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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Special 20 v's Marine Band Which do You Prefer
Special 20 v's Marine Band Which do You Prefer
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Gary 62
36 posts
Sep 15, 2015
8:47 AM
I' started out with my SP20 but with all the greats that have played the MB and Adam using them i would like to try one of those out to see what's the difference.

You guys that have both or have tried both what are your opinions on the pros and cons of both.

The wooden comb issue is a reason i initially went with the SP20. I read an article online and it said beginners should stay away from the MB because the wooden comb absorbed the moisture and swelled and then it became uncomfortable to play. I don't know about that and that's why i would like people's thoughts on it.

I wouldn't have thought Adam and all the guys would play a MB if it wasn't comfortable.

92 posts
Sep 15, 2015
10:15 AM
Marine band vs sp20? ...... Sp20 for me.

Easy to take apart, easy to clean, perfectly good tone, maybe bends a little easier out of the box.... A little more airtight perhaps.

The marine band is a great harp, and I like the vented covers and tone but the (basically) unsealed wood comb does trouble me a bit after a long session ... thats why I primarily play manjis now. Vented covers, wood tone without any swelling and easy to clean.

Maybe if you want to try a marine band go straight to the marine band deluxe or the crossover? Basically the marine band but made for the 21st century.

One things for sure... It wont be long before you have tried a marine band.... A crossover... A manji..... A bluesmaster..... A seydel.....etc etc etc. Its an addiction!

Last Edited by Ian on Sep 15, 2015 10:29 AM
Gary 62
38 posts
Sep 15, 2015
10:57 AM
LOL! I hear you Ian! You want to try them all and if you like them then at least buy them all in your favorite keys!

You wonder about the wooden comb why they haven't ditched it for something else with the new materials available. But i heard Adam on one of his videos saying maybe the wooden comb gives the MB part of it's mojo and contributes to the tone of the harp.
93 posts
Sep 15, 2015
11:27 AM
I think it's really one of those intangible differences at the end of the day.
Once you are at that kind of level of harp then they are all pretty good really.
To the listener it's hard to tell the difference other than when the tuning is different.
The marine band certainly feel gutsy and raw, with a kind of warmth that you seem to only get with wooden combs (but I can't help feel that part of that is all in the mind).

What I did when I was figuring out what I liked was to get one of each type that interested me in order to fill the most common keys.

After that I realised that I always preferred playing the manji.

So then I got a set of 7 and that's pretty much all I play now (except for the harp I leave in the car and the one I take on holiday).

Last Edited by Ian on Sep 15, 2015 11:28 AM
Gary 62
39 posts
Sep 15, 2015
11:37 AM
I was gonna buy the MB and i was reading online articles and one article put me off it because it mentioned the comb swelling and then becoming uncomfortable to play.

I can't comment on that having never played one but i think about all the greats down the years that used the MB. No one mentions it being a problem to them or maybe they had ways of minimizing the wood swelling.

I know they talk now of coating the wood with some kind of stuff so that that can't happen. I'm not sure if i read about that being on the 'MB Deluxe' comb.
94 posts
Sep 15, 2015
11:59 AM
Yeah I think thats the deluxe version.

Don't take too much from the reviews...
What works for me may not work for you and so on and so on.
Its all so personal.
2807 posts
Sep 15, 2015
6:24 PM
Marine Bands don't have that issue any more. They changed the combs a couple years ago.
Glass Harp Full
52 posts
Sep 16, 2015
4:03 AM
The Crossover is a very nice harp. To my ears it has a very full bodied tone and seems to have more depth to the sound than other harps.

It's got a lacquered bamboo comb to solve the swelling problem too.

The only things I don't like about it are that it gets uncomfortable to hold after a while and the hole spacing is smaller than Suzukis.

I've never played a Sp 20 but would recommend a Crossover.
183 posts
Sep 16, 2015
4:31 AM
Most people mention the reed plates as the difference. On the Special 20 they are recessed within the comb itself. The MB is the "tin sandwich" style of harp, where the reed plates sit on the comb and extend out a hair (the covers sit on the plates).

On any harp with recessed plates your lips only come in contact with the comb. On non-recessed harps they come in contact with comb and reed plates.

