Hohner marine band harmonica.

I received a new harmonica for Christmas. I requested a special 20 but a marine band 1896 was purchased for me, it’s a Bb. My question is, is a marine band a decent harmonica for a beginner or should I trade it in for a special 20. I know it has to do with each individual but was wondering if it is a decent harmonica to learn on. I’ve been playing for 8 months or so.

Its what I was broken in on, and its still the harp I swear by!

But thats me!


Do you need to do any special tuning? Do I need to seal the comb? I have not opened the package and still can exchange it for a 20 if I like. But I can not exchange it for a few weeks, and it is killing me having a new harp and not playing it.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me any harmonica with protruding reed plates and wooden combs I find very uncomfortable. I tried a Hohner Blues Harp and it makes rough spots on my lips. Maybe if I didn’t try the SP20 first I would have just calloused up and gotten used to it, or maybe I was doing something wrong, but for me the plastic comb with recessed reed plates is the way to go.

P.S. If anyone is interested in a barely played bluesharp in the key of G let me know.

I agree with gregmatic 100%. I hate the protruding plates and when the comb teeth swell they grate my tongue. BUT… Adam Gussow swears by Marine Band harps and a lot of people like the tone of a wood comb better. I personally can’t tell the difference.

Opinions are like noses…everybody has one!

I don’t seal the harp. gasp too much work!

So, I played it and played it until it swelled so much I felt like I was playing a chainsaw. Then, I took it apart, got some sandpaper, and went to work! Its like guerrilla gunsmithing…only with a harmonica. Professional? Not at all. Does it work for me? Before I started this new job, I played it for a few hours everyday.

I don’t know if a wooden harp changes the tone. I tend to think it does, but only a little tiny bit. I only say that because for some odd reason I like a song better with a wooden comb. No science to that, just opinion.

As for protruding reed plates, its what I was broke in on so I don’t notice it! In fact, I’m so used to it that I prefer it to the rounded feel of a SP20!

But opinions are like noses! Everybody has one, and they run in most families! :stuck_out_tongue:

Peace Out y’all! And I might add, as long as you’re playing a harp, to hell with the devil and enjoy yourself!


Well said!
You just have to figure out what YOU like!

Do the MB typically need tuning?

No…the 4 blow went flat after a year of really hard playing…but they come tuned really well! (IMHO)


I never had a problem with mine. It’s still in tune. I’ve had it many years.

Thanks for all the info its making it a lot easier to make a decision. One last question do I need to seal it?

Yes and No.

Yeah, something needs to change or after a few times you’ll feel like playing a chainsaw would be smoother.

I sanded it, and it works great for my purposes, busking, etc. I’m gonna take a guess and say that a professional like Buddy Greene would say you need to seal it, but hey! He’s a pro!

Every man to his own opinion!


From a woodworkers point of view… Seal it! If it’s not sealed it will just continue to absorb moisture and swell, and dry/shrink, eventually splitting or breaking a tooth.
If you decide to seal it, take it totally apart set it in a warm place to dry out well, use beeswax to seal it by covering the comb with wax shavings and melt them on the comb with a Hair Dryer, flip and repeat. A toothpick will help to push wax into corners and a paper napkin will absorb any excess wax. Beeswax is preferred to parafin because it has a higher melting point and is less likely to weep or get gooey in a warm pocket. Rewarming after the reed plates after they are attached will help to seal the plates air tight to comb.

My oppinion is, if you got a harp as a present, just play it. I play all different types of harmonicas (Special 20, Marine Band, Blues Harp, a few differnt Lee Oskar models etc.), and they all work fine for me. I would say, play your Marine Band, see how it feels, and see if you like it. Then maybe later you can get a Special 20 and see how it feels, and see if you like it. Also, with a Marine Band, if it’s an MS, there’s no need to seal it. It’s already sealed for you. I’m not entirely sure about the other Marine Band models, but I know Hohner well enough, that (as long as it’s not a “Made in China” cheapo) I’m almost sure that they would seal it as part of the manufacturing process. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t worry about the model or brand so much, but just play. Sure, JP Allen like the Special 20, BT likes the Marine Band, and I personally like Lee Oskars, but you need to find what you like. Don’t trade your gift in just because JP Allen tells you to, or BT tells you to, or I tell you to, or because anyone tells you to. Just open that gift up, play it, and if you don’t like it, no harm done, you’ve tested it out. Just see if you like a different model better. Just do whatever you want, Bones, and listen to what your inner musician is whispering to your heart.
Enjoy the harping juorney,

Thanks for all the info guys.


I don’t think the standard MB comes sealed, though my 14 hole Low C is.


From what I have read, the original MB (as legendary as it is) is not sealed, thus, not as airtight as the newer models, and takes special care, and has to be sealed. Why bother when you can get a Crossover that is sealed, or a Special 20. Less headache, would be for me anyway.

The original MB is not recommended for beginners, due to its high maintenance thus unsealed comb, etc. Harder to bend, because its not as airtight, thus harder to play overall. But, its a workhorse, been around forever.