Never Too Old!

I purchased JP’s lessons a week ago, and I am having a blast! I took a few days off work this week, and I am up to lesson 50. Finally playing single notes more consistently and managing to play a few songs … okay, the songs are a little rough!! I was born in London and grew up in Liverpool. I have been playing guitar for about twenty years, and play with a bass player, drummer and share vocals with a singer just for kicks. I emigrated to the US in 1976 when I was 24, which makes me 60! As they say, you are never too old…just a little late to start a new carrier!! :-[

Hi The Ax!

I don’t feel so bad now having read your post. I am over 60 and thinking of starting out. I live in New Zealand. You’ll see a few replies to other posts by me, mainly looking for info on where I should start. What would be the best model harp for a beginner do you think? I was leaning towards the Hohner Chromatic in C but there is much confusing info out there and I want to play the blues, but maybe I should wait a while for that.


Well, I may be one of your older members. I just turned 74 and picked up the harmonica again just last year after about a 50 year respite from playing. I picked it up for two reasons, one is that it is one of the few instruments for which I seem to have some talent. The other, more important reason is that I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lifelong asthma which makes breathing very difficult.

“So why,” you ask, “Would an old fart who can’t breathe want to play a wind instrument?” the answer is in the question. It is an excellent breathing exercise and I am finding it very helpful already.

I have six harps. Two regular 10 hole Marine Bands, a very old 12 hole Chromatic, a 14 hole Marine band in the key of D and my favorites are a 12 hole Chrometta in G and a 14 hole Chrometta in C. My wife plays the melodian (or button box) in D and G and we can even play a few duets like When the Saints go Marchin in, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, Sentimental Journey and Blowin in the Wind. We ain’t great but we ain’t bad either.

Recently I found the Chrometta’s were giving me problems. Some notes wouldn’t play, some only did with extreme pressure and others were OK. After much frustration and research I found a way to successfully clean them.

First I rinsed them out thoroughly with warm tap water and then kept tapping them on my leg until they were pretty dry (and my leg was very wet) then i let them stand over night to air dry. The next day I removed the two covers from the harmonica and thoroughly cleaned them with light soapy water, rinsed and then dried them with a microfiber cloth which picks up any lint or other residue.

Then I went to my workshop and took out an old feeler gauge that you use to set spark plug gaps, cleaned it and used the thinnest one to gently slide under each metal reed until it hit resistance and slowly withdrew it. Once all the way out I would slip just the tip of the feeler metal back under the tip of the reed one more time and gently “twang” it. I did this “Twanging” twice with each reed and reassembled the harp. The entire feeler gauge process took about 10 minutes and I am pleased to say that both Chromettas sound like new and are perfectly in tune with my wife’s Melodian. They were fixed at zero cost.

I hope this helps others. If what I did was wrong well, what can I say…it worked and now I am committed to doing a better job of making sure they don’t get gunked up in the first place by tapping them on my leg after every use and by rinsing them with luke warm water about once a week.

I know…there’s lots of advice about water and harmonicas but when the reeds are metal the risk is far less and besides I’m an old guy and will do whatever I damn well please anyway. LOL…glad to be part of your forum.

Well done Bob! Thanks for sharing your cleaning methods. I’m sure this will come in handy when I start having similar problems myself. I think I read somewhere that it’s ok to immerse a diatonic harp, but not a chromatic. Don’t quote me on that. I could be wrong.

Also glad to know that it helps with your breathing problems. I have angina so am not too sure how I’ll go with that, but what the heck? I’ll just take some nitro before I start jamming. LOL. I’m going to buy a Hohner Golden Melody, but have to wait a wee while before splashing out. I am sooo impatient to start!



Hi Bob … From one old fart to another, thanks for the info. I am finally getting the breathing down and making some pleasant sounds after two months of playing. I received JP’s blues DVD’s & CD’s a few weeks ago. At our age, we should have plenty of blues to share with the world! Its great that you play the harp along with your wife’s melodian. My wife usually just shouts when I play!!! Cheers, Ray