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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > How high can you tune a reed?
How high can you tune a reed?
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1 post
Mar 23, 2022
3:35 PM
I tuned my draw 6 up a whole step to get a major third instead of the nine on the draw note. It sounds great, and I'm happy with it. This is a Hohner Special 20 in Eb.

Now I'm wondering if I can tune the draw 7 up a step and a half to get a major 5th. I've managed to tune it up one whole step, but the end of the reed is starting to look ragged, as if there just isn't enough material there for me to remove.

In general, how high can you tune the reeds on the high squeaky end of the harmonica?

Last Edited by Mergatroid on Mar 23, 2022 6:05 PM
3029 posts
Mar 25, 2022
4:43 PM
In general, I try not to raise pitch on a reed more than a half step (except on the bottom, where there is more material).
I recently was able to raise some higher reeds on a C a whole step—but that’s probably as much as is feasible.
Soap Music
97 posts
Mar 26, 2022
9:33 AM
I had 3 bongs and tuned a C# to a Dm.
107 posts
Mar 26, 2022
11:50 AM
I recall seeing a piece either here or on another harp site about raising a reed's pitch by placing a thin shim under the reed at the rivet end. I'm not certain what the shim's dimensions were. I believe the shim was made from the thin metal strip that can be found inside a security tag commonly found on DVDs for sale. That same shim is also used to ream out the gap between reed and reedplate. it is strong yet flexible, very thin metal. If I recall, the shim allowed for a reed's pitch to be raised more than a half step. I am trying to find the article about the use of the shim to raise pitch. I will post it here when and if I find it. Maybe someone else could post it here if they know where to find it.

Last Edited by ROBERT TEMPLE II on Mar 26, 2022 11:52 AM
108 posts
Mar 27, 2022
5:38 PM

Here is the piece I mentioned. It is a Facebook link, available to the public. I hope this helps. Cheers !

1564 posts
Mar 28, 2022
7:03 AM
If you are talking about a reed on the lower end of the harp, you can tune it up quite a bit because there are heavy slugs of metal on the tips of the reeds and you just reduce the size and weight of those slugs when you tune the reed up. However, on the higher end of the harp, there are no such slugs. The tips of the reeds are very thin. If you tune one of those reeds up higher than perhaps a full tone, you risk weakening the tip of the reed to the point that it becomes like aluminum foil. It will not hold its shape and becomes worthless.

That said, I have tuned reeds up by placing weight at the base of the reed. If you think about it, the process of changing the pitch of a reed is one of changing the weight of the tip relative to the base of the reed. If you want to lower the pitch on a reed, you can either remove weight from the base, thereby making the tip relatively heavier, or add weight to the tip with solder or Blue Tack (I prefer solder). If you want to raise the pitch of a reed, you can remove weight from the tip, which effectively makes the tip lighter than the base. If you add weight to the base, you are doing the same thing. Some people say that the pitch is raised because it makes the base of the reed stiffer and changes the flex point. I dunno. Maybe it does. But all I know is that it works.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
136 posts
Mar 28, 2022
9:20 AM
Tom - is adding nail polish a good way to add weight to the reed?

2 posts
Mar 28, 2022
2:43 PM
While I was waiting for responses I had the same idea. I added solder to the reeds at the base, and it worked well. To fine tune I ground some of the solder away. I was able to raise some of the notes 5 semi tones. This was on a low G harp that I play at gigs. The Eb that I mentioned in the first post is a throwaway with a reed that went bad at my last gig, so it didn't matter what happened to it.

Last Edited by Mergatroid on Mar 28, 2022 2:46 PM
1565 posts
Mar 29, 2022
9:56 AM
Tom585 - I confess that I have never tried retuning a reed with nail polish. All I can offer is my opinion. I do not think that nail polish is heavy enough to make a significant difference. I suppose it could be used to make a small differnce but if a small difference is all you are looking for then filing or polishing some of the metal off the reed is a better alternative. I know a lot of guys use Blue Tack, the stuff you can use to glue posters to a wall, to retune reeds and they have pretty much universally reported good results. Personally, I prefer to use solder. Even when I do something like convert a regular Richter Tuned harp to a Natural Minor tuned harp, I prefer to use solder to tune the five reeds down a half step over filing material off the base of the reed. The solder is super easy to use. I fear that removing that much material from the base of the reed can weaken it and shorten the life of the reed. I know that some guys believe that polishing the tooling marks off the base of the reed will help extend the life of the reed, but I am not a proponent of that practice. Hope this helps.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
109 posts
Apr 06, 2022
11:17 PM
Is it maybe possible to superglue or use Blu-Tak to attach a small piece of a donor reed to the base end of a reed to maybe raise the pitch? This maybe could be a way around adding solder to the reed's base area. I have heard of people gluing a piece of a reed to the tip to lower a reed's pitch.

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