I Opened My Harmonica (& It Wasn't That Hard!)

Well I’m very proud and happy to report to you that I’ve finally overcome my mind blockage that’s stopped me from opening a harmonica for the last 12 years! Woo hoo! I was freaked out, but it was actually much easier than I had made it out to be in my mind (like most things in life that I freak out about, lol.)

I was playing my Lee Oskar D harp and the -8 and -10 wouldn’t play. I ran it under water, tapped against my hand, blow/draw a hole bunch, rinse and repeat for like 10 minutes. I was able to get the -10 to play again but not the -8.

Finally I was like, “I don’t think I’m gonna get whatever is stuck in there just doing the same thing I’m doing.” So I took a deep breath, grabbed some reading glasses that are twice as powerful and what I use to read, grabbed a Phillips head screwdriver, and sat down in a well-lit area on a black surface.

I put one hand under the nut on the bottom cover plate to hold it in place, and used the other hand to unscrew the screw, and boom :boom:, just like that I OPENED A HARMONICA. “That wasn’t so hard,” I thought to myself.

To my surprise NOTHING was stuck in the reed. For some reason there was just no gap between the reed and the reed plate. Not sure what caused the reed to settle like that, but I knew what to do…

Since we have no toothpicks in the house presently, I found a wooden skewer and GENTLY poked it from inside the comb (since it’s on the bottom draw reed plate) to try and create enough space for it to sound well. I didn’t want to push to hard because back in the day, a dozen years ago, when I’d tried this sort of thing I broke a reed more than once.

Since I was being gentle, I had to repeat the process like 10 times. Gently push, gently push, try drawing. Gently push, gently push, try drawing. I also examined what the gap looked like compared to the gap on the reed on either side of it, and I could see it was smaller.

Eventually I was able to get it to sound satisfactorily when I would draw on it. Now for the moment of truth…would I be able to put this thing back together again?? I started feeling nervous, thinking something would surely go wrong.

It seemed like the screws weren’t gonna be long enough to grab the nut, but I held the nut with one hand, pushed the screw down, and it actually grabbed the nut. I didn’t tighten it too tight, figuring it would need some wiggle room to make sure I could get the other one lined up.

Time for screw #2! Screw #2 required a little more effort to get it to grab, but after 2 or 3 tries I got it. Then I went back and forth to make sure they were both tight. Played, her and there was my girl back in action again. SUCCESS!

The whole thing probably took like 20 minutes.

I feel like this is the beginning of a whole new chapter of my relationship with my harmonicas. I feel empowered to have overcome my fears and lethargy on the matter. I’m looking forward to trying to make this same adjustment on a harmonica whose responsiveness on a given hole is unsatisfactory.

And then for the final frontier: tuning. Eeek. Might be awhile before I tackle that! But the sense of happiness and pride I have in this small victory definitely makes me feel more capable of trying my hand at tuning for sure! Baby steps…

So if you’ve been resistant to opening your harmonica, don’t be! It’s easy! All you need is a few tools:

Are you proud of me @Slim? :wink:

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Well done! :slightly_smiling_face::+1:

I haven’t opened one up as yet, but I’ve looked into it. Even the nailed type doesn’t look too hard, you just need to make a notch in a knife blade that fits under the head of the nails, and Bob’s your aunties live in lover! :grin:

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@Luke,
I can’t get my big grin :blush: off my face right now. Well, I couldn’t play the harmonica like that :joy:, but I didn’t plan to do it at 7.00 a.m. either…
I’m proud of you too! Also amazed your harmonica didn’t bit you like a :crocodile:
Seriously, you described it very well, that’s how it goes and no, it doesn’t hurt, just a little proud.
As long as those tiny little screws don’t fall to the floor, you’re good. :slightly_smiling_face:
With that in mind, keep screwing and then :metal:. Greetings Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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Absolutely, Luke @Luke! Congratulations on doing it and providing a very clear explanation of how you did it.

From my experience the Lee Oskar harps are the most difficult to re-assemble of all the harps I have. The trouble is the nut and the almost too short screws!

I have never attempted to take apart a harp that uses nails, but some people do it – and some advise converting those harps to use screws. I think that would be too much work for me and none of the nailed harps I have played have ever impressed me sufficiently to go to such trouble.

Tuning is or can be quite challenging. It can take hours, especially if you need to re-tune more than just one or two reeds!

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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I’ve taken LO’s and Hohners apart many, many times to change reed plates or tune a reed, or just clean 'em up. I once changed plates at a gig while we were on a short break and still had time for a drink. When you get the hang of it, it’ll only take a few minutes. Marine Band covers pry off easily, but if you do it often you’ll need a tiny drop of glue in the nail holes. So Luke, now you’re a harp mechanic!

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I sort of regret opening this one, it looked nice and clean on the outside! These photos are after cleaning it btw.
Hohner Pro Harp, in D.





One thing I noticed though Luke, is that in your review, you say that the reed plates protrude out past the comb, but as you see here, they’re recessed into the comb, and not protruding at all.
I don’t know the age of this one, I bought it on eBay, from someone in Germany, but perhaps somewhere along, the line the design changed, either to this, or from this.
It plays nicely, in that every note is easy to sound individually, and sounds clear.
Not a bad buy, $25aud/$17usd. $65aud is the cheapest price new, but they can be much more expensive, so I took a chance on second hand.
What I actually wanted to ask is, are there two screws missing from the reed plates? There’s two empty holes, so it makes me wonder.

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Hi @Dave_Dunn

First a question: what is the make and model of this D harp? I cannot read the name on the coverplate.