The latter tears up some people's lips a bit, but other folks it doesn't bother at all. It seems that they're also more prone to catch on a moustache

I like harps with recessed plates myself, but like most things harp related, it always comes back to personal preference. Both the SP 20 and the MB are excellent instruments, so you probably need to try one of each and see which suits you best

(edited to add: If you like the MB, but don't want a wooden comb, you can always buy a different comb from Tom at Blue Moon Harmonicas. He has wood, acrylic, metal, etc. Here's a link

Blue Moon Harmonicas

Marr's Guitars

Cigar Box Guitars and Other Unusual Unstruments

Last Edited by Rontana on Sep 16, 2015 6:52 AM
Sep 18, 2015
4:49 AM
Bending. I can bend holes 1 through 4 on my Seydel Special Session Steel A and G but can't bend the 4 hole on the SS C harp. Is it me or could it be a defect? If so can I do something to fix it?
667 posts
Sep 18, 2015
5:33 AM
BuskirBill - Hi and thank you for your post.

A couple of things...currently it seems that Guests can post here without registering and logging in, and we'd prefer it if you registered first. You can register using the 'Register' link at the home page of the forum.

As for your question, you might be better off posting on the main forum, where it will be seen by people with lots of experience playing and working on the harp models you're asking about. It would be helpful to explain your skill level, how long you've been playing, as the question always comes up (as you've said!) - is it the player or is it the harp?

That said, the obvious question would be - do you have another C harp where you can bend that note?

Hope that helps.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Sep 18, 2015 5:35 AM
74 posts
Sep 25, 2015
3:20 PM
As a relative beginner who has tried both I would say the biggest difference to me is that the holes on the SP 20 are larger, but they are spaced the same as the MB. The net effect is that the width of the comb between the holes is less on the SP 20. I have a harder time getting clean single notes on the SP 20, I suspect it is because I am used to the MBs wider comb between holes.

I do like to tone of the SP 20 just a well as the MB, they are different but both sound good to me. I find the MB easier to bend, again maybe because I am used to it and have my technique dialed in to the MB??

682 posts
Sep 26, 2015
10:20 AM
I stayed away from the MB because of the nails thing. When it because clear you might have to open them up, and more than once, the screws seem a necessity. I know people adapt them for screws.

I do have a crossover though, and another sandwich-type harp of a different make, which has a plastic comb but not recessed.

I agree about the hole size/spacing issue. I try to play both types so I don't get stuck on one type or other.

Overall, and purely for practical reasons I prefer the SP20. On the whole, playing harmonica is the least uncomfortable instrument I've played, but those crossover covers are quite sharp.
Gary 62
50 posts
Sep 26, 2015
12:00 PM
I'll be getting a MB as my next harp. Either an 'A' or a 'Bb'. I like 'C' but i want more bottom end as i'm playing it solo harp style, playing rhythms and interspersing warbles and single notes. I love that style. Even on guitar i loved that style of mixing chords and single notes and rhythms all in one.
683 posts
Sep 26, 2015
11:45 PM
When you do, be sure to let us know what you think!

When I got my first A harp, I liked it so well that I all but abandoned the others. That was a mistake and I'd echo what Isaacullah said on the other thread - best to practice on a variety of keys.

My experience is that whatever the difference in feel between different models of the same key, the difference in feel between keys is much greater.
2839 posts
Sep 27, 2015
2:19 AM
After repairing and playing over 100 harps this year, in addition to owning 50 of my own...I still can't answer this question and be confident of my objectivity.
I think the sp20 is the most practical and best value harp I know. I personally gravitate to the marine band, but I can't say it's a logical and reasoned position.
The sp20 is easily disassembled and cleaned, uses the same reeds as a marine band,..and in my view has the best stock recessed comb on the market. I just prefer the sandwich of the marine band, but...I would be happy enough if I only had sp20s.
A sp20 is much easier to service...adjust, clean, tune, repair.
I think it's the number 1 choice. But...my best and favourite harps are all marine bands. Many of them are modified to make them as easy to deal with as a sp20.
Stock though, sp20. If you want to put in a little effort, the MB is a great starting point. The deluxe is where I want the MB to be.
684 posts
Sep 27, 2015
2:32 AM
SuperBee - when you say you prefer the sandwich of the marine band, do you mean for playing or for servicing?

