Best Harmonica Maintenance Tip(s) – Ever!

Okay – So you’ve finally decided to open up your harmonicas and start working on them. E.g. cleaning, gapping, embossing, etc., etc.

While you may find yourself going to YouTube, getting Rupert Oysler’s dvd set, and/or even purchasing a Lee Oskar repair kit – all in order to make your harps sound and play better – The best tip I accidentally stumbled upon and yet ever read to confirm it came from Richard Sleigh’s ‘TurboCharge Your Harmonica – Volume 1.’ {Well, he’s only ever written the first volume, but it is a classic! Nevertheless…}

And if you breeze through that book you’ll virtually miss this great tip! I know I almost did, because nowhere else have I ever seen, read or heard about anyone discussing it anywhere.

And so, the big tip is, harmonica train roll please: “Give It A Rest!!”

Meaning, that once you open up and work on the reeds, either blow or draw or both – You have to give the metal reeds the necessary TIME to respond to whatever you do to them.

Meaning, yes, you’ve seen those YouTube vids where peeps are working on their reeds, regapping, retuning, et al – And then they put it back together and play it like there’s no tomorrow. Viola! If they can do it, you can too!!

Well, you can too; but only up to a certain point, and especially if you’re just now learning how.

Thing is, they’ve probably, most likely been at it for quite awhile. So they’ve developed their touch on their harmonicas. However though, and especially for the newest of new harmonicas – it takes awhile for the reeds to respond. {And why it’s recommended that you ‘break in’ the reeds by chugging on them first before you try bending on them, as discussed elsewhere. Be that as it may…}

I learned virtually by accident when I opened up my Golden Melody E harp to work on it right out of the box. I tried my hand at embossing, then regapping the reeds to get them closer to the plates. I tested the blow and draws with the covers off. Then when putting them back on – my 2, 5, 7, 9 draw reeds seemed stuck.

Off with the covers; readjust; back on with the covers. Some draw reeds were okay; but then the blows would stop up.

Off with the covers; readjust; etc; etc – you get the idea.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. Getting fed up, I just set the harp aside. Drinking more than a few beers, smoking more than a few cigarettes – about more than a few hours or so later, I picked up the harp again and…surprise, surprise! It worked great!!

Thing is, it just didn’t happen to my E harp, it happened to some others as well.
I was having one of my ah-ha moments about it; yet, it wasn’t until I read Richard Sleigh’s book {Page 14/Note #7} that I fully understood why my harmonicas were doing what they were doing!

So if it’s happened to me, I’m sure it’s happened to others out there too. As well, you may or may not elect to drink brewskies, smoke cigs, or whatever else in between –

But the bottom line and the best thing to do for your harmonicas and your own sanity whenever and in whatever work you do on the reeds BEFORE you finally pick them up and start playing on them again is always remember to: “Give It A Rest!”

Hope this great tip helps you like it’s helped me!

Keep on harpin’!

Thanks for reading!

Hey Joeseph,

I love this post for those who are into reed gapping.

After 10 years of spending lots of time reed gapping and getting fantastic results I came to a simple conclusion.

If I don’t care about overblowing and overdrawing, which I’ve personally given up on for the moment…

it’s not necessary for me to reed gap if I buy I responsive harmonica…

My personal favorite is the Special 20. Out of the box they perform magnificently every time. That saves me a whole lot of time not having to take apart my harmonicas and do all the maintenance work that’s required for Lee Oscars, Most of the other Hohners and the list goes on…

It’s the simplest and most economical solution I’ve come up with.


So I save myself tons of time by

Inre: Special 20s!

JP it’s like you’re reading my mind here, bro!

While I didn’t get a chance yet to start any thread(s) of harmonica reviews e.g. Golden Melodys; Lee Oskars; Hohners; etc et al –

Still, though, I agree with you 110%

Special 20s are really virtually maintenance and set-up free right out of the box.

{And if I might add: It was your dvd home course and your use of them that was my impetus for my investing in them (and in sets as mentioned elsewhere), that I did. And am quite happy I did so too!}

So it really behooves everybody - especially those who are starting their first blows and draws into harpin’ - to get at least one Hohner Special 20 in C harmonica, and try it out for yourself.

Then by all means, feel free to tell us what you think of them as well!

Keep smiling!

Keep harpin’!

