How to Tune a Diatonic Harmonica

I have a 10 hole harmonica that is less than 1 year old, and about 1 month ago something funky happened to the 4 hole draw note. It is very hard to get a note out of it and is out of tune. I have taken it apart and cleaned it, but to no avail. I looked on Hohner’s website and it looks like it would cost me about $60 to send this in. Does anyone have any experience with this, or know how I can fix this problem? Thanks!

Hey 5959, it sounds like the 4 reed needs to either be lifted or pushed down. Now what does that mean? Either the reed is pushed down into the reed plate too far or the reed is lifted or bent or curled up out of the reed plate slot so far that it can’t be drawn down to vibrate and make sound. When u take off the reed plate covers look to see if the 4 draw reed is in a similar postition as the 3 reed, if not try to either push it down into the reed plate opening or lift it out of the reed plate whichever needs to be done to match the 3 reed.


Hi there,

If it’s difficult to get a note out of the reed, then as Barry said…the reed is probably pushed too far into its slot…or curled up out of the slot. Open the harmonica and try regapping it…that should fix the problem. If the reed still sounds out of tune you might have to tune it.

Tuning a diatonic harmonica is not a very easy task. Before you do any tuning, make sure the reed is clean. I’ve noticed that reeds often sound flat just because they are dirty. Try cleaning the reed (very gently) and see if that helps. If that doesn’t work, you will have to tune it. Is the 4 draw sharp, or flat?

To tune the reed, it would help if you have a chromatic tuner. I’ve seen some software based tuners which are pretty good (can’t remember their names though). If you don’t have tuner, you can still tune the reed by listening to the “beating” sound it produces. 4 draw is the same note as an 8 draw (only an octave lower). So, play holes 4 and 8 while tongue blocking all the holes in between (I’m assuming you can tongue block). You will hear a hole 4-8 octave. Since the 4 draw is out of tune, you would probably hear a lot of beating. What’s beating? Check out this article for audio samples - … Ideally, there should be almost no beating.

To tune a reed, you need a file. I use a small jeweler file. To sharpen a note which is flat, you have to remove metal near the tip of the reed. To flatten a note which is too sharp, you have to remove metal near the base of the reed. Those are the two most important facts you need to know when tuning harmonicas. You have to do it very slowly, and gently. I think it would be better if you look up videos on youtube to see how it’s done. It would be difficult for me to write everything here. A video speaks a million words!

And here are some articles you should read:

Hope this helps,

Please don’t send your harmonica out anywhere, 5969!

Welcome to the world of Harmonica Maintenance, Up Keep & Care!

If you’ve never done so to this point - Well, from Barry to Ashish to lil ole me and others - Once you open your harmonica for the very first time, you can/will expect new experiences in the harmonica universe! But it’s only as difficult as you make it! Really!

So the best advice for you right now is: Take it easy, take it slow!

Keep us posted!


Most of my harmonicas are Golden Melody’s except a few. But the GM’s are the one’s I play everyday. And for me at 35 bucks a pop if I have a problem with one I’ll just buy another. If they last a year or so it’s not gonna break the bank. Not that it’s a bad Idea to learn how to regap and repair. You might need that harp asap, and for me I have to order all mine on line and it takes a few days to get in.

But your probably talking about very high end harps so ya you probably will want to learn to repair them.

Just my thoughts