CUSTOM HARMONICAS. Please give your review of the best Custom Harmonicas

So I will confess…

I know nothing about Custom Harmonicas. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this but the truth is for my purposes (i.e. I don’t use the over-blowing technique much)…

I freaking love the Hohner Special 20 strait out of the box.

[b]REQUEST 1: WHICH CUSTOM OR HIGH END HARMONICA DO YOU LIKE? Can you tell me if you like any particular high dollar harmonicas (i.e. Harrison Harmonicas) or Harmonica Technicians that take average harmonicas and make them amazing.

REQUEST 2: Can someone do some research attempting to list ALL of the custom and High End Harmonicas on the market.

REQUEST 3: Can someone do some research attempting to list all of the incredible harmonica technicians out there (i.e. Joe Filisko, Rick Epping, Richard Sleigh, James Gordon, Joe Spiers, Johnny Bishop…)[/b]

After creating this list I will create a poll so we can find out which are most popular.

P.S. I’m attempting to save face…About 15 years ago I was endorsed by Hohner and got my hands on every harmonica the produced. I found that for my purposes, the Special 20 out performed all of their harmonicas (including their higher dollar harps i.e. The Blues Harp and The Meisterclaus)…

At that time I tried every harmonica on the market and I would spend hours reed gapping, making modifications and learning a ton from friends like Rick Epping (great guy BTW and fantastic player…)

But the truth be told once I settled on the Special 20, because I found that I was satisfied with their performance and so I spent my time playing music rather then working on my instruments…

I would now like put a few gems in my harmonica case and I would love your support.

Thanks for you help ahead of time.

JP Allen

JP, I also love the Special 20!! It’s as much harmonica as most of us will ever need, because most of us can’t play up to the potential that the Special 20 can deliver. I do think that a player at your level, would benefit from a custom harmonica (just customize your Special 20’s) to get that edge that you may feel you’re lacking. Your customized harmonica might not be treaked the same as other accomplished players, which is why they’re called customized.

I can tell the difference between my Special 20’s that I’ve altered and the ones I have not, but I don’t believe that the prices being asked for customized harmonica are in proportion to the changes made. I think if you just learned to open the back and tweak the reeds of the Special 20’s you’d be really freaking happy with them. Another thing I like about the 20’s is the individual note openings are actually square, not rectangle thus allowing for better single note playing.

Just my two cents.


So glad you opened the discussion on this topic, JP!

I’m a firm believer in the instrument makes the player! That’s why the harmonica is so great! So many different harmonicas to choose from, so many harmonica players everywhere.

Around the forum, I’ve listed my reviews of my stock harmonicas – Those that are sold en masse via your favorite music store connections. From Hohners, to Lee Oskars, and some odds and ends like Huang and Mojo!

The only one I didn’t talk about is my Elk River Special.

I purchased this from Dave Payne of West Virginia, USA.

He’s a friendly and helpful dude. Answers all questions and concerns honestly. The cost of my C Harp was $140; and took about 2 ½ - 3 months to build. Dave also backs up and guarantees his work for a lifetime! We should all live so long!

It’s absolutely beautiful. Wood comb; full sound; completely responsive.

Only thing is good old Dave now works for Harrison Harmonicas. But he did leave his legacy to one of his fellow customizers. All right here:

And now I’m waiting on my Turbo Harps – Turbo/BXs. Special 20s on steroids, so I hear.

Ordered a C, A, Low F and Bb! And all in different colors too!

These are customized running about $50 per, and 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

Depending on their schedule, takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks for them to build.

As far as tunings go – For a few extra dollars, they will customize any way you’d like. I’m just getting the standard General All-Purpose tunings on them, and see where it goes after this.

They can be seen here:

Will let everyone know what the verdicts/reviews are on them, when they’re in from lil ole me!

Hope to hear from others on this cool topic as well!

Keep on smiling!

Keep on harpin’!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks Barry and Street harmonica Player. Helpful.


Anytime, JP, Anytime!

But I do have something to add here too! As if you’d expect anything less from lil ole me! ::slight_smile: Anyways…

Initially, the ONLY reason I invested in a custom-made harmonica, as I discussed with my good man Dave Payne, is because I needed/wanted a “harmonica standard” by which I could compare all my other harmonicas to!

Last year, when I got back into harmonica, I started buying up the Spec 20s, GMs, and so forth. Why? Because I was already familiar with them at some level.

Only a little later did I discover the world of customization, and custom-made harmonicas.

I did come across Joe Filisko, who no longer does customization. Which then led me over to Richard Sleigh, Joe Spiers, and several others. But most of their work was on Hohner Marine Band instruments.