Re your note about the combs being changed a couple of years ago - I didn't even know that. Are they not pearwood now, or is it a coating?

If it weren't for the chuffing nails...
Gary 62
51 posts
Sep 27, 2015
8:36 AM
MindTheGap: I'll let you know what i think as soon as i get a new one, for sure. 'A' or 'Bb'? 'A or 'Bb'? 'A' or 'Bb'?....!

About the nails; do they still use nails? I thought the newer one's had screws? How do they fit then? Do you just press the nails in?
2840 posts
Sep 27, 2015
4:39 PM
Oh yes, I mean I prefer it to play. Hard to describe what I think the difference is. Just a better fit, one less bump I suppose.
I have converted most of my marine bands to what is essentially deluxe/crossover construction. Still have a couple with nails. I actually find the nailed covers much easier to deal with than screws, but the reed plates are a different tale. Trickiest part is to prise them off without bending them. I use the thinnest practical blade and try to loosen them evenly as possible until there is enough space under the nail head to be able to get under it. Sounds a bit harder than it really is I think.
I believe the pear wood is used because it's available and will hold a nail. The nails themselves are made to hold, they're not entirely smooth.
This might have given rise to the practice of soaking the harp...I have no evidence of any sort except to question the logic behind a practice that seems to make little sense...I reckon rinsing a harp in whiskey might make some sense though, in terms of keeping it clean...and I can see how this could turn into a different thing over time and then be explained as making the harp swell up and play tighter. Generally, we don't want the harp to swell as it makes them a bit nasty to play and is inclined to make them warp, maybe loosen up the nails, rust the rivets...so why would soaking them ever be a good idea? Who would have come up with that idea? I reckon this one smacks of 'back casting'. Using your glass of liquor or even a glass of water to wash out something blocking a reed seems far more likely to be of benefit...but just my supposition of course. With screwed together harps you can take them apart and clean them, but with nails I think a different strategy is called for
Gary 62
52 posts
Sep 27, 2015
5:34 PM
Tell you what? This nails thing is making me think again! I really don't want anything that's awkward to take apart. After getting used to the Special 20 i don't think i could take that!

I might just buy another SP20 in 'A' or 'Bb'

The nails thing has put me off the idea. If it was worth it for the sound then i might think again but is it a better sound? Some people think so, others seem to think the opposite.
2841 posts
Sep 27, 2015
5:50 PM
Just get a marine band deluxe. They are the same instrument but assembled with screws
2842 posts
Sep 27, 2015
5:58 PM
To be clear:
The marine band 1896 and marine band deluxe have combs made from the same material. They are both sealed these days. The deluxe also has the front of the tines shaped a little, and some glossy lacquer on them to make it feel nice.
Deluxe is assembled with screws, 1896 with nails.
Both are tuned the same.
Gary 62
53 posts
Sep 27, 2015
6:11 PM
Yeah SuperBee i looked at those and thought they sounded real good. You'd think that Hohner would just use screws on the standard MB nowadays. I mean what are the benefits of nails when screws are available that make servicing so much easier?
2843 posts
Sep 27, 2015
6:53 PM
I expect it's just because they don't want to remove the trad model from the market. Look at the fuss about the 'progressive' sp20.
But...there could be something to be said for the trad construction. It's pretty airtight
Gary 62
54 posts
Sep 27, 2015
7:41 PM
Yeah the Progressive is the model i have. I understand they had another SP20 before but being a newbie i don't know anything about that one. What's the difference between the old one and the new? I think a lot of these things are in people's minds. If you blindfolded someone and got someone to play two harps like that and A B'd them i doubt a lot of folks could tell the difference. Some could though probably if they had a keen ear.
2846 posts
Sep 27, 2015
11:39 PM
There is basically no difference. Unfortunately hohner also adopted a policy of setting the gaps higher at about the same time they introduced the new branding and it has lead to a lot of reports that the new sp20 is 'different'.
All they did was change some words on the covers, and drill 2 new holes to allow the Rocket model to use the same reed plates. The Rocket covers have the mounting bolts further forward than sp20.
The thing is, now someone gets a bad sp20, they blame the fact it's one of the 'new' ones. Before this, they just accepted that the quality and setup has some variation...it's a mass-produced, handmade product after all.
685 posts
Sep 28, 2015
2:52 AM
Thanks for the info. I keep thinking I should try a standard MB.

