Fixin' the Piedmont

Well, I find myself in a situation. Where I am gonna be forced to use my ‘D’ and ‘F’ Piedmont Blues Harmonicas in a song.

The ‘D’ ain’t too bad, just a bit out of tune.

Now that ‘F’ one…I just about blew my brains out trying to get a noise! That thing leaks air like a screen! Is there anyway to make it air tight? Its almost to the point where I can’t play a double stop because I can’t carry that much air!

I tried tightening the screws…anything else I can do?

I know y’all are gonna say buy two special 20s, but fact is, I ain’t got that type of cash now.

Thanks in Advance!

–BT

There’s no shame in having a box of Piedmonts. But if you said it was a box of Johnsons - and from Ebay no less - well now, I’d definitely have to question that choice of harp! Hehehe!!

I like my Piedmonts; and use the A, C and Bb keys for goofing around on.

Another good thing is they are easy to work on too.

So I grabbed my D and F. After a few moments I could hear each of them blocking up.

No frets, as when I took my trusty screwdriver and opened them up, both had condensation pellets from my breath on the reed plates.

Yes, the first thing I learned about Piedmonts is/are they are notorious for having cold reed plates. Moreso than other harps like a Spec20 and such.

So when they block up within a few minutes of playing – Open yours up and see if they have any water breath on the reeds. Wipe all that away; and with covers off, play it and keep an eye on them to see if it happens again.

Using a handheld hair dryer on the medium heat setting will evaporate whatever is left; and warm the plates up to expand a little.

While the covers are off, check the screws on the plates. Piedmonts are notorious for not tightening down all the screws. So if one of the plates rattles/shifts slightly, you’ll now know why.

From there, I did some additional work on several of the Piedmonts for my own learning curve.

Do some research on how to gasket the combs using tape. Older sources called it Micropor tape. However, it is the exact same thing as Johnson & Johnson Waterproof First Aid tape. The pharmacy at your local Wal*Mart or similar venue will have it. A roll is inexpensive; even the generic surgical tape will work.

Just get the medium sized tape ‘width-wise’…the small size is too small; the large size too big.

Okay – So now take your Piedmont apart, right down to its screws, plates, comb and covers.

If dirty, a rubbing alcohol bath or some oxy-detergent will clean everything up. Rinse off and make sure everything is dry before doing the next steps.

With a strip of cloth tape, you will cover one side of the comb. Using a razor blade or better sharp exacto-knife, you will carefully cut out the spaces for the teeth/tines.

Watch for overhangs and random threads that may stick inside the teeth/tine spaces.

This may be the most time-consuming part of the whole process; however, when completed you’ll see/hear the results. Nevertheless…

After done on the one side, flip it over and do the same to the other. Using the tip of the blade or knife, simply cut an ‘x’ where the screws will be going back in.

Set them aside; and gasket both the top and bottom covers on their insides. Align and cut the tape carefully so there’s no overhang anywhere on them as well.

Set them aside. Using a coin or marble, emboss your reeds, both blow and draw.

You can find how to do this from maintenance vids on youtube.

After embossing, then will time to regap/massage all the reeds. A toothpick or paperclip with a dull point, as well as a thin piece of metal called a shim that is small enough to slide under the reed(s) will help you on these procedures.

You can find how to do this from maintenance vids on youtube.

Now it’s time to put everything back together again.

Take your time. As the reed plates go back on the comb, make sure there are no threads or tape getting in the way on the area where the reeds go into their places on the comb.

Once done, put the screws back in. Make sure you only screw them in from the Blow Reed Plate down. Several reed plates are drilled so that the screws only go in one way. The Golden Melody is different; but we’re not talking about them now either.

If you attempt to screw the plates together from the Draw Reed Plate up, the screws will most likely get stuck and stripped out, which obviously you don’t want.

Recheck your gapping. Make sure all the holes play clear and open as you go back and forth on the works.

If all sounds and looks good, then put the covers on.

Again, check and recheck to make sure there is no extra tape parts blocking anything.

After all is said and done, test your harp out.

If all is done correctly, and you feel more comfortable with it now than before –

Congratulations! You have just customized your Piedmont!

It took some time to write this all out; but once you do your homework, and have all your ducks in a row as you begin the maintenance – You’ll be surprised just how easy this was and how much better everything works and sounds.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading!

Smiles!

Keep On Harpin’!

Sheesh, that was hard work just reading that! Can’t wait to get started!

I will start soon!

However, the crisis IS adverted, because my dear ole’ mom decided to buy me a Bluesband set to use…

Bless her soul!

Never-the-less, I am most certainly going to try all that! Quite an involved process…should be enjoyable!

Thanks for taking the time to put all that up!

Much Appreciated!

Peace Out!

–BT

Well I did it all for several Golden Melodys and Big Rivers as well.

I learned the gasketing from Rupert Oysler’s two volume DVD set. Although, he says he no longer gaskets his harps as much – Still, a few old timers do and swear by it.

{Incidentally, as to whether you gasket the plastic covers on the Piedmonts is up to you. I originally did so; yet removed it after I found it didn’t make much of a difference. But I still keep it on some Golden Melody and Big River covers to keep down on the moisture factor. But experiment and see how you like it as it can’t hurt! Hehehe!}

The embossing and gapping is par for the course on learning more about the inner workings of the instrument too. It’s practical and easy enough to accomplish once you get the hang of it.

Enjoy!

Good luck!

Keep On Harpin’!