Thing is, I wanted something different than a Hohner. Which then led me over to Seydel. Who is actually the oldest harmonica maker/manufacturer in the world. This then led me to Dave Payne who was a North American distributor of Seydel, as well as a customizer of his own Elk River-type harps! That then led me to acquire my own ER in C!

See now how it all comes together?!

I’m in both camps here!

I’m in the Barry and Ashish camp who say customizing your own harps is a great way to go!

You already know how to do this, JP, because you learned from some great master techs!

I’m also working on my own harps because it really is a life necessity to do so. Yet it’s still definitely a trial and error, slowly but surely education/learning process at that.

Therefore, I’m in the other camp – like Howard Levy, Jason Ricci and others who can now afford to get them – who say custom-made harps really improve everything harmonica.

Yes, they really do!

However, in the final analysis here: Realizing in the past 100+ years of harmonica universe that professional customization has and is only a recent phenomenon, ever since Grandmaster Joe Filisko virtually gave it life just in the last decade or so –

Still, think of all the great harmonica players everywhere (including JP Allen) who didn’t have the luxury of such an instrument in their harping chests! And all the great harmonica players everywhere (like Barry and Ashish) who really don’t see the call and/or use for them to continue doing what they’re doing!

My final analysis here: With newfound friends like Barry and Ashish to bounce questions off and learn more about working on harmonicas, we can all learn how to do what’s necessary to make our own instruments, whatever they may be, much better!

I’m also a harmonica enthusiast – And now investor in what I’d like to get into my own collection of harps! I still want a Harrison or two, the only harmonica fully made in the US, just to see what they’re all about. USA! USA! USA! :o

Am hoping in time, and most definitely when I can budget!

Hoping too, all this makes sense and helps everyone out as well!

Keep on smiling!

Keep on harpin’!

Thanks for reading!

I bought 2 harps from,
Check his web site out and I am sure you can hear him play on Youtube.
His name is Ben Bouman fantastic player and he customized a Seydel for me
and also a Manji for me.

Player, I must confess that I too plan to purchase a B-Radical from Harrison for the very same reasons you stated!

Man, you’re one lucky guy to have survived that accident! I’m very sorry about you Mom!!!


Yeah, with the 4-6 month back ups on them already, maybe Harmonica Santa will order a Harrison or two for me…When they arrive I can celebrate Christmas in July then!

No condolences necessary. Suffered two back-to-back tragedies, within a short time frame of each other, and I survived them both. Thanks anyway though, Barry! :-*

Glad to hear you’re hanging in there.

Sending blessing to you and your mom. May she rest in peace.


TYVM & 10-4 there, JP!

Will pass it on next time I visit with her! :slight_smile:

Like Joe I purchased a couple of Beta Harps from Ben Bouman & I find them a quantum leap above playing normal OOTB harps which are pretty inconsistent in quality. I purchased a Beta Seydel 1847 Silver in D and a Beta Suzuki Manji in G. Love them.

In between chores, searching for my lost/misplaced Sonny Terry licks book (still can’t find the damn thing :-X) and going through some old saved faves lists, I found this guy from the Buckeye State of Ohio:

Turbodog from TurboHarp gave him a testimonial; don’t know much more than that about him; maybe somebody here though does!

Just ordered a paddy richter(G) tuned hohner blues harp from Antony Danneker

Can’t wait for it to arrive!! ;D

Looks good H-Rod!

So many pros using custom harps; and nobody would know if it wasn’t for the internet today - makes one think it’s certainly worth looking into more and more.

Keep us posted when it arrives!


Keep On Harpin’!

Sweet looking harp let us know how you like it. Is it USA or overseas, what was the price tag on 1 of them. :o

Harp on!!

I’ll let you know how it plays :wink:

Joe, the one I ordered cost GB £30+£7 PP that’s for UK, pretty good, I think for a custom job, with altered tuning. On Amazon uk they retail at £25

Sorry keep forgetting this is a global community ;D
Dollars and cents. USA


Yeah, JF!

Just went to their site; seems they don’t have a Currency Changer link that works. Pity!

So rather than hunt one down, let’s hear from the other side of the pond what these prices in US are!

In the interim, guess I’ll have to go sign up for Rosetta Stone to learn: “The Queen’s English” eh?! mwuahahahahaha!!!

Keep On Harpin’!

My Turbo Harps Have Arrived! :o


Small box, but hopefully a lot of good things inside!

Will take a few days and nights to put them through their paces; and hopefully give a fair enough review somewhere on the forum here! SPD Out!

My Turbo Harps Have Arrived! :smiley:

i swear i was a little late on my last post i literally just finished that last post and then went here darn it you probably opened them up already.
I swear I just posted this then came here and saw you got them in >:(