra with all things related to working on harmonicas is this. Make small adjustments and then test. I seriously doubt that if you attempted to file a fingernail that you would chop of the end of your finger or wind up in the emergency room."

Maybe I'd have better luck if I bit my reeds too! :p

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Nate
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