I'll also mention the taste! With the sandwich-type comb you've got dissimilar metals and when I tongue block I can taste that. I've tried a Hohner crossharp MS, not sure they make that any more, but it has a plastic sandwich comb and painted covers. Tastes a bit strange to me.

Not the biggest of deals, but interesting to hear what you think.

I played the clarinet for a bit as a boy, the (pleasant) taste of the reeds is something that sticks in my mind. And I've forgotten everything else about it.

...big difference in price between MB and MB Deluxe, at least in the UK. £28 vs £45. Crossover is now £53.

...and a Lee Oskar is £25 but let's not muddy the waters with that right now, else you'll never buy any of them :) Choices, choices.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Sep 28, 2015 2:58 AM
2848 posts
Sep 28, 2015
5:49 AM
Interesting. I don't taste marine bands but I do taste metal combs and Seydel wooden combs.
Price...yes, it's the kicker alright...
My story is that I saved up and bought 4 crossovers and a thunderbird from a well-known online seller in U.S. The reason for multi-purchase was to get discount and maximise postage cost efficiency.
When I broke the first one I was quite upset. I put it aside and investigated options to have it repaired. Eventually I found a repairer but offshore and it was not very efficient. I did get all my harps repaired though and that was good. It wasn't long enough though before I broke another crossover. They're over $90 locally. So I decided to look to the future, and instead of buying more harps I bought tools and repaired my broken harps. Now I'm the guy I was looking for. I think I've paid for my tools, my harps have never been better...I never have a dud harp anymore.,.and I've saved some other players a fair bit of dough as well. And learned lots about hohner hand made harps...and others.
So now...if I buy a harp I usually get sp20 or mb1896 and just do the work to bring them up to scratch.
Gary 62
55 posts
Sep 28, 2015
8:36 AM
Echo what you guys said in your last two posts, the price is the thing. Especially if you wanted to buy them in a few different keys. The MB Deluxe is pretty expensive. Almost double the price nearly.

I couldn't do it on my budget. That's what makes the 'Special 20' such a great deal IMO.
686 posts
Sep 28, 2015
11:21 PM
Superbee, you mean replacing individual reeds? That would change the whole price proposition.
2850 posts
Sep 29, 2015
1:49 AM
Yes, I replace single reeds. So now I accumulate harps rather than replace. I even started giving them away!
I couldn't buy new crossovers every time I broke one...although somewhat ironically clumsiness rather than metal fatigue was responsible for my first two crossover breakages. The first I slipped while adjusting a reed gap, and the second I was realigning a reed with an improvised wrench...ah, make that a dining fork.
Now I have around 15 clients for whom I do repair and service, and have just landed my first 'customise' job. This work doesn't really pay for my time but has paid for my tools and recompensed me a little extra for my labour...and I have learned a lot. Not just about repairing harps; I believe my playing has really benefitted from intensive study of the machine. And I have made friends with lots of harp players.
689 posts
Sep 29, 2015
2:44 AM
That must be very satisfying. Is replacing reeds a matter of having the right kit, or does it need specific skills? I mean in the sense of, adjusting gaps with a toothpick is easy, embossing a reed slot is relatively difficult.

Do you see your future as more and more harp work then?

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Sep 29, 2015 2:45 AM
Gary 62
57 posts
Sep 29, 2015
8:54 AM
Yeah i'd like to learn to replace individual reeds too. Seems a shame to stop using a full plate just because of one reed.

I saw Tinus replacing one on Overblow.com but he seemed to have special tools to do it.

