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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Suzuki Manji / Olive vs FireBreath / PureHarp
Suzuki Manji / Olive vs FireBreath / PureHarp
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10 posts
Apr 03, 2024
11:55 AM
Long time Promasters player here,
I’ve been playing half valved suzuki promasters for a long time, mainly irish / old time music but occasional blues as well.

Recently i got more into “traditional” unvalved sound and a bit of overblowing gor occadional chromatisism.

Now i’m trying different harps to see what i will like better for my style.

I really like half valved promasters for full(er) tone on blow notes and i feel i can play a bit faster on them compared to Marine Band / Crossover.

So here goes my first question - do short reeds make it easier to play fast (in my case for irish music) or have i just got used to promasters?

So, i was thinking about trying manji reedplates for more traditional sound, as i know that manji reeds are longer profile.
But i also read that firebreath / pure harp reed profile is good for overblows ootb.
So, my second question is - what is the difference between Manji / Firebreath / Promaster reeds?
2357 posts
Apr 04, 2024
8:21 AM
My response is not a direct answer to your questions, but I think the issues are applicable.


In recent years I have gigged with Lee Oskars (only occasionally for outdoor gigs as I find them leaky), Special 20s, Crossovers, Marine Band Deluxes, Manjis, Olives, a Promaster (initially valved, then not), Bluesmasters, early Delta Frosts, Seydel 1843s and Session Steels. I have tried MS Big Rivers, but prefer them on custom combs. I have played Suzuki Bluesmasters. I have some backup EastTops that are OK.

In my experience you will adjust to the demands of the harps you play. You are not breaking in the harp, you are breaking in yourself to the demands of the instrument.

Initially there is a period of adjustment when you switch brands/models unless you continue to frequently switch and continue to play each.

Currently I prefer SP20/MBD/Crossovers and a few customized Hohners for quieter nuanced playing and Manjis/Olives for loud stages or loud unamplified playing. For me, the Manjis/Olives hold up better under abusive hard playing, but take a different attack for bending and are slightly less responsive. At one time Jason Ricci likened it to playing a guitar with heavier strings.

I found the Promaster to be OK, but not as responsive and leakier than others. The early model I had did not have the aluminum comb sealed well and I got a galvanic response. I have used those low F plates with other combs, without valves, and find them OK and comparable to the Bluesmasters.

Now, all brand differences aside, there are a couple factors that will affect tone:

Closed covers will give the player a more mellow rich tone.

Open covers will let you hear yourself more, but will have higher overtones that on higher keyed harps might seem irritating.

I am refering to having side vents on covers or the lack of side vents on different models.

I like closed covers on higher keys and open covers on lower keys.

With regard to fast reed response, the shorter reeds in the Promaster might make a difference. I did not find that to be the case. I found the Promaster leakier than the Manji and slower in response, but it was a Low F valved Promaster, so response was slower.

I find that lower key harps are often slower to respond than higher key harps during fast playing. So leakiness and lower keys make for slower response.

Valves do limit air leaking, so that may be why you like the valved Promaster for fast Irish music. Reed gaps also make a huge difference in responsiveness and tone, particularly in unvalved harps.

Unless a new harp out of the box is playing wonderfully, I always take off the covers, loosen the reed plate screws, re-tighten and re-seat the reed plates to get a good seal, and adjust the gaps. gapping is important particularly on the lower end notes having larger slots allowing more leaking.

I don't go to extreme mods unless there is a serious problem. Some players always flat sand the comb and the draw reed plate to get a better seal with less leakage. I have sanded a couple draw plates and a few combs that were rough. Some players always emboss reed slots to lessen leakage.

Other than initial adjustment and gapping I don't customize every harp. I just narrow the gaps on the reeds just short of choking the reeds during normal play.

I set up the 4, 5, and 6 blow reeds for potential overblows. I often use the 6 OB, and very occasionally the 5 OB. I am not a true chromatic on diatonic overbend player. I use chromatic harmonicas for chromaticism.

I find that overblows are easier for me on higher key harps than lower key harps. Closing the reed gaps just short of me choking off the notes during play saves air leakage and improves responsiveness. It also has helped me to play with less air, as hard playing will choke a reed out and give immediate feedback that you are playing too hard.

I only do basic adjustments to harps unless I find there is a big persistent problem that requires more serious harp surgery.

1) Tone is affected by cover plate style and air leakage.

2) Reed response is slower with lower pitched reeds and by air leakage.

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Apr 04, 2024 8:39 AM

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