Help... My Harmonica Dies Frequently

Hi folks,

I play harmonica with a neck rack while I play guitar and although I’ve been playing for years I’m no harp expert. I keep trashing harps. Hope someone can suggest something as I can’t afford to keep replacing my harps.

Recently, I have killed 3 Db harps (major diatonic) in about 3 months. What happens is one of the reeds changes pitch on me. Suddenly my harp sounds really bad and when inspecting the notes I find a note that is off a whole note or more. So I toss it and buy another one. Thankfully it hasn’t happened during a gig as it always takes a song or two to figure why things are not sounding right.

It’s happened to a Hohner Blues harp and then two Lee Oskars. I think it’s only with the Db harps not because they are Db but because I use that key the most. I tune down a half step on my guitar so I use a Db harp to play blues with the key of Ab on what would normally be key of A. I have put about 25 hours on them before this happens. I soak them in warm water for about 15 minutes, shake them dry and let them air dry for routine maintenance. But this doesn’t fix the pitch change I’m talking about.

Is this just the normal lifespan of a harp? Is it the way I clean them in the water? Is it that I blow them to hard? (I don’t think I’m pushing them too hard) Is it the brand? Any ideas?


OK, I have no responses. Still wondering. Since, my last post I’ve trashed two more. (in a month) I’ll never eat or drink while playing and I brush my teeth beforehand. I rinse them vigorously in warm water after each use yet after about 25 hours on a harp a reed changes pitch at least a half step or a whole making the harp useless. Any ideas? I know Lee Oskar sells a “maintenance kit”. Anyone use it or recommend it? Thanks for any suggestions.

Howdy Dave!
I’m sorry nobody answered you earlier.
Lets see what we can do.
Is this on the same reed (hole) on every harp? Does the sound change
other than pitch, like making an odd, rattling, or rasping sound?
Give as much info as possible, and maybe we can find a fix.
Until then, here’s the usual answer:
I recommend using less pressure to most everyone.
That could be your problem, since it keeps happening
even on a different make harp. Try plinking the offending reed
softly with some semi soft plastic piece (maybe a flimsy guitar
pick). Listen to the sound and compare it to other known good reeds.
If you get a obvious clink that sounds cracked, it may be.
Try playing not less aggressively, but with less breath pressure.
Remember, just breath through the instrument.
I have never blown out a harmonica reed, but I’m not about
to start bragging. I play hard when needed, but with little pressure.
You could check the reeds closely with a powerful magnifying lens
for any debris lodged or other problem, but I doubt seriously this is your trouble.


you are just getting your harps broken in. Playing a harp lowers the pitch and eventually you need to retune. google it to see how to fix the issue.