I’ve been working through the beginner to boss lessons with a Seydel Session Studio harp, and reached the bending section. Bending down a single step is fine, but when I try to stretch down into the two and three-step bends on hole 3 the harp starts making a horrible squealing/squeaking sound.
I saw several posts about this happening for Lee Oskar and Suzuki harps; is my Session Studio a lemon, or is this something that commonly afflicts these harps, as well?
Lastly, has anyone had any luck avoiding the problem with embouchure changes? I’m hesitant to stick wax or nail varnish in my harp, if I can at all avoid it…
Hi George @georgetheflea
Are you sure that your harp is a Session Studio?? This is completely unknown to me and does not appear on the Seydel website.
Sometimes the sound can be reduced or eliminated through slight changes in your embouchure and air pressure used.
Whatever model it is, the noise you describe almost always requires bit of reed work. I have had luck putting a small square piece of “Scotch tape” at the middle of the reed. This is rather difficult to handle because the piece of tape must not be wider than the reed, so the square piece is very small. I have tweezers/forceps with very fine tips that I use to hold that sticky little square. This tape can also change the pitch of the reed slightly (depending on the size of the piece of tape and the position of the tape on the reed – best is in the middle of the reed’s long dimension). If this happens then you also will need to retune the reed. I have been lucky and retuning was not necessary.
However, you should first remove the reed plates and hold them up to a light source or the daytime sky and let the light shine through the space between the reed and its slot. This can show you if the reed is touching the edge of the slot and making that noise or if the reed is “off-center” in the slot. Sometimes a reed will only touch the side when it is pressed down with a toothpick while you observe the light passing around its edges.
If the reed is not centered in the slot (determined by the method describe above) then you need to gently move it to the center (which is only possibe for reeds that are not welded onto the reed plate). This is best done with a reed wrench (Hohner sells one for much less than any other source I have found).
#georgetheflea I see by your comment you’ve done your research. Slim is the go-to on on these issues. But of course embroshure can fix the sequel along with throat and draw force. For myself (beginner) I have found adjusting reed gap and the nail polish method most successful. The 3 ’ is the hardest for me and the 3’‘’ easier but if I force it to much It will squeal. For me 3" is the easiest of the 3 bends. I found it helpful to try and gradually bend working on the full range and the coming back to hitting note on / off. I’m having issues especially with tone on the 3’
Whew, sorry for the late reply!
@Slim Yes, I did indeed mean the Session Steel; not sure where “Studio” came from. That’s disappointing to hear that fixing this almost always requires reed work. I will see if I can identify if the reed is off-center, as you suggest, since I’d much rather figure out a reed wrench than resort to sticking stuff to the reeds.
@rich3 Thanks for the ideas! I’ll give those a shot. I have an old Hohner Special 20, and I pulled it out to see if I could get full bends, but for some reason I’ve been completely out of luck bending on that harp at all, which was surprising since I wouldn’t have thought there’d be all that much difference in technique between steel and bronze reeds.
@georgetheflea are the Seydel and the Hohner both C harps? In my experience, sometimes technique can overcome squealing on bends (but not on overblows.)
Yes; The Hohner is quite old, and I actually can’t get hole 3 to bend at all on that harp (I can get maybe a 1/4 step down, and then it just goes completely silent), so I think maybe it’s just reached the end of its life. I’ll keep noodling with the Seydel; I really like the harp, but the squealing is super unpleasant (happens on the 8 draw, as well, unless I’m extremely careful about my airflow).
I’m thinking about picking up another non-Seydel harp to compare; does anyone have recommendations for harps that are unlikely to squeal? I don’t need anything super-fancy (I’m firmly in woodshed mode trying to first hit all the bends and then get them somewhat in-tune-ish), but I also don’t mind spending a little more for something nicer (the Session Steel tempted me with the 2023 summer green body color…). If getting a different key is likely to help, I could also do that. I only stuck with C so I could go through Luke’s course.
I think a Marine Band Deluxe or a Marine Band Crossover is a good bet for a harmonica that doesn’t squeal. If you wanna get a cool color comb, you can buy one from Tod Parrott for $100 and choose one of his beautiful custom combs. They’re a lot of fun - look, feel, sound great. On the key is hard. It’d be nice to get a C in order to compare apples with apples, but nice to expand your keys and maybe pick up an A!