What do you need to do it? I have a spoke head punch that i used when building bike wheels for setting the spoke head in the hub. I was wondering if i could tap the rivets with that?
2851 posts
Sep 30, 2015
4:00 AM
MTG: As in most trades there is a need for tools to suit the job. I don't do much embossing, although I have several tools with which to do it. I've spent more time sorting out embossed harps than I'd like. Replacing a reed in harp which has had slots resized is somewhat more demanding than in a standard harp, and they are more prone to alignment problems...and unless the player is using overblows I really don't see a lot of benefit. In fact, I've set up harps which overblow just dandy for my needs without embossing. That's not to say the technique is without value, I just think that it became 'essential' at a time when common harps (hohner) had less precisely fitted slots than they do currently.
I concentrate on reed shape...aiming to get the reed to enter the slot at the same time along its length, tuning and gapping. And only emboss if I think it's called for, which is not very often.
Acquiring the skills to replace single reeds is not that hard. Making the new reed sound as if it belongs is another level of understanding, but again, not really difficult if you're inclined to be interested and pay attention. I was also fortunate that s lady donated a dozen broken harps to the cause when I was starting out. Of course I repaired a couple for her kindness.
I do expect I'll do more eventually but for now I'm working hard at stopping it from becoming a 'business'. There is s balance between doing enough to develop and be confident you can help someone, and doing every possible job and having no time available for family and home and life. If I accepted every job or advertised my services, I'd never keep up. Especially with the tuning jobs. I just really can't do tuning jobs or I'd have no life. But...I also can't bring myself to leave a harp I've repaired alone if it needs a tune up. I try to restrict my interference to making the new reed play well with others, and blow reed octave splits, 2 draw match 3 blow, and matching draw reeds are close enough to not sound incongruous when played singly...sometimes I still end up retuning the whole harp.
Hi Gary, I'm not sure about the spoke head punch, maybe a bit fat?
It was a big decision for me to buy tools, because if you don't push on with it, you don't recoup the outlay...but I am sure I've more than made my money back, even though I haven't personally broken a harp now for quite a while.
I have a plier to remove rivets, but I find the more harps I do the more I encounter where the plier doesn't fit. I have a brass plate with a slot I cut using a hacksaw, and a hole in the slot to accept the punched rivet. I lay the reed plate on the brass plate, with river heads in the slot, and the rivet I want to remove placed over the hole. I cut down a small jewellers screwdriver so the shaft is only about 12mm long, and filed the end to appropriate diameter. This setup works so well I barely bother with the plier anymore. There is a better plier available than the one I have.
I'm very excited to have purchased the rivet tool developed by Richard sleigh. Hopeful it will be delivered this week.
If you repair using screws; you need a means to remove old reeds, a way to enlarge the existing rivet hole in reed plate to accept a M1.4 tap, the tap, a means of enlarging hole in rivet pad to fit over the 1.4 mm screw and allow some wriggle room so you can align it, a supply of suitable M1.4 screws, a shim, a reed wrench, a file suitable for tuning (there are alternative solutions) suitable screwdriver, and depending on screws, perhaps a flush cut plier or some nuts to fit the screws, or both, and some fine sandpaper. I find a sanding wand very handy...picked up in pharmacy, I think intended for manicure.
Also a tool to help shape reeds. What you use may depend on which videos you study etc
A small drill bit is good to remove burrs left when enlarging holes.
I think that's about it. I recommend studying Richard Sleigh's work, but there are other (free) (and free-ish) resources. Kinya Pollard is good, very thorough. Andrew Zajac is helpful. I'd say study a few and you'll pick up the things which seem important to everyone, on which they all agree somewhat, and also the points on which they approach things differently, which may drive their processes into slightly different places from that point. Richard has lately been advocating use of screws made for mobile phones. These are quite short and don't require trimming. They're also cheap..,
Gary 62
60 posts
Oct 01, 2015
8:27 AM
SuperBee: Yeah the spoke head punch might be a bit too fat but the tip is a bit concave as well so it might not be suitable.

On the tuning issue: I'm getting i don't bother unless it's really objectionable. For a couple of reasons really 1) I'm playing solo harp so i can't be out of tune with others 2) It's a pain in the neck to have to do it particularly when you're a beginner and are not sure of the best technique!

