Harmonica QualityThe quality of mass produced harmonicas is considerably lower than those produced by professional customizers. For example, a customized Hohner Golden Melody in the key of G requires less air for playing and allows easier overbending than the same harmonica out of the box in the key of D. Unfortunately, the quality of factory-made harmonicas is quite limited. New designs are produced for marketing purposes every year with only insignificant changes made with regards to the playing properties. No company can afford to do time-consuming manual tuning at the factory for economic reasons and for the vast majority of their customers it’s not necessary. They are able to purchase an adequate instrument for a reasonable price and they’re happy. The advanced or professional player, however, requires a higher quality instrument, a custom harp. That professional-level instrument is the result of the skill and many hours of labor that the customizer puts into it.
Custom Harp Quality CriteriaSome players have had unhappy experiences with harmonicas that have been badly customized. How can you determine the quality of a custom harmonica?
How do I make custom harmonicas?For tuning harmonicas I apply an extremely complicated technique – the only one of its kind in the world. I have been improving this technique for many years. My technique takes into account all the traditional and commonly used tuning methods. But, for all their advantages, traditional methods all have a limited effect. I am sure that each and every craftsman has his or her particular methodologies and many of them keep them a secret. In general, my tuning method takes 15 steps and 8 to 10 hours of work. I apply several techniques to increase the fatigue endurance of the reeds, techniques I’ve been using for over three years with great success. During those years not one reed has broken on over 100 customized harmonicas. I install valves on the 2nd and 3rd holes. That affects how the draw notes sound. They are clearer and brighter – especially on low-key harps. The valve bend with the 2nd hole draw note replaces the overbend on the 1st hole, which is more difficult to elicit. In addition, I also maximize the centering of all the reeds to improve their reliability. Wooden combs are impregnated with oil and wax to improve their appearance and prolong their life. Carbon fiber combs are impervious to virtually all factors that may harm a wooden comb.
Quality GuaranteeI employ all the skills and techniques I’ve learned and developed when I customize a harmonica. If for any reason I’m not completely satisfied with the quality of that work I don’t offer that harmonica for sale. If you feel that a harmonica you’ve purchased from me is unsatisfactory, I want you to return it to me. All reeds are warranted against failure for three years (reed plates have engraving date customization).
WARNING: My custom harmonicas are works of precision. Unqualified adjustments or attempted modifications may destroy the tuning or the entire instrument.