Don’t worry about the extra holes in the reed plates that do not have screws. Many harps are delivered this way. As long as the screws that are present are symmetrically arranged (as they are in the photo) then that is most likely the way it was produced. If you wish, you can always add more screws to fill the empty holes. They might even help to make the harp more air-tight and efficient.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Sorry Slim, for some reason, I forgot to add that important information! Too busy watching TV, and just typing during the adverts.
It’s a Hohner Pro Harp, I’ll add that to my comment, I don’t know how I missed it! :roll_eyes:

Good to know about the screws. I don’t know the history, perhaps the plates aren’t original. I might look into additional screws, perhaps I’ll have spares if I happen to buy a dud one day, or perhaps some out of the first harps I bought might fit. I bought some for just under $20aud each, but the special 20 came in the post first, showing me how a harp should play. The cheap ones were terrible, a lot of wind required, for very little noise! I didn’t even peel the plastic off of them, I just put them away and bought different brand harmonicas.
The discolouration on the plates looks bad, but no residue came off on to the white cloth I used to carefully wipe where I could, without touching the reeds.
The gaps look okay to me, all fairly even, and all notes play well so far.

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Hey Dave - I’ve actually never played the Pro Harp. JP actually wrote that review (even though it has my picture next to it, lol.) But from the photo on the website, looks like they might have changed the design at some point? (Maybe after JP wrote the review? lol)

I can see what he’s talking about, though. Looks like the reed plates protrude past the comb in this pic, yeah? But in your photos I can see it’s recessed. Trippy… I sure do prefer the recessed reedplates personally. Maybe I just have soft lips. :wink:

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Oh, I wasn’t aware of that, but I guess if JP did the review, it might have been a while ago. The video says ‘private’, so I couldn’t actually see who played it.
I don’t know the age of the harmonica, but perhaps it is an update on the one pictured, I don’t see them changing it to a design with protruding reed plates.
I still lost a whisker though!
In fact, the only harmonicas I haven’t lost a whisker to are the East top T002s! This is a great design IMO.

You really must try them and give your expert opinion. Another 3 arrived the other day, and they are just so easy to play. A clear, isolated 2 draw is a breeze on all of them. I think I’ll be building myself a full set.
The price from the factory online stores is around $27aud/$18.50usd, but there’s a store on eBay, Easttopharmonica6, selling them for $16aud/$11usd. I thought perhaps factory seconds, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
I’d love your opinion, as to me, they play as well as, or perhaps better than a Special 20, and they don’t pull your moustache! :grin:

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Hello @Dave_Dunn,
Thanks to your photos, I guessed it correctly as a Hohner Pro Harp. This model in particular has received updates to the reed plates over the years and the non-screw-free holes are normal. Some of my Hohner models also have it, which made me wonder when I opened it for the first time. I don’t think you need to worry about the look of the reed plates, as they change color with use.
The main thing is clean and hygienically cleaned after another owner.
Too bad you don’t know the age of the harp. I like her!
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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Hi Astrid, yes, it’s a nice little harmonica, and now, hygienically cleaned. Nothing came off on the things I used to clean it with, and no bits in it’s bathwater, so it was actually very clean to start with, dispute how it looks.
I’ve only been able to play it properly this morning, it was too late last night to do more than sound each hole, and I won’t play them until they’re thoroughly cleaned, but it plays very nicely.
I play a lot of 50s inspired Rock n Roll songs, most of them in A, or E, so my D and A harps are going to get a thrashing! I now have both keys in Hohner, and in East top, just to be safe! :grin:
I had trouble communicating with the seller, he was in Germany, and although I emailed him in both English, and German (via Google Translate), asking the age and key, all I got back was “is Hohner my friend”, so I just said thank you and bought it anyway. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Nothing to add to that :blush: Made in Germany! :joy: Just like me…, :wink:.

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My great grandparents were German, but my Grandfather was 'a true blue Aussie"! :slightly_smiling_face:
It would have been nice if more of our German or Dutch heritage was retained, but in Australia, if you were born in Australia, you’re Australian! :slightly_smiling_face::+1:

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Luke, If you’ve gone that far you might as well do that ultrasonic cleaner thing before re-assembling it.

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We might need a ‘gear guide’ on Ultrasonic Cleaners too! Their prices range from $16 to $150+, it’s hard to know how much you need to spend to get something decent.
For me though, it’s going to be quite a while before buying one is going to be deemed a high priority in the household.

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Hi @Dave_Dunn

I have used two different ultrasonic cleaners, both around 20 Euros/U$ and both worked really well. I see no need to pay more – or even to buy one at all. I just happened to have one and started using it for my harps.

It is nice to be able to clean several harps at the same time.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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Hello @Slim and @Dave_Dunn,
I can confirm that as well. My €20, perfect.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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Good on you @Luke for overcoming the obstacle of opening up a harmonica :smiley:

I’ve had to open one twice, last time it was a LO, because like with yours, one of my holes just wouldn’t play, but when I opened it up there was nothing to see in it (I thought maybe a hair was stuck in it, but it might as well just have been micro-saliva)

I actually thought it was harder to reassemble it hahaha

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Yes, @Vibe, the Lee Oskar harps are perhaps the most difficult to get the cover plates back on the comb! If the two screws were just slightly longer it would be a great improvement.

I have stopped carrying any harp (outside of a protective case) in my pocket because of lint getting into the space between a reed and its slot.

Since I started carrying them in my pocket, but in a protective case or lint-free pouch, the problem vanished.

Regards,
– Slim :sunglasses:

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