I mean i thought all i had to do was tune the reeds to my guitar tuner and that was that. Then i was told by one of the guys on here that that wasn't the right thing to do so... leave alone in my case unless it's really bad sounding.
2853 posts
Oct 01, 2015
3:11 PM
Ah yes...was that pistolkat said don't tune to guitar tuner?
I think I understand what he said, but I admit I was puzzled at first.
No time now but can provide some explanation later. I'm on holiday in northern Queensland and poor form to be tapping away on phone much...
Gary 62
63 posts
Oct 01, 2015
5:36 PM
SuperBee: Yes i think it was Pistolkat. I think he said tuning the octaves was the best way but i can't remember right now. Hope your holiday is nice!
2855 posts
Oct 02, 2015
1:12 AM
Cheers, just back from outing and having a break b4 dinner...
The thing about the guitar tuner is that they are fairly accurate if you tune bang in the middle...right on the note, but trying to tune 440 +\- however many cents is not gonna be very accurate.. And they are reputedly more inaccurate the further away from 0 you get.
There is an approach which Andrew Zajac describes, and I have used a lot. I think it's quite good. You can look it up on his website. It's called 'tuning a harmonica using a guitar tuner and your ears'. Also he makes a gadget called 'French tuner' which helps with tuning the blow plate octaves. You can tune draw plate on the comb but harder with the blow plate...have to take comb off.
Gary 62
64 posts
Oct 02, 2015
8:47 AM
Thanks SuperBee. Yeah i have one of those Boss one's can't remember the model but it's the one with the screen with the needle and the little red flashing arrows that come on along with an alarm thing when you're right on pitch. You can set it up for A 440 or other settings within a certain range.

Man you know i keep getting inspired on here and by adam's videos! You know what i learnt yesterday? How to play that 7th chord by playing 2D and 5D with tongue blocking. A really neat thing to learn. I'm gonna link it because the video is so cool. it's all about tongue blocking and the octaves and stuff. you probably know all the stuff in it but it's great for me as a beginner!

Check it out 4.25 in the video. Oh! and that Hoosier Boy Harp is so cool Adam!

Gary 62
66 posts
Oct 08, 2015
9:18 AM
So i'm buying a new one in 'A' in the next couple of days but still haven't made up my mind between the two! How do you take the MB apart for cleaning? As this is quite important.

EDIT: Ok i went for another 'Special 20' in 'A'. I wanted a Marine Band but the dis-assembly hassles really put me off.

The MB Deluxe was just too expensive and i couldn't go with it or i may have. Then again in the future i want to be able to purchase some other harps and the MB Deluxe would have been really expensive for that so that's why i stuck with the SP20.

Last Edited by Gary 62 on Oct 08, 2015 1:24 PM
2861 posts
Oct 08, 2015
1:54 PM
How is the Sp20? Play ok?
Gary 62
67 posts
Oct 08, 2015
2:03 PM
I just ordered the new one SuperBee tonight. The other one i have in C is really good. As i say i'd have preferred the MB because of the traditional design and association with the blues and 'cos Adam plays them but that thing with the nails was just too much for me.

My harp gets really dirty and i probably take it apart twice a week for cleaning. With a problematic design i think i'd have been discouraged from cleaning!
2862 posts
Oct 08, 2015
4:38 PM
Slight aside: I suspect this is the origin of the harp soaking 'myth'...it's not really a myth I suppose because people really did it, but I can't see any good reason to do it...the reasons usually stated about making the harp more airtight don't stack up for me.
But I can see that rinsing the harp to clean it out makes sense...and soaking it should rinsing fail to remove a blockage could also help. And soaking it in alcohol maybe slightly more effective than water for dissolving/softening something nasty that's dried up in there and jammed a reed.
But anyway, I agree that cleaning a marine band is not as convenient in some ways. So you gotta practice preventative maintenance a bit more diligently.
The nails put me off marine bands for years, and the price put me off the deluxe and crossover. but...if you get a good instrument and learn to maintain it and don't abuse it, your investment can be less than it may appear initially. Tell that to John popper right!
Gary 62
68 posts
Oct 09, 2015
11:47 AM
You know i've looked on ebay at harps and good god!! Some people sell harps that look like you could catch a disease from just touching!!! Who would buy a second hand harp?