Thanks for reading!

I just experienced the phenomenon with several Hohner 260’s. I opened it up, gapped troublesome reeds, and the closed it up. Still problematic. Noodled for an hour on a diatonic riff, went back to the chromes and miracle of miracles…they played. Unfortunately being all thumbs, I bent one of the plastic valves…luckily this instrument is my “learning” instrument… If it is under warranty, and you feel there is a problem, politely contact the folks at Hohner, and send it in. That’s how folks learn. If you can buy a few wounded harps, have fun pulling them apart, and even create a Frankenstein by putting reed plates from two different keys in the same harp. Sweet. Harp On! Thanks Street Player Dude for all your great advice!

Howdy Rick!

Nice post/read…

Couple of things for you to chew on here:

A) Although I don’t have any Chromos {save the Chrometta 8, worst harmonica I ever got, but anywho…} I am familiar with their set-ups. So am glad you have the patience and due diligence to actually work on them yourself.

Being said though – I harken back to one of the most important things customizer Richard Sleigh says when it comes to working on any harp. And that is: “After you work on the reeds, be it gapping, embossing, whatever, you have to let them rest.”

Meaning, after you scrape/gap/emboss any reeds, set the whole thing aside for about 20-30 minutes so the metals have time to adjust to their new position, etc.

In the beginning, I too was impatient about wanting to get my harps tuned just right. After gapping and so on, I would immediately put them back together again, and find that they would only work for about 5 seconds or so before they’d go funky or worse.

Would piss me off big time. Back and forth; back and forth. Until I’d just set it aside out of frustration. Then after a while, I’d pick it up and viola! No problems whatsoever. Played great. And would stay that way for a long time too!

Then I read Richard Sleigh. And sure enough, he said what one has to do and why. And sure enough, I did and now do it as well! Hurrah!

In addition, it’s why I always say that to learn anything/everything harp it just takes TIME! If you don’t or won’t give yourself permission to take the TIME to learn, then you’re just wasting it! Anywhat…

  1. Inre: Bent plastic valves

Providing they’re not totally creased and/or bent out of too bad a shape whereby they might require a replacement – By sandwiching the valve between two thin metal shivs (or something similar) and applying low heat from a handheld hair dryer might be enough to straighten it/them out. Know what I mean?

Of course, you have to work steadily and quickly as you don’t want to melt and/or loosen the glue on the rivet end.

For more information on chromo maintenance, search and check out the late, great Douglas Tate. His two classic work books can be found on Amazon and elsewhere.

Hope this all helps!


Keep On Harpin’!

Street Player, It has been only several months since I bought JP’s DVD/CD program. I am amazed at what can be done if only you have enough time. Fortunately I have an ear for the music, unfortunately I really dislike musical theory. As my grandfather used to say: Look Listen and Learn, don’t talk as much as you listen. It’s great listening to you Dude! Thanks again for your information and links. I’ll be around doing my Harpo imitation.

Thanks Joseph, That really helped me. I’m an absolute beginer to the harmonica. just got JP’s Happy Harping set and the bluesband harp that came with it. The harps hole 2 locked up on the draw so i figured something wrong. I opened it up since I have a special 20 already I thought what the heck if I do something wrong at least I learn how to break down and rebuild a harp.
Anyway i pulled it apart and tentatively tweaked the reed and put it all back together.
Nope still sticking on me, tried all different angles to see if I had it in my mouth wrong as i understand the concept of bending where you raise the back of the harp sharply. Nope didnt work so I put it in the draw to forget about. after reading your post about resting reeds after adjustment I went and got it out last night after near a week of it being stored and lo and behold it works!! So Thank you very much for that!

It was a splendid revaluation to find this brilliant Harp hospital. Ive been in the waiting room for a while and your group of specialists cheered me up no end. The…give it time to settle ploy…is most true. I was about to return my chrotta 12 back to its place of birth but hadn’t yet written out the address on the jiffy bag. Took it out and looked at it as if to say a final fairwell and thought as you do…I’ll just blow it once more. My gawd…it played! The little bugger was playing possom on me.
Hand temperature was in this case the right key! Id warmed it up in my hands you see.
I’ve come to the realise no 2 are the same. While one stays healthy…another gets mumps! While yet another…will play in the bath almost full…of water bubbles and well…that’s my story.