I suppose there are ways of ensuring sterilization but it would always be in the back of my mind that it could have been someone really filthy or riddled with diseases that used the harp before me! Ugh gag!
2866 posts
Oct 09, 2015
1:58 PM
I understand that feeling. I have had to confront it many times when repairing harps for others. Cleaning is what I do. Wooden combs though, I do not reuse. I do not believe there is a high danger of infection...perhaps anthrax would survive long enough...but most dangerous infective beasties don't live very long outside the body...hence our use of crockery and cutlery and glassware in homes and hospitality establishments.
It can be gross though. And I don't let people use my harps.
I believe the popularity of practicing while driving represents a somewhat greater threat to health...but there doesn't seem much evidence to support my opinion.
Gary 62
69 posts
Oct 09, 2015
5:47 PM
I saw a video of Steve Baker and the way he cleans his harps. It's on YT SuperBee you must have seen it. Anyway he uses a solution with vinegar and water i think, if i remember correctly. I suppose the vinegar is for sterilization as i don't know if it would be a great cleaner.

I just use soap and hot water and a toothbrush and scrub the plates down with those, along with the comb and cover plates. I'm always trying to think of a cleaner i could use that would be better but i'm always worried that it might react with the plastic comb in the SP20.
698 posts
Oct 09, 2015
11:52 PM
There's a lot of discussion of cleaning on MBH. Here's a video of Jason Ricci and his cleaning regime. Pretty intense, and that's just to clean his own harps, not someone else's. He uses some fluid called Kaboom whatever that is. Looks dodgy to me!


The point about ingesting filings is a good one (from the other thread!) It's not heavy metals at least, and you'd have thought that steel wouldn't be too bad. But the brass may be toxic because of the copper. Any symptoms Superbee? Mood swings that kind of thing?

I guess there's swallowing filings, then there's breathing them in. A while ago I saw someone making carbon fibre combs and I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Oct 09, 2015 11:58 PM
Gary 62
70 posts
Oct 10, 2015
8:33 AM
Interesting post MTG. Thanks for the video link i'll check it out. I'm very wary of using a cleaner like some of these people are using as i don't know if it's safe to do that, i wouldn't have thought so. i thought about using a citrus degreaser that i use for cleaning bikes but i think that's a no go, it would be too strong and might have implications for breathing it in even after it's all rinsed off. It would definitely leave a smell there as it is very strong.

I'll just stick to soap, hot water and the toothbrush until i can come up with something that's safe!
2867 posts
Oct 10, 2015
2:58 PM
I'm very wary of cleaning compounds. Even vinegar can eat brass if it's not diluted enough.
Re eating brass...I haven't noticed any symptoms but I'm sure I must have consumed and inhaled some...if the tuning table worked reliably enough to use for every job, if would form an interface between harp/filings and person...I've been assuming I don't inhale filings when using the table...that may be untrue. But one could connect a bellows which would definitely help. Still, there are techs who have been at it much longer than me with much higher throughput...
I use a small ultrasonic cleaner, warm water and sometimes a drop of detergent...I've been told detergent can be counter productive in conjunction with ultrasonic though, as bubbles/foam interferes with the impact of the waves
It surprises me how often I receive a 'broken' harp which just needs cleaning. I've lost track but I Repaired over 100 this last year, and had at least 9 which didn't need new reeds, they were just too dirty to play.
Oh yes...one time a fellow cleaned his harps diligently before sending them...he was doing a good thing, and I really appreciate his thoughtfulness...but he didn't rinse the cleaning compound away. I couldn't put them in my mouth until I'd cleaned them 3 times. I used some metho on them which did cut through whatever the stuff was. It was some sanitising cleaner used for cleaning respirator filters...my detergent would shift it. It was probably fairly harmless, but I find those strong scents very distasteful and distracting to say the least...
Gary 62
71 posts
Oct 10, 2015
6:47 PM
SuperBee: Yeah it's amazing the amount of people that don't know they have to clean their harps!! I read Jason Ricci saying a great player he knows (I can't remember the guys name) doesn't do it though and insists it makes the harp more airtight. I don't know about that. But the thought of the crud and the germs, that must stay on the harp, that are never getting cleaned off, is pretty gross!

As for cleaning compounds; no i can't think of anything that i'd feel happy using, as the fumes that would undoubtedly linger couldn't possibly be good for your health i wouldn't have thought.

Soap hot water toothbrush and a good scrubbing seems good enough. Unless you're dealing with the kind of harps you're dealing with where the owners have never washed them at all and insist they're broken!

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